A somber group of roughly 20 students gathered around Seton Hall’s seal Monday evening to commemorate the lives lost in the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings last week.
The attacks, which are suspected of having been perpetrated by a 28-year-old white nationalist from Australia, claimed the lives of 43 men, women, and children at the Al Noor Mosque during Friday Prayer, one of the most exalted prayers in Islamic tradition. The shooter then moved to the Linwood Islamic Center, a short drive East of the Al Noor Mosque, where he claimed the lives of seven others before being apprehended by police.
The shooter currently faces one count of murder, though in an address to Parliament on Tuesday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised more charges will follow.
“He sought many things from his act of terror, but one was notoriety, and that is why you will never hear me mention his name,” Ardern declared. “He is a terrorist, he is a criminal, he is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless.”
Ardern implored those watching her address to speak only “the names of those who were lost” adding that the shooter “may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing, not even his name.”
Tuesday’s vigil, which was organized by Seton Hall’s chapter of the Global Emergency Response and Assistance club (GERA), asked those in attendance to pray for peace and remember stand in solidarity with the Christchurch Community in the aftermath of the attack.
President of GERA Mohamed Shedeed called the attack “shocking,” but noted that he wasn’t surprised when he’d heard about what happened.
“We can’t pretend this is a new issue,” he said. “It’s been happening for months and years. This is something we shouldn’t have to expect or be complacent towards, but at the same time we saw the signs and we have to do things to prevent this from happening ever again.”
Shedeed said that he felt that holding the vigil on campus would help drive home the idea that the attack wasn’t just a Muslim issue or a New Zealand issue, but rather an issue that effects everyone.
The vigil consisted of an interfaith prayer which begun with an Islamic invocation and consisted mainly of speakers from Seton Hall’s faculty and student body, including Dean of the School of Diplomacy, Andrea Bartolli, SGA President Rishi Shah, and Muslim Student Association representative Roba Hassan. Toward, the end the floor was also opened up to others in attendance who simply wished to share their thoughts.
“These acts happen because people are not educated and they’re ignorant,” said Hassan, who called on those present to ask question about the Islamic faith to combat the sort of bigotry she saw as inciting the violence seen in Christ church. “For people here who are Muslim, be proud of your faith. Something like this should not make you lose your faith, it should strengthen it,” she added.
Following the end of the vigil, many visibly shared hugs of comfort and compassion following the emotional gathering.
According to Shedeed, “We as the youth have the power to change things, and we have the power to model the structure of the society that we’re gonna live and and that we’re gonna bring the next generation into.”
Nicholas Kerr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find him on Twitter @NickKerr99.