As snow fell to the ground, over 200 members of the Cornell community gathered in Ho Plaza on Monday to pay tribute to the victims of the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15.
Organized by the Muslim Chaplaincy at Cornell and the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, the vigil included a moment of silence for the 52 men, women and children killed in the attack as well as speeches from members of the Muslim community on campus.
Chaplain Yasin Ahmed began the vigil by condemning recent terrorist attacks against religious communities, such as shootings in mosques, churches and synagogues. “Same story — human souls being lost at the hands of a human being,” Ahmed said.
Ahmed also remembered another religiously-motivated terrorist attack, the 2018 terrorist shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which claimed 11 lives. “The same tragedy that we suffered this week, [Cornell Hillel] suffered earlier this year,” Ahmed said.
After Ahmed’s words, people read the names of those who had died, as well as personal information about the deceased.
Yahya Abdul-Basser ’20, president of MECA, spoke next.
“The seeds are planted here in our own communities,” Abdul-Basser said. “Islamophobia is not some strange, alien problem, and exists in many forms, even here at a place like Cornell.”
Samir Salih ’19, a member of the Islamic Alliance for Justice, agreed. Even on Cornell’s campus he has been called both a terrorist and a multitude of anti-black slurs, Salih said.
“In many of these cases, people laughed it off as a joke,” Salih said. “What they do not realize is that these words are a start to other actions.”
Mahfuza Shovik ’19 emphasized the importance of doing more than coming to the vigil and listening “passively.”
“Unless you start putting names to faces and stories to the 52 victims, you’re just going to see them as a statistic, but not as souls,” Shovik said.
Aliza Adhami ‘19 said the loss of lives should contribute to the “fight for a more inclusive world.”
“Our words matter, rhetoric matters, and language leads to action whether good or bad,” Adhami.
According to Ahmed El Sammak ’21, the massacre in Christchurch was more than just “death,” but the “destruction of families, the shattering of a community and the attack on an entire religion and its over 1 billion followers.”
Additionally, Shahzaid Saleem ’19, a religious leader on campus, also spoke, reading passages from the Quran.
At the end of the vigil, Abdul-Basser provided a list of resources that can be used by the community, such as Counseling and Psychological Services through Cornell Health.
MECA will hold a meeting this Friday at 7 p.m. to discuss the issues brought up at the vigil.
Students may consult with counselors from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. An Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.