By Schae Beaudoin
Students at the University of Connecticut gathered on Wednesday to hold a vigil for victims of the recent terrorist attacks around the world, as well as those affected by prejudice and discrimination.
The vigil was organized by UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government and Salaam, a new student organization dedicated to fighting Islamophobia, prejudice, and injustice.
Students and faculty spoke at the event, spreading positive messages of love, hope, and unity in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and the Middle East and the prejudice against many Muslim and Arab-Americans that has followed.
Zoya Dhakam is a member of Salaam who spoke at the vigil. Dhakam said the meaning of the word “salaam” is “peace be upon you” and is a common greeting among Muslims.
“It’s kind of a counterintuitive thing to think why people who say this, who believe in peace, would be in any way trying to promote violence in society or in any way scheming to destroy peace on Earth,” Dhakam said.
Syed Saud, another speaker and member of Salaam, as well as the Muslim Student Association, said unity should shine in times of crisis.
“No matter if you’re Christian, if you’re Muslim, if you’re Jewish, Atheist, Buddhist. If you’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, the tragedies that are going on now, affect all of us,” said Saud. “It is no longer about race or religion. Rather, it is about preserving humanity.”
UConn freshman Sai Arabala said love is the best response in the face of tragedy.
“There’s no other boundaries but love and that’s the only thing that should matter by the end of the day, you know? Fight hate with love, that’s all you can do,” said Arabala.
Hilary Greer, priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on campus, also spoke at the event. Greer encouraged students to speak to each other during the event, instead of facing forward and listening.
“Talk together about, first, what is breaking your heart today? What has broken your heart this week? And second, where have you found hope in the midst of that heartbreak,” said Greer.
Afifa Iqeal, a junior at UConn, said she hopes the student body, and by extension, the rest of the world will come together, instead of dividing.
“What we really need right now is humanity, and our togetherness, and see that we’re all one human race and not be divided simply by terrorists’ actions that have no religion,” she said.
Saud closed his speech with an idea that was spoken about repeatedly through the vigil.
“Once the power of love and humanity overcomes the love of power over humanity, only then can we work our way towards peace,” he said.