Members of the Brown community gathered on the Main Green together under the night sky Thursday, candles lit in their hands, to mourn the Muslims who were killed during the New Zealand shooting last week.
The vigil was organized by the Brown Muslim Students Association, Brown-RISD Muslim Chaplaincy and the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life.
Following the attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand — which took place at Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Mosque — members of the Brown community provided students and staff with opportunities and places to process the tragedy. Spaces to honor the victims over the past week have included organized attendance at Rhode Island’s statewide vigil at the Masjid Al-Kareem mosque on Monday and time after the weekly Jumu’ah service last Friday, when around 80 people gathered for a reading of the translated Moroccan poem “The Prayer of the Oppressed.”
On Thursday, the vigil began and ended with a reading of the opening verses of the Qur’an, which was followed by an array of speakers — from students to staff to other members of the community — who shared their thoughts and supportive words, in addition to offering moments of silence for the victims.
Students Hamzah Shah ’22, Muram Ibrahim ’22 and Samy Amkieh ’21 read aloud the names of the 50 people who lost their lives, and then each elaborated on the life story of one victim.
Associate University Chaplain for the Muslim Community Imam Adnan Adrian Wood-Smith remarked on the significance of the tragedy taking place during the weekly sacred day Jumu’ah.
“The fact that this gathering for our brothers and sisters in New Zealand was so much not about peace cuts right at the heart of many of us,” Wood-Smith said, adding that though the shooting took place “halfway across the world … the likeness of the spiritual community is the likeness of a body.”
Wood-Smith then invited the community to gather in an “act of communal defiance, in terms of standing together against hate, against white supremacy, against everything that pits us against each other.”
Amara Majeed ’19 spoke about the harmful effects of Islamophobia on Muslim communities, referencing destabilization of Muslim communities, cases of abuse and violations of human rights throughout the world.
“For our allies that took the time out of their day to show us your love, your solidarity and your support, we would like to express our sincerest gratitude … but we ask that if you stand for our murdered brothers and sisters in New Zealand, that you stand for” Muslims in China, Jerusalem, Palestine, Sudan and elsewhere.
Chaplain of the University Janet Cooper Nelson also spoke at the event, articulating her grief and hope for a better future.
“I speak to you as someone who identifies as white. I speak to you as someone who identifies as Christian, and the person who did the shootings said both of those things about himself,” Cooper Nelson said, adding that “I have to take responsibility that … someone in my community has taken these actions, and for that I express my extreme sorrow, and I even go as far as to ask for forgiveness.”
“I also pledge to you, that in the name of my tradition, we will strive to do better,” she said.
During the open mic portion of the vigil, individuals shared their thoughts and experiences in response to the attack in Christchurch.
Luqmaan Bokhary ’21 stressed the emotional impact on children in Providence, who are increasingly aware of Islamophobia in their community and beyond.
“I just hate that this (has) essentially become normalized in even children of today,” Bokhary said.
Abdullah Shihipar GS reminded community members that it is possible to write letters to those in Christchurch as a way to show their support.
Following the event, Amkieh expressed appreciation for the Brown community during this dark time.
“Seeing this many people really made me happy to see that there were so many people that came and showed support and solidarity,” Amkieh said. “The Brown community showed itself to be like caring and welcoming, and I really love that.”
The Muslim Chaplain and the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life are available to provide support for any students in need of help at this time in light of the tragedy. “We offer pastoral care, and work in conjunction with CAPS, Student Support Services, identity centers and other offices to support the full wellbeing of students,” Wood-Smith wrote.