Trinity MSA hosts vigil for Christchurch victims


Photo credit: Genevieve Humphreys

Photo by Genevieve Humphreys

In the wake of the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, last Friday, members of the Trinity’s Muslim Student Association (MSA), in partnership with the university chaplain and the Office of Student Involvement, organized a vigil to honor the 50 victims.

The vigil was held on March 20 around the Murchison Bell Tower. Around 150 people attended, including students, faculty and staff.

“It’s really scary to think about this could be any of our family members, it could be us,” said junior Arisha Ali, president of MSA. “So I think it’s just thinking, if you’re not a Muslim, of how you can be an ally and remembering the people who have died because of this.”

According to Ali, the vigil was created so the Trinity community could come together to learn how to be allies to the Muslim community and to remember the people affected by this tragedy. There were faculty and student speakers, as well as time dedicated to reading out the names of the 50 victims.

“I think part of the power of gatherings like this is that each person who attends has a different sense of the importance and finds different meaning in the time,” said university chaplain Alex Serna-Wallender, who helped facilitate the event. “For some it is remembering and honoring those whose lives have been taken. For some it is standing up against hate. For some it is a space to come and be and grieve in the midst of uncertainty and pain. And for many it can be a combination of these and many other things.”

Sophomore Julia Wolynes attended the vigil in support of the organizers and the lives lost.

“I thought it was a really nice idea. I think it was a horrible tragedy and I thought it was really beautiful for them to put it together. Why not show up?” Wolynes said. “It was nice to attend and a great opportunity to honor the people who lost their lives.”

Sophomore Josh Lai, who hails from Auckland, New Zealand, was shocked to hear about the shootings in his home country, as there had not been a mass shooting there since 1990.

“Hearing about a shooting in New Zealand, while I’m in America, where shootings occur far too often, was a truly surreal and horrific experience. It truly broke my heart to see my country fall victim to the same white supremacy and terrorism that is ravaging America. I am glad that we have already begun taking action in the form of banning semi-automatic weapons,” Lai said.

Junior Ashley Eads is one of three Trinity students, currently studying abroad at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, where another vigil for the Christchurch shootings was held this week. She learned about the tragedy through an email from the consulate and from news sites.

“One of my other American flatmates was sitting there with me and he commented how the shootings just seem to follow us. It was such a terrible and tragic thing to happen, especially for a country so unfamiliar with gun violence, but unfortunately it was an all too familiar story to hear for myself and my American flatmates,” Eads wrote over email. “What made it even scarier was learning that the gunman lived, trained, bought his gun, etc. here in Dunedin and that the mosque right by the university was the original target. The country is still in shock. My heart goes out to everyone who was affected here.”

Although New Zealand is on the other side of the world, Ali believes that Islamophobia extends to America, and even globally, and this should signal a greater need for solidarity from non-Muslims.

“People are scared of Muslims without even knowing what our faith is about, because Islam literally means ‘peace.’ [Mosques are] supposed to be a safe space, so basically it just shows how real Islamophobia is and how scary it is for Muslim people right now,” Ali said. “In your classroom or even out in public if you see somebody saying something racist or it seems like a Muslim person is being attacked, stand up for them.”