In a moment when organizers appealed for attendees to put politics aside, a diverse crowd of students and faculty stood together in solidarity. This crowd gathered to pay respect to the victims of recent events in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad, on Sunday at 5 p.m. As the sun set, the community members burned candles and the flames glowed, lighting the circle of people. Several speakers led prayers and pledges of solidarity, including chaplain Tahera Ahmed and President Morton Schapiro.
After an introduction by Northwestern International Student Association (ISA) public relations co-chair Eish Sumra, Director of Interfaith Engagement and associate chaplain Tahera Ahmad reminded over 130 attendees to stand together against injustices that happen every day in Chicago and around the country.
She shared her belief that terrorism is the result not of religion, but of “destructive ideologies that seek to take advantage and exploit the weakest members of society,” she said.
The rock was covered in a white sheet – which had been decorated by a peace sign and the word “SOLIDARITY.” After all speakers shared their thoughts, people placed candles along the ledge in front of the rock and stood in silence. The flags of Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq hung in front of the Rock alongside the French flag.
People stood in a large circle as students spoke of their feelings and initial reactions to the events unfolding in Paris. Stella Pointeau, a Weinberg junior, is from around the Paris area. “I feel really close to the international students here, so it felt natural to come and think about what happened,” Pointeau said. “When I talk to my friends – to my family – back home they are just traumatized.”
One speaker, tearfully recalled watching her friends mark themselves “safe” on Facebook. Another speaker reminded students to replace “intolerance and hatred and anger” with something more positive.
Later in the event, Weinberg senior Connor Steelberg echoed Ahmad, asking the community to remember that there are other places in the world that will not see stability return quickly. Paris will be resilient in the wake of terror attacks, but refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria may not, he said.
“ISIS, specifically, is trying to sew hate, and the most we can do is open our arms and give them compassion,” the French native said.
Jewish, Christian and Muslim students all spoke respectively, connecting their faith to their reactions to the terrorist attacks over the weekend.
Georgia Pettibone, a SESP junior, came to the vigil with Pointeau in support of her friend. “As far as the vigil, I think it’s really nice that so many different communities came to speak – especially the different religious groups,” Pettibone said. “It really shows the unity that we can have even if people are from different parts of the world, different faiths, and different backgrounds.”
Over the past weekend, ISIS claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. Lebanon also experienced multiple suicide bombings in Beirut. An ISIS militant blew himself up in southeastern Turkey. Bombings also took place in Baghdad. There was also an earthquake off of the coast of Japan, which later triggered a tsunami.
Later in the event, Schapiro led a moment of silence, expressing gratitude that all 82 Northwestern students studying in Paris are safe.
“Pray for the souls of the people taken in Paris and pray for the speedy recovery of the hundreds and hundreds who are hurt and who see that beautiful religion and their wonderful god used by lunatics in the name of terror,” he said.