Students hold vigil on Fairfield Way for Christchurch massacre

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On April 2, 2019, Students hold a vigil on Fairfield Way for those lost in the Christchurch attack. Prayers, songs, poems, and speeches were shared, and the names of those who passed were read aloud. (Photo by Judah Shingleton/The Daily Campus)

Over two dozen University of Connecticut students mourned the lives of those killed in the Christchurch mass shooting on Tuesday night on Fairfield Way, reading out poems and sharing their feelings about the tragedy at a daytime vigil.

On March 15, a gunman opened fire at Al Noor Mosque, where he killed 42 people before getting back into his car and driving to the Linwood Islamic Centre, where he killed an additional eight people. More than 50 others were injured, according to Insider.

The vigil, which was primarily organized by sixth-semester management information systems major Priyanka Thakkar and sixth-semester political science and human rights double major Susan Naseri, was focused on remembering the victims but also spreading love and comfort to the Muslim community, Thakkar said.

“There is a huge population of Muslim students on this campus, so it is important that we recognize that we are standing in solidarity with them,” Thakkar said. “These shootings happening at religious institutions are becoming more and more common so hopefully we can start addressing solutions and being more proactive.”

Sahar Peerzade, a sixth-semester biomedical engineering major, presented a poem she wrote in the aftermath of the shooting regarding her shock and dismay at the events that occurred.

“Hope is important but it is not enough,” Peerzade told the crowd. “We still need to do our due diligence that vigils are a start, but we cannot stop at just giving our condolences.”

In Peerzade’s poem, she encouraged people from all backgrounds to share their stories and come to a common ground in understanding one another in order to prevent further violence and prejudice.

“We have to stop restricting ourselves to only the people who pray the same prayer and to anyone who does any different, yell ‘how do they dare?’” Peerzade said.

Naseri then spoke of going home to Queens, New York at the beginning of spring break and seeing her aunt and grandmother, who were terrified of leaving their house as Muslim women.

“My grandmother did not leave the house that day, she did not want to draw attention to herself for her hijab,” Naseri said. “My aunt told her daughter ‘do not share information about your background at school. Do not tell people you are Muslim, people do not need to know this.’”

Caesar Valentin, a sixth-semester political science and philosophy double major, sent a call of action to all students to stop gun violence, racism and Islamophobia.

“If you do not want hate here, what are you going to do about it?” Valentin said. “How many lives have to be lost for you to ask, ‘why hate?’ Is this the one [massacre] where you are going to do something about it?”

Students who are close to those in Christchurch, or have studied abroad with them at some point, said their foreign peers were honored that UConn students chose to remember the victims, said eighth-semester anthropology student Akhil Choudhary.

“They (the students in New Zealand) were a bit surprised and shocked that we remembered three weeks later,” Choudhary said. “They thought that a lot of the shootings in America we tend to forget very quickly, so they were shocked that there was a movement of change and that we support them.”

Naseri said the vigil goes above the issue of gun violence and instead focuses on the value of all lives, no matter the differences between individuals.

“I think of human rights as an issue that affects everyone, and if it is affected in one area of this world, then it impacts us somehow in Connecticut,” Naseri said. “It is an issue that we all need to be aware of and have to figure out what to do next.”


Taylor Harton is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. They can be reached via email at taylor.harton@uconn.edu.

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