In response to the New Zealand shooting at a mosque on March 15, the Interfaith Chapel community held a vigil in support of the Muslim community at UR this past Friday.
Held during Jumma — or Friday afternoon prayer — the event encouraged those of any or no faith to attend, observe, and mourn those killed in Christchurch.
The event started with traditional prayer, with non-Muslim visitors sitting and observing. Ahmed Veknach, who is the advisor for the Muslim Students’ Association, led Jumma and addressed the attendees between prayers.
His sermon was delivered in English, with Arabic interspersed throughout.
“In our tradition, the first thing that we teach our children is have mercy on people, and God will have mercy on you,” Veknach said. “No matter what happened, our goodness will always come together.”
At the conclusion of prayer, President Feldman, along with representatives from several other faiths, took the podium to condemn the the shooter’s actions and offer support to the Muslim community.
One representative, Rabbi Asher Yaras of UR Chabad, brought up the Ten Commandments in his condolences.
“There are two tablets,” Yaras said. “The first commandment is to believe in God. The sixth commandment is not to murder. One might ask why did God choose to give two tablets? Couldn’t he have just made the font a little smaller, and then fit it in to one?”
Yaras explained that commandments one and six are put next to each other because they are of equal importance. To Yaras, “Every human being is created in the image of God, and an act against a human being is an act against God. Failing to see God’s image in a fellow [human being] is the source of such a heinous act.”
Rev. Dr. Laurie Tiberi, on behalf of the Protestant Chapel Community (a student organization), echoed the sentiments of each faith most succinctly. “We love you, we have your back, and we are so glad that you are here,” she said.
After the prepared speeches, event leaders opened up the floor to any students who wanted to speak.
Following the theme of unity, junior Haytham Abdelhakim took the opportunity to highlight similarities between all the different beliefs present.
“Muslims know about Jesus, Muslims know about Moses, and the stories we have share a lot in common — it’s hard sometimes to see beyond our story,” Abdelhakim said. “Let’s actually think that maybe the truth is bigger than all of us. Maybe it’s bigger than religions. Maybe all of us have parts of the truth, and we are just sharing some pieces of a puzzle together.”
Partially as a response to the shooting, the Muslim Students’ Association is holding Islam Awareness week with events from April 8–12 showcasing Islam and IslaMuslim culture in an effort to foster understanding.