One student was from Mozambique.
Another had lost a close friend in the Paris attacks.
The students who attended and spoke at the candlelight vigil for peace on Sunday night on the Eastman Quad had no one reason for doing so, but all were brought together by respect for the victims of recent terrorist attacks around the world. Catalyzed by horrific tragedies last week in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad, freshman Muhammad Miqdad and others organized a vigil that brought together students from all denominations and backgrounds.
Miqdad began organizing the event on Saturday, Nov. 14, after word of the attacks in Paris had spread. A growing group message on Facebook eventually recruited members of the Students’ Association (SA) government and Director of Orientation Eleanor Oi, both of whom helped procure candles and recruit more student volunteers. University President Joel Seligman was also in attendance at the vigil, giving a brief speech on the tragedies.
A double suicide bombing in Beirut on Thursday claimed 43 lives. The following day, shootings, suicide bombings, and a hostage situation shocked the citizens of Paris and resulted in a death toll of 129. Both on Friday and Sunday, a string of suicide bombings in Baghdad left at least 26 people dead. The Islamic State (IS) group, also known as ISIL and ISIS, has claimed responsibility for many of the attacks.
Sophomore Teddy Rycroft opened the vigil by playing guitar and singing as students filed onto the Quad and volunteers handed out candles. Miqdad stepped forward to begin the vigil, setting a tone of solidarity with his opening speech.
“Terrorism has no religion,” Miqdad said. “Terrorism has no country.”
Miqdad emphasized that people of all religions must come together to withstand the attacks. The first student speaker, freshman Bruno Sacatucua, reiterated this theme, pressing the students to “let this be a moment of solidarity, not of divisions and finger pointing.”
Junior Sammir Lesage spoke next. Lesage had lost a friend in the Paris attacks and contacted Miqdad about speaking at the vigil. He urged students to look around them and realize that each person is unique, with their own thoughts, dreams and trials. “Every single one of us have our own aspirations, dreams and thoughts as complex as each other. And we are one single life. […] And in Lebanon, you lost about 50 people. In Paris, you lost about 130,” Lesage said in an interview, adding, “You don’t really think it was a person, you just see a number. That’s what I want people to understand. That we lost humans. We lost people who were just at the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
Freshman Jacob Bistrong was the last student to speak; he discussed responding with love and solidarity to the tragedies, rather than with hate. Seligman was the last speaker. He was somber, calling the evening “an occasion of the deepest grief,” but adding that the UR community ought to support its members in such trying times. “We are, in some sense, an extended family,” Seligman said.
Following the speeches, candles were lit and student a cappella group Vocal Point gave a brief musical performance that concluded with “The Genesee.”
At the end of the vigil, Miqdad and junior Emma Bowden collected donations for UNICEF.
A moment of silence was observed on campus Saturday at noon, with the carillon ringing “La Marseillaise.”
A similar vigil for victims of terrorism was held Monday at 5 p.m. at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Passanisi is a member of the class of 2017.