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'Hatred and intolerance will never define us': MSA hosts vigil following New Zealand mosque shootings

Candles flickered in the evening wind as hundreds gathered around a group performing Maghrib prayer, the fourth of five daily prayers that takes place right after sunset. 

Muslim students knelt on prayer rugs on the lawn of the Chapel as fellow students and other onlookers gathered around them in solidarity at a vigil for those recently killed in a mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

A man who appeared to be a white supremacist faces charges related to shooting and killed 50 people Friday during prayer at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood mosque. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden deemed the killings a  terrorist attack. Tuesday’s vigil, organized by the Duke Muslim Students Association, was designed to demonstrate the unity and love among students to alleviate any fear among Duke's Muslim community.

“This past Friday, we saw terrible acts of terrorism, of hate, of evil. Yet today we stand united as a community to show that hatred and intolerance will never define us,” said junior Aman Ibrahim, president of the MSA.

Ibrahim was one of many Muslim students who met at the Chapel to mourn and come together. 

“At this time more than ever, every person from every direction of life, on this campus, in this state, in this country, and on this planet, must stand together and stick together,” Ibrahim said. “We must fight against hatred in the only way possible—with compassion.”

It was not just Muslim students who gathered. Faith leaders and students from various religions attended and spoke to offer their support. Senior Cheenu Tiwari, a representative of the Hindu Student Association, addressed the group, discussing the harm that comes to all minority communities when there is violence against one group. 

Elana Friedman—Campus Rabbi and Chaplain for Jewish Life at Duke—also spoke, emphasizing the Jewish community’s support during this time. 

“If unrestrained hate is the source of the world’s brokenness, then we can discern the way to repair...unbounded, free-flowing love," Friedman said. "We must not let hate win. We must not be hushed to indifference. We must turn our heartbreak to acts of connection and loving kindness. We must turn to love."

During the vigil, 50 candles were lit as the names of victims were called out. Speakers offered prayers for the dead. 

However, the vigil was not solely dedicated to grieving. It was also a call for everyone, not just Muslims, to stand together against such attacks.

“Here at Duke, it is not enough to just condemn hate and violence," said graduate student Anisa Khalifa. "Yes, we mourn. Yes, we pray. But also, we stand up, we speak out, we act."  

Tears ran down candlelit faces.

“I believe a community is most important in mourning and fighting against injustices," said sophomore Jamal Burns. "I hope Duke students take away the fact that we can come together and be there for each other in times like this." 

Danielle Oakley, director of Duke's Counseling and Psychological Services, reminded students of the mental health and counseling options available for those who wish to talk.

“I’m so happy with the number of people that came out and the diversity of the people that came out," Ibrahim said. "It shows that, as a Muslim, we have friends among the community. We can have a support system with one another."

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