Around 250 students and community members gathered in remembrance of the victims of last week’s terror attacks in Paris, Beirut and Baghdad at an interfaith prayer vigil held Sunday and a solidarity event yesterday.
The prayer vigil, organized by the Office of Campus Ministry, took place in Dahlgren Quadrangle and featured representatives from various faith communities, including the Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist ministries. Around 200 people attended the vigil.
After a moment of silence and the lighting of candles, Hannah Gerdes (SFS ’16), a member of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship who spoke at the event, called on the community to remember the Jesuit values of service and understanding in the face of the attacks.
“As we light these candles, we quietly recall that all are called upon to be people of peace not war, people of life not death, of
building up and not tearing down,” Gerdes said. “We are called to be women and men for others, to be people of love, justice and peace.”
The Georgetown University Gospel Choir also performed the gospel standard “Hallelujah, Salvation and Glory.”
Last night’s event, hosted by the Georgetown University French Cultural Association, also saw the observance of a moment of silence and the singing of “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, by around 50 students at Healy Circle.
Students chalked messages of support for Paris and other regions of the world affected by terrorism on the pavement.
On Friday, mass shootings and suicide bombings claimed 129 lives in Paris, while a bombing at a funeral in Baghdad killed 18 people. One day before, a bombing killed more than 40 people and injured more than 239 in Beirut. All three attacks were linked to the Islamic State group.
At the vigil, attendee Anna Arena (COL ’17) said the performance was particularly striking in light of the attack on the Bataclan, the theater where the majority of the victims of the Paris attack were killed.
“This was an attack on a concert hall; it was an attack against music,” Arena said. “Seeing how sacred that is … to see that transcendent beauty through the violence was very moving. We’re all connected through music. I thought that was incredible.”
At the event, Protestant Chaplaincy Director Rev. Bryant Oskvig said while much of the media’s coverage has centered on the Paris attacks, students should acknowledge the widespread effects of violence and terrorism.
“The media focuses on Paris because it feels counterintuitive to our own experiences and things we expect in a place like France or the United States,” Oskvig said. “I think there’s a lot of human misery that gets overlooked because it seems so far away and in places where we can’t imagine ourselves going to.”
Vigil attendee Nina Young (SFS ’19) said she felt the event addressed the international community as a whole.
“We didn’t only address the shootings in Paris,” Young said. “I’m certainly not someone who keeps up with the media, but through campus I’ve heard a lot about [other attacks].”
Arena recalled that speakers mentioned Lebanon before Paris during the prayers for special intentions at the Mass she attended in Dahlgren Chapel on Sunday.
“That’s always been something that struck me about the Jesuit ideology,” Arena said. “There’s a very conscious moving of things that aren’t traditionally put first and placing them first.”
At last night’s event, Emeric Maria, an exchange student from France, said that the attacks had a personal impact on him.
“It’s important for us to all be here and show our support,” Maria said. “We have a lot of friends and family in Paris. It could’ve been me, just going to a restaurant, going to a concert.”
Martial Guerin, another exchange student, urged the community to remember victims of terrorism beyond France.
“There were attacks in Paris, but we have to know that it happens everywhere in the world, every day,” Guerin said.
After the vigil, Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., stressed the importance of upholding values across faith traditions in light of tragic events.
“At a Catholic and Jesuit university, committed to inter-religious collaboration, we naturally come together in times of tragedy, sadness and anxiety,” O’Brien wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We seek comfort in our faith in the company of one another.”
O’Brien said events like the prayer vigil help students look past stereotypes.
“We don’t allow caricatures of one tradition or another to define our own experience of the tradition,” O’Brien wrote. “When I hear a prayer for peace done out of a Hindu or a Muslim tradition, it expands my horizons and … counteracts that visceral image that we’re seeing portrayed in the popular media over and over again.”
Muslim Chaplaincy Director Imam Yahya Hendi cited the vigil as an example of the strength of the Georgetown community.
“We are a community fully united for justice and peace,” Hendi wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We do come together to say that we are united for peace and justice for all. Tonight’s program was a great sign that we are one family despite our amazing diversity.”
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