FILE PHOTO: ALEXANDER BROWN/THE HOYA Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., voiced solidarity for Jewish and Muslim community members in an email.
Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., voiced solidarity for Jewish and Muslim community members in an email.

Vice President for Mission and Ministry Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., sent an email to members of Georgetown’s Jewish and Muslim communities on Saturday, expressing solidarity with both groups. The email was sent in the wake of the heightened instances of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that have broken out across Europe since the Charlie Hebdo and kosher grocery store attacks earlier this month.

“The recent tragic events in Paris and elsewhere in Europe have affected us all deeply, in many, many ways,” O’Brien wrote. “On behalf of my colleagues in Campus Ministry, I write to assure you of our support and esteem. We grieve with you for the loss of life. We stand with you in ardently rejecting anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and violence in all forms.”

The email, which was sent to students on the Jewish and Muslim campus ministry Listservs, was received well by student leaders of different faith groups and political groups such as the Muslim Student Association and J Street U, respectively.

“Fr. O’Brien’s email was powerful, beautiful and reassuring,” J Street U Co-President Natalie Magioncalda (COL ’16) wrote in an email. “As a Jewish student at Georgetown, I find the recent events surrounding anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe to be extremely tragic and disheartening. I am appreciative of Fr. O’Brien’s letter; it comforted me, as well as many other students.”

Muslim Student Association President Zahid Syed (COL ’16) said that he feels that the university typically does a good job of fostering interfaith dialogue and creating a community for individuals of all religions.

“I think that Georgetown does an amazing job of bringing together all the different faith leaders and getting them to see that they’re all in the same boat. Georgetown has the infrastructure to support this,” Zahid said.

In his email, O’Brien emphasized the importance of Georgetown remaining a safe place for individuals of all religious identities. He included resources for students to file bias-related incident reports.

“The inter-religious understanding that we foster here at Georgetown offers a footing for all of us to work toward a lasting peace in our world,” O’Brien wrote. “Our friendship across religious differences is the most powerful witness against bigotry and intolerance.”

Magioncalda said that in the midst of heightened levels of hate crimes and discrimination, it is important for different communities to work together.

“During these challenging times, we must continue supporting one another and working together as one student body,” Magioncalda wrote. “As individuals we can either perpetuate injustices or fight to end hatred once and for all, and I have great faith that our students will always choose to speak out against discrimination.”

O’Brien said that he, along with Imam Yahya Hendi and Rabbi Rachel Gartner, are committed to providing support to the Jewish and Muslim communities at Georgetown.

“At a global and religiously diverse university like Georgetown, we appreciate how what happens in the world affects our religious communities here,” O’Brien wrote. “In the wake of the tragic events in France and beyond, we wanted to reach out to our Muslim and Jewish communities in particular to assure them of our support, our shared values, and our commitment to creating a safe and nurturing space for them.”

Hoya Staff Writer Katherine Richardson contributed reporting.

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