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Furman Honors UNC Chapel Hill Shooting Victims with Vigil

By Amanda Richey, Assistant News Editor

Muslim lives matter. All lives matter.

This was the basic premise of a prayer vigil held on Furman’s campus Wed., Feb. 18 to remember the lives of three Muslim students shot at UNC Chapel Hill last month. The vigil saw a large crowd of students, faculty and staff gather to mourn the lives lost and was planned by two campus organizations: the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Interfaith Youth Core (FIFyc).

The vigil featured a march from the Library steps to the Chapel, a brief explanation of the shooting, speeches from student leaders representing multiple faith backgrounds, and prayers in both the Muslim and Christian traditions.

While all of the speeches from student faith group leaders honored the lives of the three UNC Chapel Hill students, some speeches addressed a larger notion of respect and non-violence.

Yash Singh, president of theAssociation for Hindu Students, read a poem in Hindi about walking “the path of fire” to reach tolerance.

Kelsey Lansberry, president of the Secular Student Association, spoke about the need for ethical humanism, the acknowledgement of our common humanity over our differences.

“Since the shooter was an atheist, we made sure to reach out to the Secular Student Alliance, and they were happy to speak,” said Caroline Lancaster, president of the Muslim Student Association, via email. The interfaith component of the vigil was a necessary part of creating a broader dialogue.

Dr. Kadir Yildirim, a mentor for students active in the MSA, stressed the importance of the vigil’s multi-perspective dimension.

“The vigil, with the diversity it entailed, underscored the urgency of dialogue and approaching religious and other kinds of diversity as a valuable asset rather than a source of discomfort and stress,” Dr. Yildirim said via email.

During his explanation of the shooting, Dr. Yildirim emphasized that the victims Deah, Yusor, and Razan were not “extraordinary Muslims.” They were dental school students. Razan was 19. Shot dead in their condominium, they represent the danger everyone faces from such an event.

The vigil was also a way for students to voice concerns over what they saw as an insufficient treatment of the shooting by media and to promote a wider conversation about the event.

“A main idea of the vigil was to give these people media interest, to have them covered, to say that these people matter,” Gabe Fresa, President of the Furman Interfaith Youth Core, said.

Mehmood Mallick, treasurer of the Muslim Student Association, said that the vigil was a way for students to express their condolences for the deceased and simultaneously voice concerns against injustice.

“I think the vigil was successful because we had a good turnout and a diverse group to come and offer their prayers, thoughts, and support,” Lancaster said via email. “This was not just a Muslim issue, but it was a human issue.”

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