The UCSB Muslim Student Association (MSA) held a vigil to commemorate the lives that were lost in the Christchurch Mosque shootings and to honor the affected families at Storke Tower on Monday afternoon. Several speakers from MSA as well as faculty members, including Chancellor Yang, conveyed their condolences and encouraged the community to remain strong and brave.
At least 50 people were killed and more were wounded in the mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday. The terrorist attack appeared to have been carried out by a white nationalist who posted a racist manifesto online and live-streamed the killings on Facebook. New Zealand has gone more than twenty years without experiencing a mass shooting, making this the deadliest one in the country’s modern history.
Sebaah Hamad, an MSA member, started off the ceremony by sharing a poem based off of the song, “We Shall Overcome,” a key anthem of the Civil Rights Movement. Ramy Rabie, another member of MSA, spoke after her, encouraging people to express love toward one another, saying, “love will always out-power fear.”
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Rabie stated, “this vigil helped me release my emotions…the shooting was eating away at me and was always in the back of my mind. But, the support from everyone has helped because it shows that people genuinely do care.”
Echoing Rabie’s experience, President of MSA Huda Zia told The Bottom Line, “the grief hit Saturday and I went through a roller coaster of feelings from grief to anger and then back to grief. Now, I’ve had the opportunity to heal and the positivity coming from everywhere is beautiful. At the moment, I do feel happy.”
Professor Butch Ware from the History Department gave a speech, stating, “we will not stand idly by as racism and white supremacy tears this country and this world apart … only love is capable of conquering hate.” After a moment of silence, attendees formed two lines on either side of Storke Tower to place a white rose in a vase, each one symbolizing a life that had been lost, as Rabie read the names of the victims out loud.
Sonia, a guest speaker from New Zealand, noted that while the country is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, according to the Global Peace Index, this shooting shows that “none of us are beyond being touched.”
Professor Feinstein from the Department of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology, Margaret Klawunn, the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs,, and Katya Armistead, the Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life, spoke to the crowd in succession, encouraging those present to speak up in the face of intolerance. The ceremony concluded with some attendees participating in the Islamic funeral prayer, Ṣalāt al-Janāzah, followed by a complimentary lunch at the MCC.
In terms of coping, Rabie said that “even though it’s hard, remain patient because with bad times comes good; do your best to look at the positive side of things. Today, we all came together … as humans.”
Zia expressed similar sentiments, saying that she doesn’t feel resentment and is choosing to focus on the bright side. “Look at the good that people are doing and how the community is coming together to support. It shows that humanity does exist,” she stated. Zia also encouraged people to allow themselves to grieve and to seek outside help if needed.
When asked about what can people do to help support the Muslim community, both Zia and Rabie emphasized action and visibility. According to Rabie, texting a friend or attending an MSA meeting would go a long way.
Zia stated, “if you see something, speak up. Share social media posts — getting their stories out is helpful.” She also urged larger cultural organizations to facilitate events that showcase different minority groups to ensure that all communities receive equal amounts of exposure.
“I’m so grateful for the community for helping us” said Zia, “seeing the support and knowing that the community is there for you is really beautiful.”
Students who are in need of mental health support can contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at caps.sa.ucsb.edu or 805-893-4411.