Members of the University of La Verne community came together for a solemn vigil Feb. 12 to honor the victims of the Chapel Hill, North Carolina shootings.
Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Mohammed Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Mohammed Abu-Salha, 19, were three Muslim students who were shot and killed Feb. 10 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Initial reports said the shooting allegedly occurred over a parking dispute, but police are still investigating whether the incident was a hate crime.
The shooter, Craig Hicks, was indicted with three counts of first degree murder Monday.
Vigil attendees, holding lit candles, stood in a circle near the Peace Pole in front of the Campus Center and were invited to share any thoughts, information, perspectives and feelings.
“As a Muslim here and as a covered woman, it’s hard to think that those people could’ve been my sisters,” said Nawal Atoura, who was a co-founder of the Muslim Student Association on campus in 2010.
“It’s difficult to think that something like this can still happen. It’s really nice to have a community here that would give us the time to understand that our lives matter too.”
Many of the speakers pointed out the lack of mainstream media coverage for the shooting.
Hassan Abdelaal, junior biology major and president of the Muslim Student Association, asked attendees to think about why the media fail to extensively cover attacks on Muslims and criticized the media for focusing on less important stories.
“It’s sad to hear that those (other) topics are more important than the deaths of three normal people,” Abdelaal said.
Atoura said it was important to her that so many non-Muslims came to the vigil.
“For a story that wasn’t covered by news, this kind of stuff here is what’s gonna make sure that it is headlined,” she said.
Firas Arodaki, former president of the Muslim Student Association, said he encourages people to be more proactive and to contact congressmen and the White House to spread awareness that Islam is a religion that preaches for peace.
“We (also) have to contact our media because it’s been so unjust with any Islamophobic matter,” Arodaki said.
“We have to tell them that Muslims are human, like any other people of faith. The incidents in France were considered as terrorism. (The Chapel Hill shooting) is also a terrorizing issue.”
Shadi Dignh, senior computer science major, had his daughter Robeen, 6, with him at the vigil.
Dignh said Robeen wanted to attend the vigil with him. Zandra Wagoner, University chaplain, said Robeen is a part of everyone’s futures and that she is a part of the next generation for change.
“I would tell (Robeen) to love everyone and don’t learn to hate anyone,” Dignh said as advice to his daughter to follow as she grows older.
“Just love and ignore (it) if someone does something bad to you.”
Arodaki said he would like to know and understand the reason why the incident took place.
“I don’t respond to hate by hate, I respond to hate by peace,” he said.
“If I were a parent, eventually I’m gonna forgive him. My faith says it’s an eye for an eye. However if you forgive, it’s better, and you get more rewards.”
Kristina Bugante can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.