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Candlelight vigil held for Pakistan

Mary Conroy | Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Despite the rain and cold weather, a crowd of 22 gathered at the Fieldhouse Mall Tuesday night a candlelit vigil to raise awareness of the Oct. 8 earthquake in Pakistan.

Sarah Shafiq, a Notre Dame graduate student, and a member of the Muslim Student Association and the Pakistan Student Association, began by reading a story that recalled that tragic disaster. Shafiq reminded the crowd of that the damage is not over yet.

“More people will die with the aftermath than the earthquake itself. [But] we have the power to help. The idea of this event is to raise awareness and collect funds because there is an extreme shortage of funds. Every bit helps,” she said.

Shafiq said it is important to know that $10 can buy food for two weeks in Pakistan.

“We shouldn’t forget about it [the earthquake] because the media is not giving it enough attention. It is easy to forget because we are so far away. But it is part of our humanity; we need to make an effort to the global society,” she said.

Dr. Ahmed, a leader of the event, shared many statistics of Pakistan, its people and the damaged caused by the earthquake. He stressed the importance of taking action quickly.

“There are many statistics for this earthquake. More than 3 million people are displaced, and more than one million of these people are still homeless,” he said. “Fifteen thousand villages devastated, 75,000 people killed, 10,000 hospitals destroyed, and 7,000 schools damaged, 274 of which were completely wiped out.”

Priscilla Wong, assistant director of campus ministry, said that four million people have been affected by the earthquake – half of which are children.

“Less than 30 percent of needed funds have been raised so far, and 20,000 children are physically impaired,” she said.

Ahsam Kareem, another leader of the event, then shared the scientific explanation of the earthquake, stressing the severity of the damage.

“Some events happen quickly. Some events have warnings,” he said. “Why does this happen?”

Pakistan is one of the hottest areas for an earthquake activity, Kareem said. The plates under Pakistan move about one to one-and-a-half inches per year and, since this collision of plates was so close to the surface, it caused a “tsunami like” wave of instant disaster for Pakistan.

He than compared how the damage would affect the Notre Dame area.

“Just image in a few seconds all of South Bend gone, and all of Mishawaka injured, and many surrounding areas also affected,” he said. “My feeling is unfortunately for those people in Pakistan, [the area] isn’t like where the tsunami occurred, an area with a lot of tourism, and an area that received a lot of media. Pakistan is [a] remote area, and the earthquake was not caught on film, like the tsunami, and you don’t see the misery of the people.”

The ceremony ended with a prayer led by Shafiq. Attendees then proceeded on a candlelit walk around campus to raise more awareness.

“We have these events because Notre Dame Pakistani students took initiative to help those suffering from the earthquake,” Wong said. “All the money received for relief donations will be given to the Catholic Release Services. This service in Pakistan is unique because [it’s] 90 percent Muslim. [It’s] really great to have this collaboration of workers.”

In addition to the candlelit vigil, another event is taking place on campus to raise awareness and funds for the Pakistan earthquake. Today, at 6 p.m. there will be a dinner in the La Fortune Ballroom. It will be featuring Indian food. A $7 donation is suggested.