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Vigil to remember lives of slain Muslim-Americans

| Sunday, February 15, 2015

MSA Prayer ServicePhoto courtesy of Muslim Student Association

“Vigil for Peace,” an interfaith prayer service planned for Monday night, will honor the lives of three Muslim-Americans killed in a shooting last Tuesday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The service, sponsored by the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Campus Ministry, will take place Monday at 9 p.m. in the lounge of the Coleman-Morse Center.

The vigil will remember Deah Shaddy Barakat, a 23-year-old University of North Carolina (UNC) student; his 21-year-old wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, a graduate of North Carolina State University; and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a student at North Carolina State University. They were killed in their apartment near UNC on Tuesday evening.

The alleged shooter, Craig Stephen Hicks, was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. On Thursday, the F.B.I. began an inquiry, which includes exploring the possibility that the act was a religiously-motivated hate crime.

Sophomore Faisal Shariff, MSA’s vice president of social affairs, said the purpose of the service is for people of multiple faiths to unite against violence and begin a sustained discussion of issues of violence.

“The death of these three students is really tragic, and the last few months have been smattered with these violent acts,” he said. “It’s a chance to come together and make a stand against violence everywhere. All lives matter, as the hashtag goes, and just to remember these people, because they’re regular people, just like any of us. It’s not right, and it shouldn’t have happened at all.”

The service will include welcome remarks by Campus Ministry director Fr. Pete McCormick and sophomore Hind Ourahou; a reading of Al-Fatiha, the opening verses of the Quran; and a legacy, or reflection, on the lives of the victims.

Graduate student Aamir Ahmed Khan, MSA’s former president and a current member, said in the legacy, students will hear about Barakat and his work as a dentistry student.

“He was very active in his local community,” Khan said. “He was collecting dental supplies for charity purposes, so I think many students at Notre Dame can relate to that. They have dedicated their lives to service and volunteership. These are three young people, and their lives are gone, their passions, their dreams.”

The service will also include personal testimonies and a call for action. Professor of Islamic studies Ebrahim Moosa will reflect on today’s interfaith situation. Attendees can offer personal intentions and sign a sympathy card for the families.

A. Rashied Omar, a research scholar of Islamic studies and peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute, and Fr. Robert Dowd, an assistant professor of political science, will read from the Quran and Bible, respectively. Dowd said he will read a passage from the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus gives his ultimate commandments to love God and neighbor.

“Jesus doesn’t define neighbor very narrowly; he defines neighbor very broadly,” Dowd said. “In his example, he tells a parable of a good Samaritan. It was the Samaritan who was an outsider, but it was this outsider, not the priest, not the Levite, not the people who were the insiders – it was an outsider who offered support.

“God’s love works through all of us, and we’re all called to do our best to love one another and seek to understand one another regardless of faith background.”

Dowd said interfaith prayer is a way to find common ground among faiths.

“It’s in the context of prayer that we realize how much we have in common,” Dowd said. “Muslims believe God is a God of love and a God of justice and a God of peace, and [Christians] believe the same. In the context of prayer, we have an awareness of this. God speaks to us all in the context of prayer. We open ourselves. That’s what prayer is all about.”

On Feb. 11, several Notre Dame students and faculty attended a community-wide prayer service at the Islamic Society of Michiana for both the Chapel Hill shooting victims and Kayla Mueller, an American aid worker who was taken hostage by ISIS in Syria and killed in February.

Khan said Monday’s service will continue to provide support to Muslim students on campus.

“We want to channel the frustration or the concerns or any worries [and show] that the greater ND community is standing with the Muslim students,” he said. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to show interfaith solidarity, that we are all one and that human life has dignity.”

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About Emily McConville

Emily McConville is a news writer and photographer for the Observer. She is a senior studying history and Italian with a minor in journalism. She is from Louisville, KY and lives off-campus.

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