Students of many faiths and cultures gathered on the steps of Kimmel’s grand staircase last night for a vigil in response to the recent natural disaster in Southeast Asia. A 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday, killing at least 360 people and leaving at least 5,000 homeless. Fatalities continue to rise as the isolated region struggles to receive aid.
The vigil was organized by the NYU Student Senators Council to unify the student body in support of the affected countries. Keagan Sakai-Kawada, vice chair of Student Government and SPS junior, reached out to the Office of Global Spiritual Life to organize the event.
“I think we are such an international university, and it’s important for us to respond in a time-sensitive matter,” Sakai-Kawada said. “At times, the university might seem disconnected, but we really care about all of the students representing different nationalities.”
Student speakers and chaplains from NYU’s various faith communities asked the audience to focus their thoughts on all of those affected by the earthquake and its aftermath. Among the identified victims were 12 girls crushed by their school building. David Williams, a Senior Affiliate Chaplain at NYU, reminded students to turn to prayer in this time of uncontrollable tragedy.
“I don’t know that there’s any cheap or easy answer to this question: Why? Why do girls not get to grow up? Why does a grandfather have to watch his grandchildren take their last breath?” Williams said.
Joe Wolfson, a rabbi from the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, discussed the desensitized attitudes that tend to develop around international tragedies. While bouncing his infant daughter on his hip, Wolfson spoke about the many distractions that can keep people from thinking about the victims of such tragedies, from daily decisions to countless smartphone notifications.
“The more connected we are, the more difficult it is to react in a deep and emotional way,” Wolfson said.
Along with bringing a compassionate focus to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the vigil was also meant to support those at NYU affected by the news. CAS junior Alina Islam-Hashmi, a member of the Pakistani Student Association, pointed out the need to hold these events as an emotional outlet for international students.
“It’s important for the international community because they can’t always be where they want to be or where they feel they should be to give support,” Islam-Hashmi said.
Speakers encouraged action along with continued thoughts and prayers. Students were asked to donate what they could to CARE, an international humanitarian organization that is already involved in aid efforts.
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