Finding Unity on Campus Amidst Global Violence

Yeho Hwang

NYU held a vigil in the Kimmel grand staircase on Thursday in solidarity with those affected by the recent attacks in Brussels and Istanbul.

According to The New York Times, 31 people are confirmed dead from the Tuesday attacks in Brussels and more than 300 are wounded. Five people, including the suicide bomber, were killed in Istanbul on March 19, and more than 36 people were injured.

The vigil was co-sponsored by the Bronfman Center, Catholic Center, Center for Multicultural Education and Programs, Global Spiritual Life, Islamic Center, LGBTQ Student Center and Protestant Life.

With approximately 50 students and staff present, Yael Shy, senior director of Global Spiritual Life, began the vigil by providing a brief background of the attacks. Three student speakers from the affected regions gave speeches regarding peace, unity and solidarity, citing personal experiences of calling their friends and loved ones.

One student speaker, Steinhardt senior Selin Sahin, noted how terrorism is a global threat, which can often challenge people’s ideas and beliefs.

“It is the public and civilians that always get hurt, so we’re all in this together,” Sahin said. “We feel the same pain that people in Paris or Brussels felt.”

GSAS student Oliver Janssen, a student speaker from Antwerp, Belgium, echoed Sahin’s sentiments.

“It had been in my backyard this time, in our backyard,” Janssen said. “I think it’s extremely useful what we’re doing now, coming together. We can overcome this, and I think we should unite.”

After the student speakers, chaplains of the Bronfman Center, Catholic Center and Islamic Center gave speeches of their own that spread messages of standing by their faiths and connecting through hope and understanding when faced with tragedies.

Rabbinic intern Miriam Liebman said these times of crises are when we should be rallying together rather than trying to find someone to put at fault.

“In a world and atmosphere where there’s so much bloodshed and so much loss, it’s easy to look at others as if they’re our enemy,” Liebman said. “Instead, as we mourn together, this is the time we reach out our hands to one another.”

Although the vigil lasted approximately 30 minutes, moments of unity were a common pattern. At one point, two students reached out to each other, holding hands and exchanging smiles. The Muslim Student’s Association attended as a group.

Stern senior Noor Rostoum, president of MSA, said the demographic of people at the vigil further proved NYU students’ ability to care for one another.

“No matter who we are, no matter the ethnicity or religion of those who were victims of the tragedy, we’re all humans,” Rostoum said. “Because of our humanities, we all care for each other.”

As the vigil neared to a close, Shy led a moment of silence. After Janssen and Sahin lit two candles, students and staff in attendance closed their eyes. Some held their hands over their hearts. Silence washed through the attendees and small chatters in Kimmel became reminders of unity.

Steinhardt freshman Usma Baban said she feels very fortunate to have a space where NYU can come together as a community and find compassion and peace.

“It could get overwhelming,” Baban said. “I can feel alone at times. It’s nice to have this environment available.”

Email Yeho Hwang at [email protected].



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