Students, faculty and members of the university community gathered in mourning Monday, days after terror attacks in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, took the lives of 50 Muslims.
The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) collaborated with the Pakistani Students’ Association, the Bangladeshi Students’ Association and the university’s Spiritual Care Centre to hold a vigil in remembrance of the lives lost.
Speakers ranged from across communities and faiths, and included members of the university’s Indigenous, Jewish and Hindu communities, along with Christian student group Segue.
MSA external affairs director and former Manitoban reporter Qudus Abusaleh gave the opening remarks, and condemned “xenophobia, Islamophobia and discrimination in all of its forms.”
He commended the work done by the Muslim community and its allies.
“We have been responsive,” he said.
“We have fought the symptoms, we have held vigils, we have spoken to the media, wrote articles, charged our social media with condemnations so that support will increase, but still we have to all convene here once again.”
He called on the university to continue its work to improve relationships between communities on campus.
“We trust that our campus community will continue to lend a hand as we move toward inclusivity,” he said.
“The building of a multi-faith centre, as well as the creation of the university’s diversity and inclusion event planning committee […] are examples of the work we’ve started and the work we must continue.”
U of M president David Barnard made reference to Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” namely the warnings of the ides of March, where Caesar was warned he would be assassinated on March 15 — the same day the Christchurch shooting occurred.
“On the ides of March this year, three days ago, in two New Zealand mosques, a single shooter killed dozens of people and injured dozens more without any such warning,” he said.
Barnard referred to a vigil held on campus just months ago, after a terrorist shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 people were murdered.
“The last time our University of Manitoba community gathered in circumstances like this was after an attack on Jewish worshippers,” he said.
“It’s profoundly shocking to gather again so soon, to mourn the victims of another evil act prompted by hatred.”
Barnard quoted several surahs from the Qur’an in his speech and encouraged listeners to seek truth in times of strife.
“It’s our responsibility to know the truth about our world, and to commit ourselves to aligning with good, even if it’s costly to do so, and guard against the erosion of humane and civilized behaviour wherever we see it,” he said.
Along with opening and closing prayers, the vigil also included a minute of silence and an Indigenous honour song by student Dillon Courchene.
UMSU president Jakob Sanderson called time he spent at the on-campus mosque “one of the most beautiful experiences that [he] had at the University of Manitoba.”
“To see someone walk into such a welcoming, special place and commit this act should be taken as an act against all of us,” he said. “And I think the amount of people who have showed up today in solidarity with the community on campus and around the world hopefully shows that that is true.”
Abusaleh encouraged those in attendance to be active in their advocacy efforts.
“Any response is good, but now, it’s time for all of us to be proactive,” he said.
“We have fought the symptoms, and now we must fight the disease.”