Ettihad Candlelight Vigil

Riley Youngman, News Contributor

The breath of those in attendance at the candlelit vigil held in the Student Experience Center Plaza Thursday night hung heavy in the bitter November air as the community mourned those lost around the world in recent attacks. 

Several hundred people gathered to show support for the victims of the terror attacks that have taken place worldwide in the last week, as well as to show solidarity to those who have experienced attacks for their religious beliefs and customs, and to offer messages of hope and harmony.    

“I am here because I am a human being, just like you,” one speaker said, addressing the criticism and attacks she has felt against her faith not only in the past week, but also throughout her life. 

Speaker after speaker offered stories of growing up Muslim and living as a Muslim in today’s world, and the related difficulties.  Disassociating the acts of those responsible for the incidents of terror in recent weeks from the 1.6 billion followers of Islam was a common theme as well.      

“It is people who are violent, not their religion,” said another, referencing the increased Islamophobia present in the media and around the world coming after the attacks in Paris, Kenya, Lebanon, Syria, and many more countries. 

A wide variety of demographics were present at the vigil.  Students, professors, OSU staff, Corvallis citizens, families, children, as well as many domestic and international students alike stood side by side in a sweeping circle around the perimeter of the Plaza.  One hundred and fifty candles were spread among the group and flickered silently throughout the night.

“If we were to offer a minute of silence for each victim of terror this week, we would have 638 minutes of silence,” explained another.                                                                                                                    

OSU President Ed Ray spoke about the importance of community in a time like this, and how each and every person could learn from one another.   

“I hope that as we think about what is happening in the world, we do not become immune to the pain and suffering,” Ray said.

Continuing on, Ray made clear that the community here could not give into the fear and let those responsible for the recent attacks get what they wanted.

“The importance of this event is the  continuing of the conversation here,” Ray said.  “We relate to each other and tonight we had people talking to one another, heart to heart.”

Amarah Khan, the associate director of the Global Diversity Initiative, part of the Diversity and Cultural Engagement was responsible for putting on the event.

“We decided to go ahead and hand out invitations to all the campus leaders and administrators,” Khan said.  “All of the administrators showed up, except for one that was traveling.”

Khan stressed the importance of events such as this, especially for students that are a part of the Ettihad Cultural Center.

“We need to make sure they find a community, and don’t become victim to demonization,” Khan said.

The discussion touched on strong messages of hope and understanding as well though.  Many people conveyed the imperative nature of coming together as one, and not letting differences in skin color, home countries, or culture be a reason for blind hatred.

“It is important to spread peace.  Lots of people got to say what they wanted to say and be heard,” said Gufran Alheji, the student leadership liaison for the Ettihad Cultural Center.  “I think the main message is to be kind to one another, as a friend, as a family, and as a community.”