DC Vigil Honors Chapel Hill Victims

By: Brittany Neihardt

February 19, 2015

Candles flickered amidst a large sea of people. My heart was heavy as I recalled why so many people had gathered. At the same time, I smiled to see more than 400 individuals crowded into Dupont Circle on a cold Thursday night to honor the lives of Deah Shaddy Bakarat, Yusor Mohamad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha. People of all ages, colors, languages, cultures, and religions huddled together as a variety of speakers offered their condolences, called for peace, and remembered the three young lives that were extinguished far too early. 

A series of community leaders were present to stand in solidarity with the families of Deah, Yusor, and Razan. In my opinion, the most inspiring was a member of the DC area chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization dedicated to the development of peace in the region of Israel and Palestine. He, like the speakers before him, denounced the Chapel Hill shooting as a senseless act of violence and hatred. But then he called out the Jewish community. He expressed his disappointment that a Jewish leader has not yet come forward to speak in opposition of the horrible tragedy that occurred on Tuesday, February 10 and to mourn the deaths of three young Muslims. I was pleasantly surprised to hear such a strong demand for an interfaith response to the tragedy in North Carolina.

While many signs at the vigil read “Muslim Lives Matter,” they also read “All Human Lives Matter.” This is the message we need from faith communities around the world. Hate crimes occur all too often and are rarely spoken about. What occurred in Chapel Hill is truly horrible; but we must use this as a reminder and as motivation for all the work that still remains. I wish for the day when every story isn’t punctuated by qualifications like white or black; Muslim, Jewish, or Christian; male or female. At some point, we must move beyond arbitrary categorization. The crowd at the Thursday vigil recognized this task. Many of the diverse attendees were on their way home from work but stopped to show their support for families and a community hundreds of miles away. And, despite those differences that we have been taught are so important and isolating, everyone greeted each other with not only civility but friendship. People who had never met before stood together and spoke openly about their lives, experiences, and hopes for a future beyond hate-inspired violence. The DC community came together on Thursday despite the freezing temperatures because they recognized the larger message that needs to be remembered.

We are all different, but we are all humans and we all bleed red. More importantly, we are all capable of tolerance, understanding, and camaraderie if we only try. As I walked to class on Thursday morning, I noticed that a quote from Imam Yahya Hundi had been written near the entrance of the Intercultural Center. It read: “Islam teaches that God loves those who love others. The fruits of religious convictions and our love of God are not achieved in a vacuum. They are achieved and found in the context of human relationships.” The DC 4 Chapel Hill vigil was an excellent demonstration of the power of human relationships. Everyone came to Dupont Circle with sadness in their hearts. But, they also came with love. Sadness and anger will not defeat the beast of intolerance and prejudice. Only love can accomplish that.

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DC Vigil Honors Chapel Hill Victims