Hendricks vigil calls for 'hope in the midst of darkness' of terrorist attacks

The Monday night ceremony opened with readings of hope and peace from five different faiths.

Dozens of students, faculty and staff gathered on the steps of Hendricks Chapel on Monday night to stand “as lights against the darkness” in the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks that made headlines over the weekend.

The candlelight vigil was hosted by the chaplaincy of Hendricks Chapel and led by Jay Koshy, the university’s evangelical Christian chaplain, who entreated those in attendance to be “symbols of unity and shining hope in the midst of darkness.”

“We can choose to be light and not be overcome by darkness.” - Jay Koshy

“We can choose to be light and not be overcome by darkness,” Koshy said to the crowd gathered at the foot of the chapel, asking them to pray for France, Lebanon, Russia, Iraq and Kenya – the countries most recently affected by violent acts of terror. It was the second vigil held on campus in remembrance of the recent acts of terror; Syracuse’s Remembrance Scholars held a vigil Sunday night.

Monday’s ceremony opened with readings of hope and peace from five different faith traditions. Student Association President Aysha Seedat offered a reading from the Hadith, a collection of teachings from the Prophet Muhammad.

“The fact that students came despite the cold and stuck around means a lot to me as someone from a Muslim family,” said Seedat, who was touched by the display of interfaith solidarity and the calls for peace.

The messages offered by the chaplaincy focused overwhelmingly on love, tolerance and understanding. Christian faith leaders quoted the apostle Paul and entreated those in attendance not to “let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

Bonnie Shoultz, the Buddhist chaplain, reminded the crowd not to give into thoughts of hatred and fear – that life is shaped by one’s mind, that one becomes what one thinks. Mohammad Ashkar, treasurer for the Muslim Students Association, referenced the story of Cain and Abel and quoted the Qur’an, saying, “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.”

The vigil comes after coordinated attacks in Paris last Friday claimed the lives of at least 129 people, wounding over 300 people in six different locations around the city. The day before the attack in France, suicide bombers killed 43 people and wounded more than 200 in Beirut – the worst attack the city had seen in years. That same day, a suicide bomber killed at least 18 people at a funeral in Baghdad.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility for all three attacks. The attack on Paris was the group’s eighth act of terror in just two months.

Television-radio-film senior Iara Rogers Benchoam came to the vigil to stand in solidarity with others seeking peace and understanding.

“Now, more than ever, we need to stay together. The impact of these attacks could be huge,” Benchoam said. “It’s scary and nerve-racking to think about the conflict in the Middle East escalating even further.”

Liz Robinson, a French professor, came to support her friends and colleagues in the department who were deeply affected by the tragedy in Paris.

“Of course, we feel grief for France. We all have ties to France. But we also grieve for Lebanon and Iraq. For Egypt, Kenya and Russia. These things affect us all,” Robinson said.

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