On Tuesday, Nov. 16, International House hosted its “Vigil for Peace” event in Exley Science Center. The vigil was planned in response to the recent attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad.
The residents of International House invited all members of the University community to join together in solidarity. They hoped to create a safe space for people to remember the lives lost as well as express hope for a better future. The vigil began with a brief introduction followed by a moment of silence. Then the organizers opened up the floor for attendees to share their thoughts and feelings. Many students expressed deep remorse over all of the lives lost.
After the vigil, the organizers shared their thoughts about the need to create this environment for students. Yael Horowitz ’17 explained her reasons for planning the vigil.
“I thought it was important to acknowledge everything that was going on in the world other than just Paris,” Horowitz said.
She then explained why the vigil took place in International House specifically, drawing attention to the systematic nature of violence.
“I thought it was important that it came from International House so that we could have an international lens on it, that wasn’t just focused on specific countries or specific identities but more about much larger systems of violence,” Horowitz said. “Noticing the extremely violent situations that are happening but situating those within a much more painful and much more constant reality.”
Jhanelle Thomas ’18 expressed frustration about the selective mourning that often occurs when discussing violence. In the wake of the Paris attacks, which received more media attention than the attacks in Beirut and Baghdad did, many called for increased recognition of terror outside of the Western world.
“It’s really frustrating to see all of the focus be on one specific country, especially when things like this go on in all of these different countries all the time and no one really talks about it,” she said.
Dache Rogers ’18 talked about the erasure that occurs when people choose to selectively mourn.
“I think it’s easy to see these things happening and become desensitized to it… and that the people who lost their lives are just faceless people; they’re just another number,” Rogers said.
Thomas also brought attention to the problematic way social media has perpetuated selective mourning in society.
“Facebook has like, the filter and it’s of the flag of France but never for Kenya, never for any other country, and that’s really frustrating to see,” Thomas said.
Rogers conveyed what she believed was the main goal of creating this place for students.
“I think that this vigil was really aimed to get every one together who was affected by this… and have a safe space where they can just share their feelings… and hear from other people’s perspectives,” she said.
All of the organizers agreed that the moment of silence was an important and essential part of the vigil. Horowitz elaborated by discussing the power of silence.
“I think moments of silence are really powerful when you’re able to get a big group of people together to be silent out of respect or out of grief,” she said.
The organizers were especially glad that students chose to speak at the event. Horowitz indicated her satisfaction with the level of participation.
“I was amazed by the bravery and the genius of a lot of the people who spoke,” she said. “I think that these events only work if the participants really bring themselves to the conversation. I think that really happened.”
Rogers emphasized her gratitude for students’ engagement in the event.
“I was very proud of everybody that spoke… they reflected thoughts I’ve had by myself but didn’t really want to say,” Rogers said.
Horowitz’s tone while discussing the event was hopeful.
“I don’t know if it’s going to change anything, but maybe something one person said is going to affect the life of another person,” Horowitz said.
Thomas was particularly affected by a student’s remark about the common nature of ignorance.
“One of the responses that really stuck with me was this one girl who was talking about being desensitized,” she said. “What are we doing about [global terror]? We need to do something about it.”