Two Ohio State clubs hosted a vigil Sunday with nine other local organizations in memory of the 50 people shot and killed in a mosque during a terrorist attack in New Zealand on Friday.
The vigil took place in front of the Ohio Statehouse and featured speakers from the two student organizations — the Arab Student Union and Muslim Student Association — as well as speakers from groups like MY Project USA — a nonprofit comprised of Muslim youth, parents & community members whose mission is to protect, nurture & empower our youth & USA
Zerqa Abid, founder and executive director of MY Project USA, was one of the main coordinators and speakers at the event. She touched on the importance of all people coming together in the wake of crisis no matter their race, ethnicity or religion.
“When we get to together in instances like these, and we grieve together, it helps,” Abid said. “We wanted to make sure that as many gatherings like these happen, people can hug each other and talk to each other.”
Fifty individuals were killed in New Zealand on Friday when a gunman entered two Mosques in the city of Christchurch and opened fire. The gunman was an avowed racist who cited racial motivations in a manifesto posted online prior to the attack.
Around 200 people attended the vigil to show support and listen to some of the speakers who recited the names of victims whose stories resonated with theirs.
Wesam Jallaq, a fourth-year in political science and president of the Arab Student Union at Ohio State, spoke at the event and said it was important to support the victims as well as rally against this attack and messages of hate.
“When I was reading through the stories of the victims, I saw a lot of them who were Arab, and that really touched me because it felt like it happened to people I knew,” Jallaq said. “I am Muslim as well and it felt like it happened to my own community.”
Rick Neal, the democratic candidate in November for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House, spoke at the event and said freedom to worship is an ideal Americans are acutely aligned with.
“I think that there are a few things that are more American than the idea that people should be able to get together in places of worship and freedom, and I think a lot of people are here today because they recognize that,” Neal said. “Whether American born, foreign born, we have got to come together, and stand with each other, especially when really tragic things like this happen.”