On November 17, the University of Virginia gathered for a candlelight vigil in memory of the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Iraq, Lebanon, and other parts of the Middle East. Held in the Amphitheater, it was co-sponsored by UVa’s Student Council, the Office of the Dean of Students, the French House, the Department of French, the Muslim Student Association (MSA), the Lebanese Club, and the Global Student Council at UVA.
Several people – ranging from Dr. Scott Beardsley, Dean of the Darden School, to members of the Middle Eastern Leadership Council (MELC) – called for peace and unity in France, the Middle East, and around the globe.
“Tonight, let it be known that the Hoos in Charlottesville stand united with France and Paris during this difficult time,” Beardsley stated. “Let us carry forward the light of the torch of the Statue of Liberty in our hearts….For that moment [of silence], we at UVa are all French— nous sommes tous français” [in English, ‘We are all French’].
Adrianna Taweel, president of the MELC, said “I stand here tonight in mourning for the individuals and families who lost in the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Syria, and around the world….In all of these attacks, humanity has been lost and replaced with chaos and fear….We need to work for peace. This involves awareness, this involves empathy, and this involves unity.”
The University Singers also expressed their solidarity by singing the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” along with the “Star Spangled Banner.” The victims of each affected region were then honored with several moments of silence throughout the entire program.
Other speakers reflected on how terrorism has affected their lives, as well as their friends, relatives, neighbors, and fellow community members.
A student speaking on behalf of the MSA warned that “[UVa] must remain united….But there is no unity to be found when that diversity becomes reasons to divide ourselves. If we are to fight back against the powers that deliver these acts of terror and senseless violence, [we must come together] tomorrow and the day after that….We are hurting, but we are not alone.”
And another member of the MELC— a Syrian-American— spoke against the Islamic State (ISIS), noting their brutality towards Muslims and Christians both in his homeland and in other parts around the globe.
“Syrians and Iraqis wept for France because they loathed the thought that even a day of their pain would reach them,” he said. “As a Syrian-American, the whole quagmire seems surreal….Know that no one understands the pain of France’s loss like the Syrian and Iraqi people.”
This comes as ISIS has increased its efforts to attack outside of their stronghold in Iraq and Syria. The New York Times noted on Friday that at least 129 were murdered as attackers swarmed several locations in Paris. According to the Associated Press, twenty-six Iraqis were also killed in a funeral bombing that same day in Baghdad. And the day beforehand, at least forty-three people died due to suicide bombings in Beirut. Finally, CNN reported on Sunday that ISIS put out an official video threatening to strike Washington, D.C., raising security concerns within the city.