Service held to honor victims of Christchurch mosque attack

In order to recognize the lives lost in the Mar. 15 attack on a Muslim mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life led a commemorative service for the victims of the massacre. The service was held in the Esch Hurvis Room of the Warch Campus Center at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 28.

The service began with a welcome by the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Reverend Dr. Linda Morgan-Clement. Morgan-Clement introduced the  service as not just an act of respect and remembrance, but also “a statement […] that this violence has no place in our community or in our world.”

Following Morgan-Clement’s welcome, Dr. Younis Zaidan, a member of both the Appleton and Fox Valley Islamic Centers, led the group in traditional prayer. 

Preceding the prayer, Morgan-Clement stated, “Saying prayer should never have to be an act of courage,” and then continued to recognize the apparent distance of the attack from our lives at Lawrence.

To acknowledge the impact of this act of terrorism, members of the community came forward to mark the countries that were directly affected by the attack; New Zealand, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, India and Indonesia all suffered losses.

Following the marking of the map, President Mark Burstein came forward to provide some comments. He focused on New Zealand’s response and how the country’s actions could be applied to the Lawrence University community, bringing attention to a “strong focus in not attacking each other through social media” and “extraordinary care for each other across differences.”

The most powerful response, according to Burstein, was the way “the people of New Zealand have really stood up and said that if anyone is threatened, then we’re all threatened.” 

He continued to apply these acts to the Lawrence community and how we can grow stronger as a community, stating, “[The attack] could feel very far away, but it really strikes at the heart of who we are as an institution.”

Students from different communities on campus then came forward to read their commitments, all including the lines: “I will stand with every Muslim who feels less welcome, less safe and less free because of this attack—renewing my commitment to working for a world with religious equality and freedom of conscience for all.” The students also commemorated communities of faith that had been attacked in the U.S. previously. After their individual promises, the group spoke together as Lawrentians and vowed to work toward a world of equality and freedom. They then called the audience to reflect upon their own words and actions to combat prejudice. 

The service concluded with Morgan-Clement calling upon the audience to go beyond words and take action. She closed by saying, “Go with the reassurance that together we can build a world that can do better than we have been able to do thus far.”