On Feb. 12, students, faculty, and members of the McMaster community braved the cold to attend a vigil organized by the McMaster Muslims For Peace and Justice in memory of the three young Muslim students shot and killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The event featured a number of speakers, including an imam, several students from MMPJ and the Muslim Students Association, and members of the Hamilton Muslim community.
The three victims, Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were killed by their neighbour, a man who was described as being hostile to religion. Despite being a hate crime, the incident was widely reported as being the result of a “parking dispute.”
“It really hit me hard that they were students just like me,” said Sameh Helmy, one of the event’s speakers and organizers. “[Deah Barakat] seemed like a guy who would have been my friend…I felt like I could have been there.”
Students were encouraged to sign a banner that will be sent to the families of the victims, and MMPJ representatives sold flowers to collect funds for Syrian Dental Relief, an organization that provides dental care for Syrian refugees, a cause Barakat was heavily invested in.
Speakers focused on the attack and the poor reporting by the media in the hours following the shooting. However, they also highlighted the importance of standing together in the face of hardship and making positive connections with the greater community. One speaker was especially firm about this point and reminded the audience, “facts don’t change people’s opinions. Relationships do.”