Hundreds of students and community members gathered Friday afternoon to mourn the deaths of 49 people killed last night in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Flanked by flowers and candles in the Old Union courtyard, students and administrators from varying backgrounds and faith traditions expressed their grief and emphasized the campus’ commitment to standing in solidarity with its Muslim community.
“Today, the Muslim community here at Stanford, in New Zealand and all around the world is grieving, and we know our friends, siblings and our allies grieve with us,” said Sughra Ahmed, Stanford’s Associate Dean for Religious Life.
The Markaz, Stanford’s Muslim community center, hosted counselors from Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) this afternoon, and is serving a dinner this evening open to all members of the Stanford community.
Yesterday’s attack took the lives of 49 Muslims celebrating Friday prayer at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch. A 28-year-old Australian man, one of three suspects currently in New Zealand police custody, had live-streamed part of the shooting on Facebook shortly after publishing a white supremacist manifesto online.
Earlier today, University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell released a Notes from the Quad post condemning the attacks and reaching out to the Muslim community on campus.
“This senseless massacre brings particular pain to members of Stanford’s Muslim community, as well as to all in our community who call New Zealand home,” they wrote. “The horror of this act carries a painful reminder of the presence of hatred, intolerance, and anti-Muslim sentiment alive in our world today.”
In Friday’s vigil, speakers stressed that the campus mourned together. Senior Associate Dean for Religious Life Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann told the crowd that the Muslim community and broader community were “caught in a network of mutuality.” Assistant Vice Provost Jan Barker-Alexander called the massacre a “collective trauma,” noting that CAPS would be on hand for “collective healing.”
But speakers also referenced the shooter’s manifesto, urging attendees to remember that the shootings were not senseless acts of random violence but rather had been motivated by hatred and Islamophobia.
Muslim Student Union co-president Mamdouh Nasr, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, likened the shootings to those at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, and at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, calling them “assaults on the values that define us as humans.”
Jewish Student Association president Jacob Kaplan-Lipkin ’19 also referenced last year’s invitation of Robert Spencer, a self-proclaimed Islamophobe, as well as President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban in linking yesterday’s shooting to a larger pattern of Islamophobia. Kaplan-Lipkin said he felt not surprise but “horror, disgust and fury” at learning of the shootings.
Still, multiple speakers expressed their gratitude for the students and community members who came together Friday afternoon, “grieving deeply and profoundly … even as [they] stand in this sunlit warmth and comfort,” as Associate Dean for Religious Life Rev. Joanne Sanders said.
Ahmed expressed her gratitude for the hundreds who had “put their schedules aside” to gather amid tragedy, highlighting that attendees were a mix of Muslims and the broader community.
“We know this may not be the last time we stand together like this,” she said. “But I want everyone to walk away from today knowing they’ve met someone new, knowing they’ve made someone else feel stronger, but also knowing that you have power to change the way other people see each other, the way other people see communities. We all have that power.”
This article has been corrected to reflect that Jacob Kaplan-Lipkin is a senior at Stanford University, not a junior.
Contact Erin Woo at erinkwoo ‘at’ stanford.edu and Cooper Veit at cveit ‘at’ stanford.edu.