‘Let us all stand together’: Bay Area community honors Christchurch victims, calls for action

Brian Bi/Staff

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In the aftermath of the New Zealand Christchurch shooting Friday, both UC Berkeley’s Muslim community and the wider Bay Area came together, mourning those lost and demonstrating solidarity through an evening vigil, campus community outreach and notes posted on Sather Gate.

A man entered two mosques in Christchurch on Friday and killed at least 50 people, eliciting worldwide grief and sparking a larger global conversation regarding Islamophobia, white supremacy and the use of the internet in attacks of this nature. Both UC Berkeley and organizations across the Bay Area expressed their grief, publicly condemning the violence and gathering to mourn the victims.

On Monday evening, more than 1,000 people attended an Oakland candlelight vigil in solidarity with those affected by the attack, organized by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, or AROC. At the vigil, Ahmed Mohssen — Bay Area resident who grew up in Christchurch and lost loved ones in the attack — spoke alongside community leaders regarding standing together against racism and xenophobia.

“We organized this event to come together and grieve — to honor their lives and move us into action,” said AROC executive director Lara Kiswani.

She said that people at the vigil stood together against Islamophobia and called for organization and action, holding signs reading, “Standing with Muslims against Islamophobia and racism.” She added the vigil encouraged people to organize and strengthen existing movements in the Bay Area.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ sent out a campuswide email Friday condemning the attack, providing information for students to find help and reminding students about the campus’ principles of community.

According to campus junior and Muslim Student Association, or MSA, spokesperson Saneeha Shamshad, members of MSA overall feel supported in this troubling time. There have been events to help students affected by this tragedy, as well as support from other student organizations who have reached out to MSA offering to help where needed, said Shamshad.

On Tuesday, colorful ribbons appeared on Sather Gate, along with notes that called on students to show their solidarity and to stand together as one community to “eradicate discrimination.”

“Let us all stand together as one community from all faiths, customs, and beliefs to condemn this, and all acts of terrorism around the world,” one handwritten note said.

In order to discuss resilience in the face of tragedy, the Muslim Mental Health Initiative held an event Tuesday night. That same evening, MSA gathered on lower Sproul Plaza for a reading of the names of the those who lost their lives in the Christchurch shootings, according to Shamshad.

Though Shamshad said that students appreciate the outreach of the community in the aftermath of the shooting, she highlighted the perceived lack of support in the daily lives of Muslim students. She said that Ramadan will be a time when Muslim students need more support from the campus, since it lines up with finals week and causes students to scramble for accommodation. She added that students with meal cards have very limited options for Halal foods.

“There is no shortage of Muslim people, but there is a shortage of how we are being supported in our daily lives,” Shamshad said.

Contact Brennan Havens at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BrennanHavens.