Sundown vigil honors victims in New Zealand

Students and faculty of Oswego State gathered on Friday, March 29, for a sundown vigil dedicated to the victims of a mass shooting in a New Zealand mosque earlier last month.

“With the recent mass shooting of 50 innocent people dying, I thought it was only fitting that we memorialize the victims from the shooting,” said Lauren Fitzgerald, one of the organizers of the event and a sophomore at Oswego State. 

About 40 students attended the event to show solidarity to the victims and hear a message of unity and love from the speakers.

“We in this community, across this country and across this world do not have to surrender to darkness. We do not have to capitulate to fear. We can stand together,” said Rodmon King, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Oswego State. “Those that bring fear will not succeed. The power we have in this community, the strength we have together, can quiet this storm.”

The messages of unity continued, with Rabbi Yossi Madvig speaking on behalf of the Jewish community standing in solidarity with victims of hate killed in a place of worship. 

Madvig recalled the Oswego vigil for victims of a Pittsburgh synagogue shooting last November.

“There’s unfortunately a lot of hatred to go around, but by standing together, we’re able to combat that together,” Madvig said.

Madvig spoke of a Jewish story about a bird whose name translates to “Kindness.” The bird, despite its name, is not considered kosher, according to Jewish tradition. Madvig explained that this is because the bird only shows kindness to its own species, not of those outside its group. 

“It’s all well and good and easy to be kind to those that are like you. But the real test of humanity is to be kind to those who are not like us, to those we might view as different, whether it’s based on their religion, their skin color, their gender, whatever it is,” Madvig said. “That kindness has to be exemplified to everyone.”

Oswego State President Deborah Stanley shared her message of unity, acceptance and vigilance against hatred. Stanley said people must look inside themselves and recognize the feelings they have that create division, but to see the parts that connect them.

“I made a call for people to connect with the human anguish, to understand the pain and the misery that is being caused,” Stanley said.

Yahya Ndiaye, an Oswego student from Senegal, spoke as a member of the Muslim faith.

“We are from the same source. We are the same [humanity]. No one has the right to attack [another],” Ndiaye said. “Say every day to our brothers, ‘may peace be for you.’”

Student Association President Omar van Reenen read the names of the victims, while Ndiaye placed pieces of paper with the names on a prayer rug and those attending the vigil lit candles in silence.

“Fifty people died, and I wanted people to visualize that. I wanted them to see that, one life too many,” van Reenen said. “These people were killed in a temple of worship. With each name on a prayer mat, that was one person shot on their own prayer mat.”

Photo by Maria Pericozzi | The Oswegonian

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