Faith groups unite for victims of hate crimes

By Haley Costen
Staff Writer

religious vigil picture
Photo: Reham Alshaheen

On Wednesday, March 4, the Office of Spiritual Life welcomed students of all denominations to have a moment of reflection for the recent hate crimes in the U.S. and abroad.

The event, Hate in the Headlines, was created in response to the February beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians, the killing of a Jewish volunteer guard at a synagogue in Copenhagen, and the killing of three Muslim UNC Chapel Hill students.

About twenty students lit candles and gathered on the front steps of the Main College Building to hear words from faculty and student leaders from Hillel, the Simmons Islamic Society (SIS), and the Simmons Christian Fellowship.

Lisa Smith-McQueenie, the assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, read an excerpt from “This I Believe,” a compilation of essays on individuals’ personal ideas and philosophies.

pic of someone reading to crowd
Photo: Reham Alshaheen

“We live in a world where the forces that seek to divide us are strong. To overcome them, we must do more than simply stand next to one another in silence,” McQueenie said, quoting Eboo Patel, an advisor to the president’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships.

The vigil happened to be on Purim, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from a conspiracy against them in the ancient Persian Empire.

Natalie Levin-Schwartz of Hillel spoke about the history of Purim and its historical significance today with the recent hate crimes against people of faith.

Meanwhile Maham Zia represented SIS with a passage from the Quran and Mary Ying of the Simmons Christian fellowship said a prayer.

Bonnie-Jean Casey, director of the Office of Spiritual Life also spoke, encouraging the crowd to stand together.

“We are more alike than different,” Casey said.

She also encouraged students to be aware and to take time to pause and reflect on recent events in the news, despite it being a busy time on campus.

“We do not live in a bubble,” Casey said, adding that news should not stop at the front steps of Simmons.

The event was sponsored by the Office of Spiritual Life, Simmons Hillel, SIS, The Christian Fellowship, Like Minds, and the Simmons Inter-faith Team.