A vigil for the victims of the New Zealand mosque attacks was held on Friday, March 22, 2019, in Packard Memorial Church. Fifty people were killed in the terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Saad Mansoor/B&W Staff)

Lehigh community holds vigil in remembrance of New Zealand attacks

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Members of the Lehigh community gathered to pay tribute to the 50 innocent lives that were lost in the New Zealand mosque attacks on Friday at Packard Memorial Church.

Lehigh faith leaders, faculty, students, staff and community members attended the vigil to condemn the March 15 attacks and to offer support to the local Muslim community. The vigil gave a diverse group of people from the community the opportunity to reflect and express their thoughts on the incident.

Mohsen Mahdawi, ’22, was surprised by the location of the incident. Mahdawi was a third-generation refugee in the al-Far’a camp in West Bank, Syria, before he migrated to America. Having been through war himself, Mahdawi felt compelled to share his thoughts to the crowd at the vigil.

“There is this kind of growing hate, ignorance, misunderstanding about Muslims, and I was very surprised to see it happening in a country where we never found any kind of tension,” Mahdawi said.

Mahdawi’s personal experiences made him realize that the biggest enemy in the world is fear.

“I think the best way of solving problems like this in the future is to communicate, to connect with each other as human beings because those extremists, they didn’t get a chance to feel and to understand that the others are not different,” Mahdawi said.

The vigil also included remarks from various religious leaders, including Rabbi Steve Nathan, the director of Jewish Student Life. Nathan also spoke at a vigil held last semester to honor those who lost their lives in a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue.

“The hatred in our world right now is sometimes overwhelming, but we have to remember that when it comes down to it, there is a lot more love and compassion in our world than there is hatred,” Nathan said.

Nathan said awareness is critical to prevent such attacks from happening and the Lehigh community played their role by conducting a vigil. He said one-on-one interactions are the key to spreading peace.

Walead Mosaad, the director of Muslim Student Life, criticized gun laws in America for taking the side of people with invested self-interests while “the majority suffers as a result.”

In his sermon, Mosaad said change begins with ourselves so that we can show people how to be different rather than just telling them.

“I was upset, and I felt a lot of sorrow for my brothers and sisters and New Zealand, but I have to be honest, I was not surprised,” Mosaad said. “We have to learn that words hurt, and words have deadly consequences.”

After the vigil, non-Muslims joined to watch Mosaad lead the Friday prayer in an act of unity that showed everyone is together no matter what faith they practice.

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