In the face of immeasurable loss and seemingly irreparable divisions, one college campus decided to stop talking and just listen.
Students and chaplains at New York University gathered together for an interfaith peace vigil on Monday evening.
Cradling candles inside a quiet, darkened auditorium, the students and faculty members from Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic faiths had much to think about as they reflected on their summers. Violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and Nigeria, along with the tragedies that erupted in American cities, like Chicago and Ferguson.
The goal of the vigil wasn’t to find a solution or issue a zealous “call for peace.” The peacemakers took to the stage to simply share their stories, leaving heated arguments for another day.
Leila Suboh, a student of Palestinian descent, spoke passionately about the lives lost in Gaza this summer. Her voice trembled as she shared the plight of a close family friend whose life had been uprooted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There was no debating or talking back. The audience simply listened.
Andre Ross, a native of Gary, Indiana reminisced about rampant crime and gun violence in his hometown.
“I keep feeling a pressure to be angry, to be upset. But I also feel very numb,” Ross said. “I don’t understand when life became less precious.”
Even though Monday’s vigil didn’t result in solutions, NYU’s Muslim chaplain Imam Khalid Latif said this type of interfaith work is invaluable, since the voices that spoke at the event don’t often get the chance to share a stage.
“It’s important to create a space to hear unfiltered voices and celebrate commonalities,” Latif told the Huffington Post. “For people to understand that my pain is as genuine as yours.”