Yesterday, community members gathered to mourn the lives of Ethiopian Christians executed by the Islamic State in Libya on April 19.
The vigil, held in the John Marshall Harlan Chapel, was led and organized by Bethlehem Seifu Belaineh ’16 and was meant to raise awareness of the recent acts of violence committed by ISIS.
Belaineh said at the event that the goal was to “mourn and commemorate the 28 innocent lives that were taken … due to religious intolerance.”
Belaineh, who is from Addis Ababa, explained that a video showed images of ISI fighters vandalizing important museums and churches as well as blaming Ethiopia for having a population that was primarily Christian.
The video also accused Ethiopia of being a “Christian state.”
“Ethiopians are not taking the lives of our Muslim neighbors,” Belaineh said. “We are simply trying to ensure the safety and growth of the West African region that has been repeatedly retarded by militant groups.”
The 35-minute vigil was attended by Dean of Students Jamele Adams, Protestant Reverend Matt Carriker and Rabbi Elyse Winick ’86, all of whom spoke briefly at the event on various topics.
Approximately 25 students stood in a circle holding candles and listened to Belaineh outline the situation in Ethiopia and the surrounding countries.
She expressed her gratitude to the students in attendance, thanking them for taking the time to support Africa in this tumultuous time.
Additionally, Belaineh hoped to raise awareness of the danger Ethiopians are taking on by illegally immigrating to places like Europe and the West.
She stated that many Africans who resort to illegal immigration often face inequality and poverty in their new countries.
“In line with recent events, I ask you all to support us in relaying information about terrorism and intolerance in the African continent,” Belaineh said.
Adams then asked for a moment of silence to commemorate all those who had been lost in this struggle.
Carriker touched upon the major role that religion plays in world conflict today, stating that “religion can be the best thing in the world, or it can be the worst thing in the world.”
He went on to explain the role that extremist groups play in furthering hate, saying that, “extremist groups sometimes have a monopoly on passion … but what if we, as people of faith or people of conscience, … use that same passion to be change agents for peace?”
After several students spoke about their personal relationships to the issue and Winick recited Psalm 130, Carriker closed the event by speaking.
Carriker concluded by asking students to “honor those that were lost and, in the spirit of peace, to be those change agents moving forward.”