Pictured above: Kevin Labille is a French student pursuing his doctorate in computer science He spoke to the audience about supporting each other and recognizing the Nov. 13 Paris attacks as an assault on humanity.
Words and Pictures by Julia Trupp
A Pomfret Hall resident assistant (RA) held a candlelight vigil Sunday to honor the victims of terrorist attacks in France, Syria and Lebanon.
RA Liz Tanner After attended the Blackout event at the Union Mall Nov. 12. She said she appreciated the event’s focus on free speech.
As a result, she decided to plan “Light the Dark,” a candlelight vigil calling attention to violence happening around the world.
“What could we do as U of A students to recognize these events? It’s about standing in solidarity with humanity,” Tanner said.
“Light the Dark” began at 7 p.m. in the Pomfret Courtyard with more than 30 students and faculty members. Battery-powered candles were provided and used to illuminate the service. Tanner invited three guest speakers to discuss the issues facing the world.
The first speaker was Kevin Labille, an international graduate student from France. Labille gave statistics at the beginning of his speech, recounting that 129 people from 18 different countries were killed by the terrorist attacks in Paris Nov. 13.
He offered an opinion as to why Paris was targeted.
“The reason they attacked Paris is because Paris is an easy target,” he said. “They knew the world would be concerned. They knew it would be over the news, and by attacking Paris, they attacked the world.”
Labille discussed the outpouring of emotion and sentiment toward France on social media. A recent trend shows Facebook users altering their profile picture on Facebook to overlay the colors of the French flag.
Some complain how this sort of social media response is not supportive, but Labille disagreed. By supporting Paris publicly, people support everyone affected by these attacks.
“This was not an attack on a country. This was an attack on humanity,” Labille said. He asked everyone at the end of his speech to come together and support each other.
Joseph Chidiac, an international graduate student from Lebanon, spoke next about why the recent explosions in Lebanon have not been getting as much media attention as the Paris attacks have. He said that the people attacked “happen to be on our terrorist list.”
“If we want to be a shining example of the land of the free and home of the brave, we need to be brave and stand up for the ones who need help,” Chidiac said. “Instead of sending warfare, we should send good things like teachers and cultural education. The first step is support.”
‘No Stranger to Tragedy’
The last to speak at “Light the Dark” was Joseph Yevara, a coordinator for residence education in Pomfret Hall. He said he is “no stranger to tragedy.” Yevara lived in Colorado during the Columbine High School and Aurora movie theater shootings happened. He also felt the tragedy the 9/11 attacks brought the country.
During his speech, he discussed three positive things he learned from being involved in tragic situations. He urged the audience to remember the larger picture in life, think about the people who are loved and cared about in each other’s lives and call them when tragedy strikes.
He closed with his most important lesson to be learned.
“Remember that hate breeds hate,” Yevara said. “There has been a lot of hate coming out of these attacks around the world, and this is not a time to implant hate. We need to figure out peace and solidarity with others and put our hate away in simpler times.”
Sunday’s speakers focused on unity and solidarity in times of crisis like the events that have happened in past weeks.
Lauren Dowell, a senior and third-year RA in Maple Hill South, attended the event to find understanding from her peers.
“I felt shocked (about the Paris attacks) and these events around the world have caused so much confusion for me. I felt like this event could help me find understanding,” she said. “As an RA, I hope people know that the community cares so much about love and acceptance of everyone, and I think this vigil is all about those things.”
“Light the Night” concluded with a moment of silence to and a commitment toward “lighting up the dark, to lift up and stand for those lost and affected by these events,” said Tanner, the event organizer.