The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Candelight vigil held in honor of South Carolina shooting victims

Photo by Wesley Holmes
Candle light vigil

The parking lot of the Friends Congregational Church was standing room only Wednesday evening, as faith leaders and community members from around Bryan-College Station gathered for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the nine who died in Charleston, South Carolina last Wednesday.

The pastor of Friends Congregational Church, Dan DeLeon, organized and officiated the service that hosted leaders of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities, as well as a representative of the local chapter of the NAACP.  

Pastor DeLeon said he organized the vigil to bring the community together, and the service surpassed his expectations.

“Tonight’s vigil exceeded my hopes,” DeLeon said. “I was generally trying to be about a spirit of community, getting people together and trying to change from our perceptions of differences being a stumbling block, rather than something to be celebrated.”

DeLeon said the thing he was most excited about, though, was not just the turnout, but the relationships that were being built.

“I’m more hopeful than anything about what’s happening over [at the refreshment table], that after the vigil people are sticking around visiting with each other and starting some friendships and relationships.” DeLeon said “Because if we know each other then we’re not going to talk about each other, we’re going to talk to each other and make some change from the way that things have been so violent coming out of Charleston.”

Reverend Lawrence Hicks, of the Greater Tabernacle Baptist Church in Bryan and one of the speakers at the vigil, said as soon as Pastor DeLeon invited him to speak there was no question he would be there.

“[The vigil was] a great idea.” Hicks said “When Pastor DeLeon called, I said, ‘Right on yes sir, I’ll be there.’ No question.”

Hicks said he thought a lot of people showed up not just to show solidarity, but because the idea of being vulnerable to the same kind of situation resonated with them.

“I think everybody was here because they identified.” Hicks said “Not only with Charleston, but identified with the idea that we’re not exempt from the same situation.”

Hicks said the Bible talks about great tragedies, and his only advice in times like this is to be faithful and be prayerful — this is the only way to move forward.

“The only advice I have, and the only thing I’ve thought all the time, is that when we look at the word of God, the word of God tells us that these types of things will happen,” Hicks said. “We’re not exempt; we’re not immune to them. We cannot live in fear, we have to go forward in faith. The bible says the just shall live by faith, and that’s how we make it from day to day. [That] situation could happen right here, our church Sunday morning, so we just have to be prayerful.”

Salam Yamak, biology junior, and D’Lynne Warren, cultural anthropology senior, were in the crowd of attendees at Wednesday night’s vigil. Both are Muslim, and they said they came to represent Islam in solidarity and respect with the people of Charleston.

“I think it’s really great for different faiths to come together and to pray and show respect.” Yamak said. “I know in Islam, in our religion, when one life is lost unjustly it’s like the whole universe is lost. So for us life is very precious and yeah I’m definitely praying for the families.”

“We can also represent Islam,” Warren said. “That there is solidarity between the faiths. Just like they have the Rabbi here from the temple, I think it was great just having everyone here representing.”

Rabbi Matt Rosenberg, of Hillel at Texas A&M, said this was his first chance to be a part of an interfaith service in his two years here and that it was a moving experience.

“I’ve been here for two years and this is my first opportunity to have a truly interfaith service where all aspects of the community come together – Jews, Christians, Muslims – and prayed together,” Rosenberg said. “So it’s a really powerful experience for me.”

Rosenberg said he hopes something good will come out of such a terrible tragedy, and that as a nation we can begin to discuss some hard issues.

“Well, I hope that we can take this tragedy and move forward and have actual conversations about race and guns, and as one of the speakers mentioned, symbolism and how it impacts people,” Rosenberg said. “I think it’s time for our nation to really wake up to violence and hatred and make changes.”

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