Students gather for Solidarity Vigil in Red Square

February 2, 2017

Photo: Claire Goldberg

More than one hundred students gathered in Red Square on Feb. 1 for the Hoyas for Justice: Solidarity Vigil, an event to show support for those affected by the recent executive orders signed by President Donald Trump.

Dozen of speakers from a variety of backgrounds, including representatives from College Republicans and Democrats, members of the Jewish Student and Muslim Student Associations, and international students, shared their stories and discussed their reactions to the recent weeks’ events. The event opened with remarks from GUSA President Enushe Khan (MSB ’17) and Vice President Chris Fisk (COL ‘17), and ended with words from Muslim Chaplain Imam Yahya Hendi.

This is a time where our being united is more important than ever,” Khan said.

Kumail Aslam (COL ‘19), who organized the event, said he wanted to take action after Trump’s recent executive orders and a Jan. 29 shooting at a Quebec mosque that left six people dead and 17 more wounded.

“I come from a community that’s Iraqi and Irani, I know a lot of people from Yemen, and I know a lot of people that travel there very frequently, so [the Muslim ban] hurt me because I know that they’re being affected,” Aslam said. “The shooting in Quebec just kind of broke my heart. I don’t even want to read about it. All of those things just kind of culminated and I felt that it was necessary to do [the vigil].”

Georgetown also responded to the ban on immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries. University President John DeGioia sent an email to all members of the school community that discouraged those affected by the executive order from traveling out of the U.S. “Our international character is integral to our identity as a University, to the free exchange of ideas, and to our ability to support all of our students, staff, and faculty in contributing to our global community,” DeGioia wrote.

Multiple student speakers of Middle Eastern or Mexican background, displaying the international character that DeGioia mentioned, discussed their personal feelings and reactions to Trump’s actions.

“I am not illegal. No human being is illegal,” said undocumented student Luis Gonzalez (COL ’19). “So continue to stand with me and my community, because we are something special here at Georgetown.”

Indra Acharya (COL ’18), who was born in a refugee camp, spoke on his feelings toward the Muslim ban, touching on his identity as an American citizen and as an immigrant.

“I know what it takes to be a survivor in a refugee camp, because I was one of them,” Acharya said. “When I arrived in this country, I was [once] labeled a terrorist. For me to hear that this young child living in Syria, that refugees living in other countries are labeled as terrorists and denied access to the land that I call home today, it hurts. It is painful.”

Vigil participant Priyanka Dinakar (COL ‘19) came to support some of her friends who were speaking or giving prayers. She also discussed the importance of coming together as a community, a message that was shared by many of the speakers and attendees.

“Even though I myself am not affected by it, I do have a lot of friends and family who are affected,” Dinakar said. “I know my family in India, when they came to the country a couple days ago, they faced kind of a rough time with the border patrol. So I think it’s hitting everyone in very different ways, and it’s important that we all stay together.”

After the vigil, Aslam discussed the impact it had on him and the people who came to stand in solidarity, but made a point that there is still more to be done for and by the Georgetown community.

“During the program I felt very overwhelmed,” Aslam said. “I feel like the people that were in attendance were clearly moved, I know I certainly was. My hope is that because of that people will [have] an incentive to take action and understand what it means to be in solidarity with people.”

Claire Goldberg
is the Voice's former editoral board chair and halftime leisure editor. She "says a lot of funny things," according to Emma Francois.

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