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Memorial University school of social work students plan vigil to support Muslims, New Zealanders

This group of second-year school of social work students at Memorial University has been busy this week planning an event in solidarity with the Muslim community due to the shootings on March 15 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Those students include (from left) Megan Kearley, Leah Barron, Keira Goulding and Courtney Bennett.
This group of second-year school of social work students at Memorial University has been busy this week planning an event in solidarity with the Muslim community due to the shootings on March 15 in Christchurch, New Zealand. Those students include (from left) Megan Kearley, Leah Barron, Keira Goulding and Courtney Bennett. - Sam McNeish
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A radio report that a listener found moving led to a call for change.

So much in fact, the driver of a car listening to the news had to pull over to the side of the road, as she was crying.

“I was on my way to work when I heard what had happened. I had to immediately pull over. I was upset and frustrated and was sitting there crying,’’ said Dolores Mullins, an associate professor at Memorial University and the school of social work’s chair in teaching and learning.

Mullins pulled herself together and went on to work. When she arrived, she spoke to her students about what had transpired halfway around the world, and an idea was born to help support those Muslims, New Zealanders, their families and people of all faiths come to terms with the senseless deaths from earlier in the day.

“We all have a passion for social justice. We want to be transparent and make sure these acts are identified for what they are — terror attacks — done to innocent people just going about their daily business,’’ Mullins said.

Residents of this community will stand together in solidarity Saturday to show their respect for the families and communities affected by the murder of 50 people in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15.
This event is open to the community as it stands together to remember the victims and fight against discrimination and Islamophobia.

“Our instructor came to us last Friday and told us what had happened. We decided there was something we had to try and help with, so our group (school of social work) decided we would help organize a vigil in support of the Muslim community,” said Leah Barron, co-organizer of the event.

“We set a plan in place and have been working all week to make this happen.’’

She said as social work students, their jobs will be to help people affected by a host of things in the communities they work in, so what better way to be part of a solution than to be part of the vigil.

“We can meet some of those people, from the Anti-Racism Coalition, Islamophobia NL … pair with them and play an important part in making a change,’’ she said.

“There are no words for it, as something like this is hard to comprehend,’’ said Goulding, who will act as master of ceremonies at the vigil.
“This is an opportunity to help them and all those in their community that are impacted by this,’’ she added.
Goulding knows change can’t happen all on its own.

“If we bring all these associations together and all work together, we can make something special together,’’ she said.

The majority of the victims of the mass shooting were migrants or refugees from countries such as Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, Somalia, Afghanistan and Bangladesh — many of those nationalities are represented at Memorial University and in St. John’s.

“Things like this are hard to process as we hear about it,’’ Courtney Bennett said.
“We all knew we wanted to plan something to support those impacted in the community and this is a good opportunity for everyone to see how this impacts people from a variety of different cultures.’’

Bennett said it was amazing that within an hour of starting the group’s Facebook page, there were 50 people registered for the vigil.

The vigil will be held in the Queens College Great Hall on Saturday from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Parking is available in Lot 19. Capacity for the event is 100 seated.

“We have a full schedule in place that will include a host of speakers from 6:30-7:15 p.m., followed by time for those who attend to sign a book of condolences and a short gathering to chat, tell stories and reflect (on the shootings),” Megan Kearley said.
“At 8 p.m., we are planning on going outside to host a candlelight portion, a few moments of silence and a show of solidarity for those in New Zealand.’’

In addition, women in New Zealand and beyond have been wearing headscarves to show their solidarity with the Muslim community. Using the hashtags #headscarfforharmony and #ScarvesInSolidarity on Twitter, women shared photographs of themselves wearing the scarves.

samuel.mcneish@thetelegram.com

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