UCLA community holds vigil for victims of Pakistani school attack
By Jeong Park
Dec. 18, 2014 9:53 p.m.
Remembering those who died in the terrorist attack of a Pakistani school, about a hundred members of the UCLA community – mostly students – gathered in Bruin Plaza Thursday night for a candlelight vigil.
On Tuesday, the Pakistani Taliban, a militant Islamic extremist group, attacked the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, a city in the northern region of Pakistan, close to Afghanistan. The attack has claimed at least 148 lives, most of them children, according to the New York Times.
“It’s a human disaster for Pakistan,” said Saif Ghias, president of Pakistani Student Association, which organized the event along with dozens of other student groups, such as Indus.
Ghias, a third-year psychobiology student, said he hoped the vigil provided students a place for healing.
“We didn’t really live there … but still it’s your brothers and sisters,” Ghias said. “If someone killed your brothers and sisters, how would you feel regardless of how close you were to them?”
A few students started the vigil by sharing why remembering the students who died in the attack mattered to them.
Saher Nissar, a first-year undeclared student, said she thought her living in Pakistan had desensitized her to violence. However, living away from home at UCLA and the Pakistani Taliban’s specific targeting of children have made her feel distressed about the attack, she said.
“Those kids were dreaming about their future,” Nissar said. “We lost 141 dreams.”
After a 10-second moment of silence, participants in the vigil formed a circle on Bruin Plaza, clapping and yelling “Pakistan Zindabad,” which means “long live Pakistan” in Urdu.
Participants said they felt it was important to come to the event to show their compassion for and solidarity with those who lost their lives in the attack.
“The absolute lack of humanity shown in every aspect (of the attack) was what really hurt me,” said Mustafa Tariq, a third-year mechanical engineering student.
At end of the event, organizers collected donations from participants to support those affected by the attack. Ghias said organizers are deciding whether to donate the collected funds to families of the victims or to charities rebuilding schools in Pakistan.
Ghias said his group is also working with other Pakistani student group leaders in Southern California colleges to plan further actions in solidarity with the victims.