Last Saturday, November 14, students gathered in the rain outside Newcastle University Students’ Union at 6.15pm for a candlelight vigil, held in solidarity with the victims of recent terrorist attacks around the world.
The event commemorated victims of numerous recent disasters, including those in Beirut, Lebanon, where 43 people were killed and over 250 injured by two suicide bombings, in Baghdad, Iraq, where 18 were killed and over 40 injured by a suicide bombing at a funeral, and in Paris, France, where multiple shootings and suicide bombers left 129 dead and over 300 injured.
There are currently twelve students from Newcastle University placed in Paris, all of whom have been accounted for. The University is ensuring that they are receiving all support needed in the aftermath of the attacks.
Following an outpouring of sympathy, grief and sadness by many on social media over the weekend, approximately 120 people attended the vigil, which began with Samuel Johnston performing a violin rendition of La Marseillaise, the national anthem of France. A two minute silence was then observed.
"It's important for students to get together at times like this to show our support"
Two students also spoke briefly: Oliver Burton who commented on the importance of resisting blind fundamentalism and expressed gratitude that no one present had lost friends or family on this occasion. Next, a member of the Islamic Society at Newcastle University, who shared her grief and outrage at the large death toll, before asking that students stand up to the Islamophobia that is likely to result in the following days and weeks.
The vigil was organised by Welfare and Equality Officer, Luke Allison. Speaking to The Courier, Allison commented “It was lovely how many students turned up for the candlelit vigil. It's important for students to get together at times like this to show our support for victims of terrorism and to support our fellow students who have friends and family in Paris and elsewhere”.
Over the weekend, the Students’ Union hung a banner, made by Luke Allison, featuring the Paris peace symbol (a peace symbol with an Eiffel Tower in the centre).
Matt Corden, a Stage Three Politics and History student at Newcastle, spoke to The Courier and commented “The defence of freedom over absolutism, pluralism over supremacism, and life over death is a cause for which we can all unite. The grief shown for the fallen and solidarity with France – targeted for the sixth time this year alone – was a wonderful spectacle. We should remember not to be parochial; our best wishes should also go out to those in Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria, Kurdistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Yemen who are on the front line of this fight every single day. Their struggle is ours.”
Victoria Kaye, a Stage Two Classics student also commented “What added to the gravitas of the vigil was a quiet sense of community. Despite the wind and rain a large number of people came to pay their respects, strangers huddled together under umbrellas and relit one another’s candles when the weather extinguished them”