University of Indianapolis came together on Smith Mall at the 9/11 Peace Vigil on Sept. 11 to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attack.
Alongside Interfaith Scholars, Vice President and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Sean Huddleston spoke at the event reflecting what he learned from the attack.
“9/11 taught me many lessons,” Huddleston said, “…it taught me that we are at our best when we are united.”
The Greenwood Honor Guard opened the event by presenting both the U.S. and Indiana flags while those in attendance of the event sang the National Anthem alongside Professor of Biology David Wolfe, who played the anthem on the trumpet.
Junior psychology and religion major and Chapel Steward of Interfaith Natalie Benson welcomed students and faculty. She began by introducing President Robert Manuel and Huddleston, along with the event’s guest speaker, Imam Jamil Arazi. All three speakers were personally affected in different ways from the attack on the World Trade Center in 200l, ranging from helping those in need to being prosecuted due to their faith, such as in Arazi’s case.
Manuel, Huddleston and Arazi all reflected on the day the Twin Towers fell, describing what they were doing and how they personally responded as the events unfolded. They also shared how that specific day shaped their beliefs and viewpoints today.
“Through this tragedy, I learned tolerance of others,” Arazi said, “and a deep understanding of others who share different religions and cultures from me.”
Interfaith members Leekshika Pinnammeni, Molly Smith, Marisa Boris, Thanthaphorn Rueangnopphasit, Kristen Dyson and Tosin Salauo shared prayers and passages from sacred texts in support of peace and unity of the community. Members Ali Burt and Kaitlin Holten also recited the “Litany of Remembrance,” adapted from a liturgy by Rev. Eileen W. Linder and Rev. Marcel A. Welty from the National Council of Churches, according to the program that was distributed.
The event ended with the lighting of candles and a musical performance by the members of the University Heights United Methodist Church followed by Wolfe’s performance of “Retire of the Colors.” Those in attendance then stamped their thumbs on a painting of a tree to represent the leaves of the tree as well as the community coming together.
The Interfaith Scholars hosted the vigil was to help unite students and community members who share different religious, non-religious and spiritual beliefs in a peaceful way.
“We try to create a pluralistic community, meaning we are seeking to understand each other better and form a relationships with each other in acts of peace,” Benson said.
According to the program, the Interfaith Scholars wanted the 9/11 peace vigil to “create a narrative of peace on a day filled with pain and mourning.”
Sophomore psychology major Neicey Ross felt like the vigil was a great step forward in integrating Interfaith’s work on campus.
“I think the vigil was a good for campus,” Ross said. “I love how people from different ethnicities and backgrounds were able to come together and take the time to remember such a terrible event that occurred.”
Benson reflected on the challenges of interfaith organizations being affiliated with a chapel that promotes Christian programming, especially when it came to politics and the ability to unite other religious, non-religious and spiritual beliefs. So, the Interfaith program created an RSO, called Better Together, and a panel of representatives to better create a more open environment for those on campus.
“We didn’t have an outlet for that [politics],” Benson said. “So, we created a RSO called Better Together to do more interfaith work along with community service work…to help bring together people who may have different views but share a common goal.”
Ross wants to see the campus get more involved in events like the peace vigil to come together better and unite as one community, regardless of race, religion or background.
“Although [the] campus is already a close-knit community, I feel like there is always room for improvement,” Ross said. “I would like to see more events where we come together as a campus and really work on bonding and accepting others, no matter what background they come from.”
Interfaith plans to host a winter carnival at the end of November so participants can experience the other religions and cultures practiced on campus.
“We are hosting this event [so] religions that are overshadowed with constant Christmas music can bring a piece of their tradition to the table,” Benson said. “We will have a guest speaker, and [students] will be able to learn about other religions and cultures.”