Office of Religious Life hosts vigil for victims of Sri Lanka terror attacks

The Office of Religious Life hosted a vigil Wednesday to commemorate the victims of the Sri Lanka terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of over 350 people and injured hundreds on Easter Sunday. (Natalie Oganesyan/Daily Trojan)

Nearly 25 students, faculty and staff  commemorated the victims of the Sri Lanka terrorist attacks at a vigil Wednesday that emphasized the importance of community, acceptance and peace. The terrorist attacked on Easter Sunday claimed the lives of over 350 people and injured hundreds more across churches and hotels.

“I think that by being here we’re all stressing how this is not normal and this shouldn’t be normalized and cannot be normalized,” Interfaith Council President Shradha Jain said. “We need to reach out and support our Trojan community, our friends and family who have been affected by this tragic event in Sri Lanka.”

The event was hosted by the Office of Religious Life and included speakers from Interfaith Council and the Caruso Catholic Center.

During the vigil, attendees formed a circle to pray for victims and offer words of love and hope for the affected communities.

“Most importantly, I think there’s a deep sense of vulnerability that our communities on campus are feeling, especially with regards to sacred spaces,” said Jain, a senior majoring in business administration. “I think at USC we can come together to express how warm our hearts are and how we can remain to create safe spaces, sacred spaces amongst each other.”

Rosie Shawver, director of Campus Ministry at the Caruso Catholic Center, recited a prayer delivered by Pope Francis on Easter.

“I wish to manifest my affectionate closeness to the Christian community [in Sri Lanka, which was] hit while they were gathered in prayer,’” Shawver recited. “‘And to the victims of such cruel violence, I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically died, and I pray for the injured who are suffering because of this traumatic event.”

The prayer also called for peace and acceptance of all people, regardless of religious, political or ideological differences.

Led by the Rev. Jim Burklo, senior associate dean of Religious Life, attendees sang Interfaith chants. Burklo said gathering as a community helps facilitate togetherness and understanding.

“This circle represents the world that I think every one of us wants,” he said. “A world where people of different faiths or of no faith tradition at all respect each other, are interested in each other, are curious about each others’ traditions.”

Noha Ayoub, a senior majoring in law, history and culture, said she felt it was important to gather after a tragedy to express solidarity.

“I think it’s important for us, as human beings, to come together to mourn those that have passed because otherwise what’s our purpose here in life if we’re not here to be together?” Ayoub said.

Attendees were prompted to write letters offering solidarity and prayer to the victims of the attack.

“I hope that in time, [the families of the victims, the friends, the neighbors and the people reading the news] find peace and happiness,” read one of the anonymous prayers.

The letters, compiled with other prayers from the USC’s Little Chapel of Silence, were then ceremonially burned in the biannual prayer celebration hosted by the Interfaith Council.

The Caruso Catholic Center will host an evening mass on Sunday to memorialize the victims and offer prayers to their families.