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Interfaith Vigil Held Following Temple Shooting, Mosque Fire

Story by Sean Powers

Interfaith Vigil Held Following Temple Shooting, Mosque Fire

An interfaith vigil at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign attracted more than 30 people Thursday, who showed their support following two tragedies this week at a mosque and a temple.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing six worshipers and injuring three others. One day later, a fire destroyed a mosque in Missouri, but no one was hurt in that incident.

U of I student Masood Haque, 20, helped organize the vigil on the Urbana campus. He said he believes greater awareness and tolerance about other faiths will help prevent future hate crimes.

"It's only with knowledge about other people's faiths or non-faith traditions that we can truly stop, and make sure that these atrocious events never happen again," Haque said.

Vaneitta Goines, who works in the U of I's Office of Volunteer Programs, came out for the vigil. She said in addition to showing support for people affected by both events, the vigil sent another important message.

"It's not ok to just be ignorant, and to not take the opportunity to learn and support others in your community," Goines said. "Educate yourself around who diverse people are in our community. Just because somebody is different than you doesn't mean that they're any less American."

During the vigil, people of different religions spoke about their faiths, and then everyone lit candles in solidarity.

U of I student Simran Singh, 22, spoke about his experiences being a Sikh. He is a member of the Sikh Student Association, and he said there are about 20 Sikhs attending the university. He said it's encouraging to see so many people this week take an interest in other faiths, but he said it is unfortunate that the heightened awareness about other religions has been prompted by tragedy.

"You could have two ways," Singh said. "Either you could spread more awareness, and people could know about other's religion or you could just watch people die and then be aware of it because then it's in the news. Then people talk about it. So, you have two options. It's just up to the people to know how they want to see it."

A Pew Research Center survey of more than 3,400 Americans shows on average, participants correctly answered about half of the questions given to them about religion.

The vigil at the U of I was co-sponsored by the Sikh Student Association, DiversityEd, Interfaith in Action, Baha'I Center, Hillel, Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural Latina, Women's Resources Center, and the Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Relations.

Similar candlelight vigils have taken place this week in other parts of the country.