As students gather at the UCF Reflecting Pond, plastic tealight candles are placed atop the green Pakistan flag, complementing its white crescent moon and five-pointed star.

The Pakistani Student Association at UCF held a Lahore Candlelight Vigil on Thursday to shed light on the areas around the world that have been hit by tragedies recently, including Lahore, Pakistan; Brussels, Belgium and attacks in Iraq and Turkey.

“We are here today because we are a nation of strong individuals who hope and will strive for a more peaceful future,” said Iqra Asif, PSA’s event director.

About 35 UCF students, including members of PSA, the Muslim Student Association and the UCF Canterbury Club, held candles while speakers from UCF groups and the community spoke about recent attacks.

“I pray for a day — that one day — the borders will break,” said Sammy Katerji, a member of Students Organized for Syria. “I pray for a day for coexistence, and that we see each other as one.”

Members of the Pakistani Student Association at UCF hold up the Pakistan flag after the Lahore Candlelight Vigil by the Reflecting Pond on Thursday, March 31.Photo by Paige Wilson

A moment of silence was taken to remember the lives lost of innocent people: at least 72 deaths and more than 341 injured in Lahore on Easter Sunday when a suicide blast tore through a neighborhood park; at least 35 deaths and dozens injured after three explosions occurred at an airport and metro station in Brussels on Tuesday, March 22; and more across the world.

Speakers in attendance represented a diverse collection of the UCF and Florida community:

  • Iqra Asif, PSA
  • Jose Rodriguez, Christian Priest, UCF Canterbury Club
  • Rasha Mubarak, Florida’s Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
  • Syed Ali, Florida Association of Young Muslims 
  • Tahoora Ateeq, PSA
  • Mariam Mohammod, PSA
  • Sammy Katerji, Students Organized for Syria
  • Sarah Siraj, PSA and National Organization for Women
  • Tasnim Mellouli, Muslim Student Association at UCF

A message of hope, peace and unity spread through each of the speaker’s words.  

“It’s important that we keep standing for those who cannot stand for themselves,” said Siraj, senior psychology major.

For some, like Asif, the attack in Lahore is personal, as members of her family live there.

“I just remember going to Pakistan, and [my family] would take me to the park all the time,” she said. “There was an attack at a park, and families were affected. “They were just trying to celebrate Easter, and basically they had no idea they were going in and losing their lives for the most part.”

Rodriquez said an attack on one group is an attack on us all.

“My heart aches,” Ateeq repeatedly said as she named places affected by those recent tragedies. “My heart aches.”