Community shows solidarity for peace in Gaza

“It’s called ummah,” said first-year Madiha Bhatti, describing the sense of community at the Jan. 12 candlelight vigil for victims of recent political strife in the Gaza Strip. “It’s an Arabic word. It means community, the feeling that even if you don’t know these people on the other side of the world, they are your family, and it makes you sick to know that they are being hurt.” Traditionally ummah is applied only to the Islamic collective, but those who participated in the vigil represented members of many avenues of belief, all of whom stood united against violence. Fliers and emails detailing the event took great pains to assure readers that it was “not in any way, shape, or form.political. Region and religion should have no bearing in this issue.”

An issue it certainly is. The most recent CNN estimate of the death toll in the Gaza Strip places the number at 1,100. 13 Israelis have also been confirmed dead in the wake of the attacks. Though a tentative cease-fire was enacted on Jan. 17, Gaza residents still have no access to outside health care, food, or water supplies.

The peace vigil officially began at 6 p.m., but participants arrived as early as 5:30, bringing candles that ranged in style from votive to scented and carved. Each new addition lined up silently beside the next, forming a line of lights that stretched down the sidewalk of Friendly Ave.

The Jan. 12 vigil was not the only event recognizing the violence in Gaza.

A student-led panel was held on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Founders Gallery. The room filled quickly with an estimated 50 people.

Dana Hamdan, vice president of Community Senate and Palestinian by birth, opened the meeting with a quote from Rachael Corrie, an American member of the International Solidarity Movement who became a victim of the Israel/Palestine conflict in 2003.

Corrie was an advocate of peace in the region, writing according to the peace foundation established in her name, “I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making it stop.I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop.”

Audience members received fact sheets about the conflict in Gaza and viewed several videos detailing the violence occurring in the region and calling it “the largest open-air prison in the world.”

The overwhelming response at Guilford seems to be a drive to help, and there are several avenues students and faculty may take.

“One of the most important things Guilford students can do at this time is educate themselves about the conflict which means seeking out alternative media resources, even if it’s just the BBC,” said Diya Abdo, assistant professor of English and former resident of Palestine.

The Palestinian community at Guilford has worked with Max Carter to organize a money, clothing, and food drive. The announcement for drop off places is pending. Money will be sent to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the American Friends Service Community, a Quaker organization.