Students, faculty host interfaith service at Santa Clara University to honor Christ Church victims

Santa Clara University hosted an interfaith service Monday night to stand in solidarity with the victims of the mosque shootings in Christ Church, New Zealand. 

Organizers say they also wanted to show support for the University's Muslim community.

"Out of my 19-years-old existence, this is the first time I've walked into a room and I feel like people are there to support my faith. People are there to stand up for who I am, " said Alia Rubaie, a Santa Clara University student of Muslim faith.   

Inside the multi-faith sanctuary on campus, the university held a vigil to honor the victims of the Christchurch massacre and to help Muslim students cope with the attack on their faith. 

"We grieve for our Muslim community worldwide and New Zealand for the pain they're going through as well," says Carly Lynch, Santa Clara University campus minister for religious diversity who helped organize Monday's vigil.

Pain was felt by students of Muslim faith here on campus. Their numbers are small, about 40 in this Jesuit Catholic institution of 5,000 sutdents. They say the massacre is a moment of darkness that threatened their sense of security. 

"An extreme moment of isolation and fear... kind of disbelief at what had happened," says Bethool Haider, president of the Muslim Student Association. 

In the midst of preparations for finals, organizers say they did not expect a turnout that filled the sanctuary.

Faculty, staff, and students were joined by people of other faiths who came from off-campus to show their support. 

"Come out and make a very, very srong stand that we don't accept this," says Rabbi Yigal Rosenbery with Chabad Santa Clara. 

Speakers urged the audience to fight against tolerating intolerance. 

"The fact that we've become so desensitized to these actions against Muslims and to these words, all of this rhetoric is something that really scares me," says Haider. 

Organizers say they deliberately did not put out a set number of candles.

While 50 people are dead and many others are seriously injured, there is no way to know the exact number of people affected by the deadly shooting.

They say islamaphobia is widespread and its consequences unthinkable. 

"We shouldn't wait for extreme crimes like these to happen so we can actually feel for one another," says Mohammed Kadalah, Santa Clara professor of Arabic language and culture. 

"This needs to be a wakeup call. It's sad that it takes the death of so many people. People need to get educated. People need to learn what Islam is. What it actually stands for," says Rubaie. 

Students of Muslim faith say this vigil reassured them that this campus is a safe space and they are welcomed here. 

They say it meant a lot when the campus minister of religious diversity reached out to them soon after the massacre to ask them what they needed during this difficult time.