“We are so much stronger together than we are apart, and they know that,” Sana Hafeez said to a crowd, faces lit by votive candles in paper Dixie cups. “The best way to honor those lost in these attacks is to stand together as one Gator Nation against hate anywhere and everywhere, against anyone and everyone.”

In light of the suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan on Monday, a vigil was held in Turlington Plaza. The vigil was led by Hafeez, a first-year biology major.  With a surge of Facebook messages and the help of the Pakistani Students’ Association at UF, she was able to draw not only people of the Pakistani community but people of other ethnicities as well.

“I liked how a lot of people showed up,” said Hanain Fazal, a fourth-year psychology major who had gone to a vigil last week where only 10 people attended. “Continuity is important.”

Unity was prevalent throughout the the events as people passed candles amongst themselves.

“The lives of all these victims matter, regardless of race, religion, or nationality,” Hafeez said in her speech. “One life is not worth more than another just because of where they are born.”

Hafeez, who is of Pakistani descent but was born and raised in America, understands this. “Just because my ancestors  are from Pakistan, just because I’m Muslim doesn’t make me any less American than anyone else.”

After Hafeez’s speech, other people also came forward to speak a few words. Uttam Gaulee said, a program director for Community College Futures Assembly, “This does not only show the power of humanity, but the power of the Gator Nation to be peace ambassadors.”

The issue of awareness was the key amongst the attendees as well as understanding the bigger picture.  Haider Ali, a fourth-year nutrition major and president of the Pakistani Students’ Association at UF advocates for getting the word out about these issues.

“I feel like the first thing is make sure there isn’t any misunderstanding,” he said. “The people behind these acts claim to be Muslim, but we have to have an understanding that our religion is also protected in a sense that we don’t see these acts as supported by our religion.”

Photo by Alyssa Ramos