A candlelight vigil was held Sunday in the wake of the horrors that happened in Pakistan on Dec. 16, when the Taliban infiltrated the Peshawar military school and opened fire on the children there.
The following was written in honor of the victims by a member of the vigil.
“Lights in the Dark”
By Zain Mahmud
There have been many dramatic and emotional events in Pakistan, but few have ever been so heart wrenching as the Peshawar school shooting. On December 16th, 2014, the Taliban infiltrated a military public school dressed as army officials and opened fire upon the children there. Throughout the brutality of this massacre, 141 individuals were reported deceased, and an additional 124, injured. Among the casualties, 253 were children under the age of 16. It is always heartbreaking to see the suffering of innocents, but even more so to see the suffering of innocent children.
As parents, brothers, sisters, and friends who could all understand what it would mean to lose a loved one, the citizens of Scottsdale and members of PakistanWest, AECHO (The American Eastern Cultural and Heritage Organization), and the Greater Phoenix Community gathered at the Soleri bridge to hold a candlelight vigil, organized by Sajid M. Shah in order to commemorate not only the lives of the students and teachers victim to the incident, but the grief and loss experienced by the victims’ loved ones as well. The ceremony began with a recitation of the Quran by Hafiz Aamir, and ended with speeches from the Mayor, key members of society, and two individuals personally affected by the incident: Saba Farooqi Jan, and her husband Dr. Azhar Jan. All throughout the sea of people and candlelight stood signs stating: “Our Hearts are Broken”, “What can we write to bring them back?”, “We will stand, united and strong”, “Our Hearts go out to the families” and other statements that expressed such love, support, and shared grief for the families of the victims that perished in Peshawar that, though we bowed our heads in silence, the resounding sound of our unity, not just as Muslims or non-Muslims, but as a community, echoed throughout the city both in support of Peshawar’s victims and families, and in condemnation against the horrendous actions of the Taliban.
These were bright children with bright futures, targeted in a war that had nothing to do with them. Children that aspired for both their and their parent’s dreams, ripped away from their fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, grandparents and friends, all in the span of several heartbeats. Seven attackers went into the school, and while none of them survived, the havoc that they wreaked upon schoolchildren, and the scars that they left on the survivors will never be forgotten.
Sajid Mahmud Shah, a key member of the Pakistani community, commented that “I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do. The majority of those who died were beautiful little kids. I lamented the bright futures that had been abruptly lost. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, and kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers — men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.”
“So ‘Our Hearts Are Broken’ — for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost. Our Hearts Are Broken for the parents of the survivors as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early, and there are no words that will ease their pain.
“May God bless the memory of the victims and heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”
Scottsdale’s Mayor Jim Lane, also graced us with his appearance at the event after being cordially invited by the event organizers, and stated that: “I am here to share the grief of the Pakistani people, we are together in our fight against the rising acts of terrorism that has lately taken the lives of many innocents. I saw a banner that said ‘What can I write to bring them back’ and it is a sad moment for all of us because there is nothing we can say or write to bring them back. We can only grieve for them.”
We also received a comment from two individuals with personal losses in the incident: Saba Farooqi and Dr. Azhar Jan, both of whom stated that they condemned the activities and crimes of the Taliban and wished for the community to unite, pray for, and support those involved in Peshawar during this time of devastation and grief.
After all of these speeches had taken place, we had one last parting comment from Dr. Habib Khan, who came forward to say that we as Muslims should not tolerate these acts any longer, and should take a stand not to let the Taliban identify itself as the face of Islam, because they behaved like animals following instincts, and committed acts both barbarous and heinous that do not reflect the religion by any means.
We gathered together, not just as Muslims, or non-Muslims but as families and communities, in Scottsdale and around the world, holding out our candles in silent vigilance to commemorate the losses of innocents and fellow human beings, in love and support, shining our lights out across the dark, to show that together, we as people stand united and strong for the victims of Peshawar, and in our solidarity against the Taliban.