Freya Nelson – Staff Writer
On March 18, the Office of Chaplains held space in the Chapel for a silent candle lighting vigil event for students, faculty, staff and community members. Attendees were provided with a space to light candles, be together in silence and support one another in the memory of the recent Atlanta shooting victims: a tragedy in which Asian women were violently targeted.
“The intention behind the vigil event was to create a space where community members could gather in the face of this tragedy. Tragedy brings out conflicting emotions and that can be extremely difficult for many people. We wanted to create an opportunity for students to be together in those moments and be able to support one another as they process,” Chaplain of the College Siri Erickson said.
Although the event was held in the Chapel, there was no specific religious affiliation attached to it. The space was intended to allow students to process however they felt was appropriate and to be inclusive of everyone.
“We gather that our student body is diverse in its religious and non-religious representation and so we wanted to create an inclusive and comfortable environment. Students from all different backgrounds and interests were in attendance of this event, which was beautiful because it was clear that the message connected with a wide-range of students in the Gustavus community,” Erickson said.
The event was a needed resource for many members of the Gustavus community to be able to be physically present and together while processing this tragedy. COVID precautions were taken in order to ensure a safe and comfortable place for students to grieve and process.
“It was moving to me that so many students came out to the event, whether that be because it affects them directly or that they wanted to show support for their friends, loved ones, peers, etc. that were, and are, directly affected by this tragedy,” Erickson said.
President of Gustavus, Rebecca Bergman, addressed the tragedy of the Atlanta shooting and the marginalization of AAPI people that has increased throughout the pandemic, in a recent message to the Gustavus community.
“The shootings come at a time when AAPI people have increasingly been victimized by unfair rhetoric and behavior over the course of the last year. These unjust actions call us to examine the intersecting dimensions of race, gender and class that appear to have motivated the attacks in Atlanta, and how members of the AAPI community have been improperly and irrationally blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Discrimination against AAPI people, and AAPI women in particular, has too often gone unseen and unchallenged. Let me be clear: anti-Asian speech and behavior, whether it is overtly violent or quietly racist, has no place at Gustavus and no place in an equitable and inclusive society,” Bergman said.
Other resources for support that students, faculty, staff and community members can utilize are the Chaplains Office, the Counseling Center, the Center for Inclusive Excellence, Dean of Students Office, Peer assistants, and Collegiate Fellows. These resources are readily available and students are encouraged to utilize the resources that they feel are the most comfortable for them and at any time they would like.