Religions and students join at University service for Connecticut victims

12/21/2012 - By: Staff Report
Multifaith service image From left to right: Sherif Elfass, Joseph Gebhardt, Daniel R. Sanchez, Vince Fallon, Rajan Zed, Rich Smith, Phil Bryan and Roya Galata.

A student-led multi-faith memorial service in honor of Sandy Hook Elementary School Connecticut victims was held at the University of Nevada, Reno on Dec. 18.

Organized by the University's Interfaith Students Club in collaboration with Rajan Zed, director of interfaith relations of the Nevada Clergy Association, the service included prayers and thoughts by area Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Baha'i,  and other leaders including students and leaders of non-believers.

Thakur Chakrapani Singh, well-known classical musician from India, paid tribute through Kachhapi Veena; while the audience accompanied area musician Jim Eaglesmith in his fusion rendition of "Give Peace a Chance." Various speakers paid tribute to all victims, their families, teachers, administrators and first responders touched by this tragedy.

Moment of Silence and Remembrance

At 9:30 a.m., Friday, Dec. 21, the University’s Morrill Hall bells chimed 26 times in honor of each life lost in Newtown, Conn. The University joined Gov. Sandoval and states across the country in the tribute.

"We wanted to show that university and college students all over the country were united in their mourning and support for the victims, their families and others affected by this tragic loss in Connecticut," Daniel R. Sanchez, President of the Interfaith Students Club, said. "And that religions can come together on issues such as this."

Zed opened the service with the Gayatri Mantra, the most sacred mantra of Hinduism, known from the oldest existing scripture of the world Rig-Veda. 

Held in the Joe Crowley Student Union on the University campus, the participants recited prayers, offered reflection and read from scriptures in Arabic, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Aramaic and English. Many in the audience were seen wiping tears during the interfaith service.

Besides Zed and Sanchez, other speakers included Father Vince Fallon, pastor of the University Catholic Community Our Lady of Wisdom Newman Center;  Bishop Luther J. DuPree Junior of Rehoboth Holy Temple (Church Of God In Christ); Sherif Elfass, president of the Northern Nevada Muslim Community; Rabbi ElizaBeth W. Beyer, of Temple Beth Or; Rich Smith, pastor of Reno First Congregational Church; Rev. Phil Bryan and Carole Maupin of Reno Buddhist Center; Carissa Snedeker, president of Reno Freethinkers (atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists, etc., promoting secular values); Mark D. Walton, president of Latter-day Saints Students Association of the University; Navgeet (King) Zed, president of the Student Government Association of Truckee Meadows Community College; Nazrul Mojumder, president of the graduate chapter of Muslim Students' Association at the University of Nevada, Reno;  Joseph Gebhardt, faculty from the University's philosophy department; Rev. Stephen Child, the  northern Nevada coordinator for the American Clergy Leadership Conference; and Pat Fling, executive director of Acting in Community Together in Organizing Northern Nevada.

Reginald Chhen Stewart, director of the University's Center for Student Cultural Diversity, spoke on behalf of University President Marc Johnson; while Shannon Ellis, vice president of student services, also
addressed the gathering.

Mark Sutliff and Stephanie Walker read statements from U.S. Senator Dean Heller and Congressman Mark Amodei respectively on the occasion.


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