LETTER: After Christchurch, standing up for each other should be our first reaction

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This letter to the editor was written by three members of the Student Governing Association: Ryan Kelly, Jansen Penny and Ali Karamali. If you would like to write a letter to the Collegian, send us an email at letters@kstatecollegian.com or visit kstatecollegian.com/contact.

The March 15 terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, brought death, darkness and fear. Fifty people were gunned down in cold blood for no reason other than their religious identity at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch. They were just like us — mothers, fathers, daughters and sons.

Salatul-Jumu‘ah, also known as the Friday Prayer, is attended by Muslim community members to come together in remembrance of God. This worship was desecrated by an abominable act of hate from a self-identified white supremacist.

We recognize the impact this has had in our nation and on our campus, and we stand in solidarity with Muslim students who now face overwhelming adversity.

We mourn for the families that are going through the tragic loss of a loved one. We mourn for the millions of people who fear they cannot even pray in peace. We mourn for the students here on campus who worry about their safety on a daily basis, just for believing a specific faith.

The success of students at Kansas State University will always be our top priority, and when a student is robbed of those opportunities awarded to their peers because of their religious identity, race or any other factor, we all have an obligation to act, to try to understand and to support.

The question lies in the execution, in personal connections, in listening, in our own humility, in removing our own experiences and validating those of others. There is no such thing as an invalid opinion or experience — we must acknowledge this and maintain it as a guiding principle.

We are proud of K-State for recent efforts to make our university feel safer for our multicultural and international students. Our campus community has worked on initiatives including Wildcat Dialogues, KSUnite and moving toward a Multicultural Student Center.

Yet, this is not enough. We must continually act to ensure that the physical and mental health of our students is our first priority. To prioritize this is to prioritize our K-State Family.

There are students who are scared to go to class, scared to face an exceptionally white campus in the wake of such a deplorable atrocity. Students thrive in a community of people with shared identities and experiences, a space in which they can feel a sense of belonging. When they look to their K-State Family, the only thing they should experience is comfort.

It is easy for us to get caught fighting each other over this policy or that policy, but at the end of the day, we have an obligation to drop everything and show up. Standing up for one another should be our first reaction, always.

Together, we must affirm the realities presented by our students and, together, rise to face the challenges that surface. The lived experiences and perspectives of each student are what make K-State great. We must confront each of our truths to know how to forge a path forward. We challenge you all to join us in this pursuit of a more inclusive, more unified student body.

As we heal through this time, we want to call to your attention to resources on campus that can help and support you. From Counseling Services to Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs, to simply a friend or professor, we are here to listen, to try and understand and to stand with you.

Recently, we’ve become desensitized and forgotten the real people, in our community and around the world, that are affected. As students, we need to remind ourselves to be there and be a family for those here at K-State who are finding themselves in the crosshairs of a radical, increasingly prevalent ideology.

As global citizens, we need to take the time to recognize our shared humanity and not let this suffering be dismissed as inevitable. Let’s use our voice to support the families affected by this attack and do everything in our power to ensure the stories of the victims are shared.

Ryan Kelly is a junior in communication studies and speaker of the student senate. Jansen Penny is a senior in industrial engineering and finance and the student body president-elect. Ali Karamali is a junior in chemical engineering and the student body vice president-elect. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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