Campus ministries at the Ohio State University held a series of vigils yesterday evening for students and community members to come together in prayer after the terrifying events of Monday morning, when a fellow student deliberately injured several people, including staff, faculty, and students, using his car and a butcher’s knife as weapons. That student was shot by campus police and died at the scene. Eleven victims were taken to local hospitals.
The student who carried out the attack had been profiled by the college student newspaper’s “Humans of Ohio State” feature in August. A Muslim of Somali descent, at the time he expressed concerns over the way that Muslims are portrayed by the media, and voiced his fear of praying in public. From The Lantern:
I’m new here. This is my first day. This place is huge, and I don’t even know where to pray.
I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be. If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen. But, I don’t blame them. It’s the media that put that picture in their heads so they’re just going to have it and it, it’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. I was kind of scared right now. But I just did it. I relied on God. I went over to the corner and just prayed.
Reports are circulating today of a post on the man’s Facebook page citing attacks on Muslims around the world. According to text posted on Twitter by Jake Tapper of CNN, he denounced attacks against Muslims everywhere, then claimed to have reached a “boiling point” over reports of abuses against the Rohingya Muslim community in Burma.
The Somali Students’ Association at OSU released a statement yesterday afternoon, condemning the attack and praying for the victims, while recommending that any of its students who experience any backlash because of the ethnicity of the attacker seek counselling.
The act of violence that occurred at The Ohio State University earlier today was frightening and shocking. Such hatred has no place in our campus, city and state. The Somali Students’ Association at OSU unequivocally condemns this violent act. We pray for the victims and the families of those affected today.
While the Ohio State University police and other law enforcement agencies investigate this tragic incident, we call on all of our members to remain safe and vigilant. We know that some will connect this tragedy with the ethnicity or religion of the attacker. Neither our Somali heritage nor our faith condones the harming of innocent people.
The Southern Ohio Synod of the ELCA issued a pastoral message from Bishop Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt yesterday afternoon, in part,
On a day full of fear, uncertainty, and pain at Ohio State, we are reminded that life is fragile. Our prayers are rising to God for the healing and recovery of the victims of this tragic and senseless attack and for their families. Our prayers of thanksgiving are being offered for the women and men of law enforcement, who helped to prevent an even greater tragedy than the one we face. Our prayers for wisdom and care rise for the medical professionals treating those who are receiving their care. As our Lord taught us, we also pray for mercy for the assailant, and for the comfort of his family.
Campus ministries held vigil across the University throughout Monday evening.
Featured image: students and faith leaders gather at St Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the campus of the Ohio State University Monday evening. Photo credit: Audrey Hasson/NBC4 via Twitter