Students, faculty pray for world peace at interfaith vigil


Around 25 students and staff gathered together in prayer at an interfaith vigil hosted by Hendricks Chapel Wednesday night to promote world peace during war and violence around the world.

The vigil was the second interfaith vigil held on Syracuse University’s campus, following Hendricks’ first interfaith vigil for world peace on Oct. 25. Due to small numbers, wind and snow, attendees and chaplains gathered in a circle rather than using a formal podium arrangement.

“Here at Hendricks Chapel, one of our convictions is that human life is sacred, and one life taken is one life too many,” said Rev. Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel. “All of these religious and spiritual groups coming together is, at its core, recognizing the sacredness of life. So I think it’s important, even when it’s cold and windy, and mid-December, to come together and to be with each other.”

The ongoing Israel-Hamas and Russia-Ukraine wars have caused immense suffering and stirred hatred around the world. After Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed more than 1,200 people, Israel began an offensive on Gaza. More than 17,000 people in Gaza have been killed since the initial attack, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

Several U.S. college campuses, including SU, have experienced tensions due to rising antisemitism and islamophobia. Chancellor Kent Syverud wrote in an email Monday that advocating for the genocide of Jewish people would violate SU’s code of conduct, addressing a Dec. 5 congressional hearing on campus antisemitism in which the presidents of Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology testified.

The United Nations, politicians and people across the world have called for world peace throughout 2023. Following a U.S. veto of a U.N. resolution demanding a ceasefire, hundreds of people marched through downtown Syracuse in support of Palestine Friday evening.

Despite U.S. opposition, the U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution Tuesday for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza.

“For me, world peace is the conditions that are necessary by which all people can thrive,” said Konkol, who opened and closed the vigil.

Other SU organizations have held vigils at Hendricks amid the Israel-Hamas war, including Syracuse Hillel and Chabad House Jewish Student Center’s vigil on Oct 11 and SU’s Muslim Student Association’s “Prayers for Peace” vigil on Oct. 18.

Konkol invited the group to participate in a moment of silence, concluded the moment with a prayer and invited other chaplains to step forward into the circle to offer prayers as they felt compelled.

Imam Amir Durić, chaplain and advisor of the MSA, recited two verses from the third chapter of the Quran.

“We are one humanity. We are one body, and if a part of us hurts the rest of the body aches,” he read, prompting a contemplative reaction from the group.

Rabbi Ethan Bair, chaplain and advisor of Hillel Jewish Student Union, stepped into the circle and offered a prayer for peace in the spirit on the seventh night of Hanukkah.

“One can only create peace in the world once one has mastered peace within oneself,” Bair said.

Sensei JoAnn Cooke, chaplain and advisor of the Buddhist Meditation Association, recited the Mettā Sutta and chanted “may all beings be free from suffering” in Pāli.

Following the prayers, attendees lit candles and stood in a moment of silence. The cold wind extinguished the candles as soon as they were lit.

“I’d ask that the light that is within you lasts much longer than the light that I have in my hand,” Konkol said.

As the Israel-Hamas war continues, so does the Russia-Ukraine war. More than 50 people, including six children, were injured Wednesday morning when Russia fired ballistic missiles at Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, according to The Washington Post.Ezoic

Speakers at the vigil recognized that violence persists worldwide, and no part of humanity was excluded from their prayers.

“I’m a believer that hope is the conviction that what you do matters. It matters,” Konkol said. “A small group of people standing in a circle for 25 minutes praying and seeking peace changes the world. So we changed the world tonight.”

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