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Vigil pays tribute to Pakistani massacre victims

IN PEACE: Members of the South Florida Pakistani community and others gather at the Torch of Friendship in Miami on Sunday for a vigil to honor the 148 students and adults who were killed Tuesday by the Taliban at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan.
IN PEACE: Members of the South Florida Pakistani community and others gather at the Torch of Friendship in Miami on Sunday for a vigil to honor the 148 students and adults who were killed Tuesday by the Taliban at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

For the past week, Samiya Bokhari has not been able to sleep. Instead she tosses, thinking about the families impacted by Tuesday’s massacre in a northwest Pakistani school.

“It’s a great tragedy,” said Bokhari, 36, of Pembroke Pines. “I think of the mothers who gave birth to their kids, who brought them up, and now to have to go through something like this — I don’t even know how to put it in words.”

Bokhari was one of dozens who attended an interfaith vigil at the Torch of Friendship in downtown Miami on Sunday in recognition of the 148 teachers and students who died during the Taliban attack on the military-run school.

“This is a crime against humanity,” Bokhari said. “Every time I hold my son I think of those mothers who have to live without their kids.”

Demonstrators at the vigil lit candles for each of the victims of the attack and held signs with messages such as: “Don’t kill our children” and “Terrorism has no religion.”

Several passersby stopped to take pictures of the vigil, and listened to members of South Florida’s religious community condemn violence.

“All it takes for evil to prevail is for people of goodwill to remain silent,” said Rabbi Solomon Schiff of the Miami-Dade County Community Relations Board. “We are not going to remain silent, we going to scream from the rooftops that we will not tolerate terrorism, bigotry, hatred and beheadings.”

Members of Christian, Islam and other faiths also spoke and echoed Schiff’s message of peace. In addition, others in attendance expressed solidarity with the victims of the tragedy.

“When I saw the news my heart tore apart,” Shahida Shakir, 60, of Miami Shores said to the crowd of onlookers. “I pray tonight that this evil in the world will go, and be replaced with peace in the world.”

One of the first people to arrive at the vigil was Narinder Jolly, 68, who said he cried when he heard news of the massacre.

“These were innocent children getting an education,” said Jolly, who lives in East Kendall. “Acts like this are evil.”

Shakir’s husband, Mohammad, a member of the Miami-Dade County Asian American Advisory Board who helped organize the vigil, believes that the demonstration helped bring attention to Muslims who fall victim to terrorism.

“It’s an insult to the average Muslim when these terrorists are said to have any link to Islam,” Mohammad Shakir said. “These are the forces of darkness that simply want to extinguish progress, education, knowledge, pluralism — they want to stay in their caves.”

Mohammad Shakir said he was pleased to see members of various faiths together at the vigil, and hopes that some change will come from it.

“I heard some people talking about putting together our resources and opening a school there,” Mohammad Shakir said, adding that those comments speak to the bonds between the faith communities of South Florida.

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