NIU vet: ‘Treat your neighbors with kindness’

By Keith Hernandez

Nickolaus Hammack stood among almost 50 students and community members last week as he spread a message he said was more radical than abhorring terrorism. That message was “We are not afraid.”

A vigil was held on Thursday in the Martin Luther King Jr. Commons to honor victims of terrorist attacks that have occurred this year across the world. Four hundred candles were lit on the concrete just before the steps in front of Neptune Hall East.

Of the candles, 148 represented those killed on April 2 at Garissa University in Kenya; 43 killed on Nov. 12 in Beirut; and 129 killed on Nov. 13 in Paris.

“The numbers do not end there; everyday, more die and more suffer,” Hammock said. “All over the world, people are murdered for their religion, for their race, for their gender, for their identity, and it never stops.”

Biology professor Sherine Elsawa, faculty adviser of the Muslim Student Association and single mother, said while the terrorists in recent attacks had claimed to belong to the Muslim faith, they had no problem killing their own. Islam does not teach what they did, she said.

“Now and again, we find ourselves, as Muslim-Americans, in the same predicament where we feel the need to defend ourselves from those violent acts. And we shouldn’t, but we do,” Elsawa said. “And we shouldn’t apologize for it, but we … do apologize for some of the most violent acts. … And when this kind of violence comes along, we must realize that the enemy is actually not Islam, the enemy is not the Muslim people, the enemy is not any religion or any country or any group, it’s not the Middle East, but the enemy is actually the hatred that these people harbor in their hearts.”

The message of peace was the goal of the vigil, said Matthew Galloway, NIU Veterans Association president.

“More than just the message, there has to be action,” Galloway said. “You have to ask yourself, ‘What can you do to perpetuate peace?’ … Treat your neighbors with kindness and respect [as] you’d treat your family, your friends and your lovedones.”