By FATIMA FAKHREDDINE, Guest Writer
The cries of the oppressed were heard on Tuesday, April 2 at the University of Michigan-Dearborn as students and non-students marched around campus in solidarity with the people of Pakistan and various places in the Middle-East. The Silenced Genocide: The Forgotten Voices, was held by Students for Islamic Awareness and cosponsored by the Arab Student Union of UM-D. It included a documentary, lecture, a march, and vigil with poetry.
As the 20 some people took their seats, in room 1500 of the Social Science Building, a short film was playing in preparation for the documentary to start. The lights dimmed, the people fell silent and A Call for Justice began playing. The documentary, made by RisingCries, exposes realities about the ongoing Shia Muslim genocide in Pakistan and various regions within the Middle-East.
Zahra Dabaja, a UM-D student, said , “The documentary strongly showcased unity among all communities around the world to stand up not only for Muslim Shiaa’s or Muslims in general but to stand against oppression and violence for all humanity.”
The pictures on the wall of the Bahraini, Palestinian, and Pakistani genocides came to life as the documentary plays and resonates in the hearts of all those who intently watched.
Following the documentary was a speech by Jason Smart, a 40-year-old Muslim convert and the author of “Jesus Through Our Eyes.” Smart, wearing a royal blue button up shirt and grey pants, spoke of innocent killings happening in Pakistan and Bahrain while governments’ stand idly by.
“If the government is not protecting its citizens, the government is completely worthless,” specifically speaking about the Pakistani government Smart continues, “because that’s the first job of any government to do that.”
Aly Lakhani, vice president of SIA, enjoyed the lecture and agreed with Smart. “As brother Jason Smart said it’s the year 2013,” Lakhani said. “And, we should not be doing this anymore. It is beneath our intellect and beneath our humanity.”
People were marching with signs high in the air that read, “Power to the Peaceful” and “Americans against Genocide in Pakistan.” The group chants of “1, 2, 3, 4 innocent killings no more” and “Peace, Peace Pakistan” echoed through the whistling winds and swaying trees. Bilal Dabaja, former member of SIA, led the march from the Social Science building to the University center, and back around to the pond near the Social Science building.
The crowd was led to the pond by the lit candles glimmering from a distance. As poetry was being read, each person surrounded the pond with a lit candle in their hand. The poetry was read by five individuals, ranging from ages 13 to 20, which shifted the somber mood to an inspirational one.
“The candle light vigil with the addition of the beautiful poetry in honoring the victims of the Shia
Genocide in Pakistan was very close to my heart, God willing our sorrows were heard,” said Feras Hamdan, an SIA e-board member.
It concluded with a tribute to the oppressed by lighting a paper lantern and leaving it to fly in the night sky as a symbol of hope.
Attendees of the event enjoyed and supported the work of SIA. UM-D student Sarah Elhelou said, “SIA brought awareness to this silenced tragedy to campus.”
Riyam Alwishah, an SIA e-board member, spoke about the purpose of the event and said, “Today, we united from different ages, and different backgrounds to convey our message. It is a message that we will not only be heard, but voiced. We are the voice of the voiceless.”
SIA president, Ali Assi, was proud of the event and glad to have done it. “We believe it’s our obligation to inform people about the suffering of others, whether they’re Muslim or non-Muslim,” he continued. “We are all very pleased as to how the event turned out and hope to host many more events like this one.”
Overall, the event succeeded in serving its purpose by giving voice to those who have been ignored. It made the forgotten become remembered and the silenced to be heard.