Candlelight vigil held for victims of terrorist attack at Kenyan mall
Drexel students and community members also attended the vigil
September 26, 2013, 8:41 pm · Updated September 26, 2013, 10:36 pm·
Christina Prudencio | DP
Thursday night, a candlelight vigil was held on College Green in memorial of the victims of a recent terrorist attack on a Kenyan mall.
“It took Kenya by surprise, and left many friends and families without their loved ones,” Daniel Nyakora, a College junior from Kenya who helped organize the event, said. At 7:30 p.m., the organizers distributed white candles to a circle of vigil-holders, and a few speakers came up to give their words of compassion on College Green.
“At this moment, I’d like to express my gratitude,” Wharton junior Moses Mutoko said to the assembled crowd. “It’s easy to be indifferent to the suffering of others, especially when they are far away, but I think it is only through unity expressed through action that we can defeat evil.”
The vigil was held to mourn and recognize a recent terrorist attack on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Members of the group Al-Shabaab stormed the complex on Saturday, taking hundreds hostage. By Tuesday, when Kenyan security forces had cleared out the attackers, at least 68 civilians were reported dead, with almost 200 injured.
Steve Kocher, an associate chaplain with the Office of the Chaplain, also came to talk. “It may seem like a small thing you’re doing,” he said to the circle of candles, “but you are mourning with the mourners.”
The crowd was large and diverse, but it was exactly what Nyakora expected. “The Penn community has been very hospitable. I would not have been surprised if people came off Locust Walk to join the vigil … I’ve done the same before,” he added.
Kevin Rugamba, a junior in the College and president of the Penn African Students Association, said Nyakora reached out to him for PASA’s support.
Rugamba, who is from Uganda, added, “The same people that [launched the attack on the mall] also attacked Uganda three years ago. That affected me personally. It’s terrible to see something like this happen again, so soon. It shouldn’t happen.”
Nyakora said the vigil was needed. “We felt like some of our friends would be affected, and we might not even know it, so we decided to hold a vigil to keep them in our thoughts. It’s a show of solidarity,” he said.
By 8 p.m., everyone blew out their candles and the vigil dispersed, though many stayed, talking amongst themselves in small groups. Rugamba pointed out Drexel students and local community members present in the crowd.
“It’s important to find community … especially when you’re dealing with unthinkable tragedy. You need to find people to dwell with,” Kocher said.