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Students honor victims of mass atrocities with vigil


Junior Michael Vivier speaks about not just commemorating victims, but taking action to address contemporary crimes of mass violence. IU Student Foundation and Culture of Care teamed up to organize a candlelight vigil for those affected by identity-based genocide Monday in Dunn Meadow.  Ty Vinson Buy Photos

As cars whirred past the corner of Dunn Meadow and students walked home from class, ten students partook in a moment of silence to honor the victims of identity-based violence and genocide on Monday. 

“We’ve all suffered, in our own ways,” said junior Michael Vivier, co-chair of the IUSA Diversity and Inclusion committee. “And we’re now going to come together as a community and fight this.”

The students are one of more than thirty communities supporting the global #TogetherWeRemember campaign, a not-for-profit started by a student at Duke University in 2017.

Culture of Care and IUSA have been communicating with the organization for a few months in preparation for the first commemoration of its kind at IU. 

Vivier spoke to the circle of students about not just commemorating victims, but taking action to address contemporary crimes of mass violence.

While certain historical examples of genocide, such as the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide, generally come to mind, Vivier said it’s important to recognize the modern mass atrocities occurring globally as well as in Bloomington. 

Some students stared down at their flickering white plastic tea lights as Vivier encouraged them to think about their personal connections to hate crimes. 

After working with Iraqi and Syrian refugees for the past two summers, Vivier said he is committed to encouraging people to fight atrocities as they happen, rather than wait for others to write books or make movies about them. 

Freshman Matt Stein, a descendant of a Holocaust survivor, said his family history has characterized the values and actions he embodies in his everyday life. 

Stein said he has participated in candle vigils all over the world, including Auschwitz and Jerusalem, but he said Monday’s vigil was different. 

“The fact that now I’ve done something like this in Bloomington helps me tie where I live to the identity I was born with,” Stein said. 

By this time next year, Vivier said he hopes to have an independent organization devoted to raising awareness about victims of mass atrocities. 

He is working on launching a Snapchat filter asking, "What does Together We Remember mean to you?" in the next few weeks. 

To encourage people to think about potential actions to combat hate crimes, Culture of Care Respect committee co-director and sophomore Shawn Coughlin followed the moment of silence with a discussion about how hate crimes pervade students' daily lives in Bloomington. 

He said it's not enough to say an event is terrible, and move on. 

"Ask why," Coughlin said. "Why do events like this happen?"

Having open dialogue about difficult topics was something the Respect committee tried to foster all day long, Coughlin said, as Monday was the first day of Culture of Care Week. 

“We are really here to talk about complicated issues,” Coughlin said. “To talk about discrimination, things that might be hard to press.” 

At tabling before the vigil, Coughlin said he and his colleagues offered suggestions on how to talk about discrimination, empathy and other uncomfortable subjects. 

The candle vigil was followed by a poetry slam, in which the committee aimed to facilitate open discussion about diversity. 

Coughlin said both the vigil and poetry slam helped create solidarity around difficult situations. 

“There are other people who want to talk about it,” Coughlin said. “It’s not just you and your friends. It’s not just you alone thinking about a problem.”

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