Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop appeals for solidarity at peace vigil

Over one hundred students, staff and members of the public gathered in George Square on Wednesday, 18 November at The Vigil For Peace, in remembrance of the victims of the recent terror attacks. Representatives from The Scottish Government, the French Consulate in Edinburgh and The University Chaplaincy attended to share their condolences.

Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs was amongst those to give speeches.   

She said: “I’m here on behalf of  the Scottish Government to stand with you as you stand in sorrow but to stand with you when you also stand in solidarity.

“Our thoughts are also for those who have been victims of terror and violence in recent weeks – those who have been killed and wounded in the twin blasts on Thursday in Beirut. The passengers and crew killed on the Russian Airliner, and those killed and injured in a peace rally in Ankara in Turkey.”

She told onlookers not to succumb to fear despite the attacks.

“Enjoyment; going to a concert, going to the football, going to a restaurant – that’s part of our lives and we will not allow that freedom to be attacked in the way that those who want to attack it have sought to do.”

Emeline Javierre, Deputy French Consul in Edinburgh, said: “I have one word for you tonight, but it is such a small word and it feels utterly inadequate to express the depth of our gratitude to the Scottish people, the Scottish authorities, the Scottish organisations and the constant shows of support and solidarity that we have seen since Friday.

“But however inadequate that word may be. we’ll say it to you tonight – so, merci. Thank you for being here, thank you for everything.”

University Principal Timothy O’Shea told the crowd: “We have 100 students in France, half of whom are in Paris.

“These are terrible things, and we must find within ourselves hope, and we must remind ourselves that of all the things a university is for, the most important thing it is for is world peace.

“The most important thing we stand for as a university is mutual understanding and working as hard as we can to minimise the chances of such terrible things happening again.”

Dr Sohaib Saeed, Muslim Chaplain said: “Standing here, I think that we are all affirming the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity.”

Saeed made it clear that Islam in no way condoned acts of terrorism, speaking of his disgust that sacred words were used whilst committing the atrocities and his fear that terrorist attacks distorted perceptions of his faith.

“The painful thing, on top of the destruction on lives, of property, of families, of safety. On top of that, the distortion of something which has such a sacred meaning to so many people.

“Allah-hu-akbar is a sacred word, Muslims say this word when they perform their prayers five times a day. When we begin the prayer, we raise our hands and we say ‘Allah-hu-akbar’.

“To shout this word at a time of committing murder and atrocities, to be honest there is nothing I can think of that is more blasphemous than to use the name of God and to use the name of The Almighty, when doing those things that are so displeasing and angering to him who has created every human being equal and who has made the human soul sacred.”

Emeline Javierre told The Student of her gratitude to the University International Office for organising the event.
  “We were very touched and moved that they would organise this.  So it’s the least we can do to be here and be present and just express how we feel about that, which is endlessly grateful really.”

Students and staff spoke of how moved they were by the vigil.

Rev Dr Harriet Harris, University Chaplain told The Student: “I was glad that so many people came, it felt like there was a very good feeling, people were very together in it, they were wanting to grieve together.”

“When there’s been a tragedy that begins to instil fear, and the tragedy is born of an attempt to divide and attack people, then it feels extra important to stand together.

“So I think it’s an act of courage, actually, to come together; it shows there’s more courage in choosing to live on with in a quiet confidence than there is in doing dramatic acts of violence.”

Taylor McNaboe, a Fourth Year French and Chinese student who studied in France last year, attended the vigil to show solidarity. He told The Student: “I found it very touching to see people with different beliefs joining together to share wishes and thoughts of peace.

“It was shocking for all of us to hear about the tragedies such as those that took place in Paris, and what’s most important for us now more than ever is to unite against terrorism and promote peace and unity.

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