Stop the Silence: Vigil makes a stand against hate and violence

“All You Need is Love” proclaimed a red and white sign held high as students marched carrying candles. The students marched a full circle around campus and even marched through buildings, led by a police officer on a Segue with flashing lights and a student keeping time with a snare drum.

Friday evening, October 14th, students gathered in the UVU courtyard for a vigil sponsored by new UVU club SHAAFT (Secular Humanism Agnosticism and Free Thought). The vigil was inspired by recent violence against gay individuals in Utah and was held in observance of these events and as a forum against hate and violence.

Candles lined the tiers of the UVU courtyard theater where Friday’s vigil was held. Although the event took a while to get started, eventually about 30 students gathered from both UVU and BYU. UVU’s Spectrum club and BYU’s Understanding Same Gender Attraction club helped sponsor the event. Speakers from these clubs, along with SHAAFT President Andrew Johnson and SHAAFT Vice President Chase Henson, started off the vigil with talks about the needs for greater understanding, love, and social awareness in our community.

At first the audience members were spread throughout the theater tiers. This changed when Johnson took the microphone. He asked everyone to move up close to the stage area and, after speaking, opened up the floor for discussion.

Johnson said that we live in a society where tolerance is the current ideal but that tolerance may not be enough anymore. He said we need to take tolerance to the next level: “acceptance.” And even further, he said the ideal is to create a society centered on love for every person. We need to become a community, he said, that will not stand for hate and violence.

After Johnson opened up the stage for discussion, many members of the audience came down and shared their ideas on how to eliminate hate and violence in our society. Some of the ideas shared included: speaking up when you witness violence or hateful behavior, incorporating anti-hate and anti-violence teaching into public education, giving service to the community, and breaking down silence and apathy.

Johnson closed the discussion with a challenge: for all in attendance to go out and break the silence, to be active in the community, and to spread ideas of understanding.

Audience members were given an opportunity to act on Johnson’s challenge right away by participating in a demonstration march across campus. Henson led the way with his snare drum and all in attendance followed, carrying the candles that had lined the theater.

SHAAFT’s mission statement is “to help organize and support open minded and free thinking members of the community including religious and non-religious alike.” For more information on SHAAFT’s goals and activities go to SHAAFT.org.

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