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Calls for Ceasefire Made at Vigil for Palestine

On Monday 6 November, a vigil for Palestine was held in St Andrews to "bring the St Andrews community together in solidarity, and advocate for humanity and justice". The event was organised by various student societies who worked closely with the University over the past few weeks to ensure a safe and respectful environment. Approximately 300 members of the University community attended.

The vigil included speeches by the Middle East and North African Society (MENA), St Andrews Muslim Society (STAMSA), Amnesty St Andrews, members of the St Andrews’ Jewish community, and the Chaplaincy.

MENA President, Hana El Hilaly, noted, "[The vigil] unequivocally condemned all acts of violence and war crimes committed by Hamas and the Israeli Government, and urged the release of hostages and the dire call for a ceasefire in Gaza". Both St Andrews' Palestinian and Jewish communities shared their perspective and relayed their personal experience and sentiments in light of recent events.

The purpose of the vigil was to “facilitate a space for Palestinians to speak, grieving the losses of both Israeli and Palestinian citizens, and address the rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in the world and in the St Andrews community” in response to the events in early October, said Hana. "We want to make sure that St Andrews is a safe space for everyone and that no one feels scared or excluded within our small town".

Barry Will, President of the Students' Association, noted at the vigil, "We're here to remember those lost in Israel at the hands of Hamas.

"We're here to remember those lost in Gaza, their lives taken too soon by missiles and gunfire".

Bill Shackman, the Interfaith Chaplain, focused on justice and equality, stating, "Let us take the side of justice. It is not easy to develop our capacity for compassion. But it is desperately needed now more than ever".

Representatives of the Jewish Community united the different religious faiths and cultures present in their condemnation of both sides' actions,"As Jewish people who are part of the community at the University of St Andrews, we know that there is no place for hate in our seaside community, nor in any other community”.

"We must embrace one another in our shared humanity, and remember that there should be no hierarchies of skin colour nor faith. We can and do condemn state-perpetrated violence and the violence of militant groups".

University professors Dr Jasmine Gani and Dr Malaka Shwaikh from the School of International Relations, with special focuses on Palestine and the Middle East, contributed to the vigil. Whilst they were unable to attend, their speeches were read aloud by fellow University staff members. Taking a more personal and assertive stance, Shwaikh emphasised, "Our families in Gaza need your power … we need you to lobby your politicians, put pressure on policymakers, write, speak up, and get us a ceasefire now", as she recounted the situation her Palestinian family has been in during the past weeks.

The service ended with lighting candles, honouring those whose lives were lost, and a moment of silence. Lucy, a vigil attendee, mentioned, "The atmosphere was peaceful and reflective. It really provided a space for any person to show support and a sense of community to those hurting, regardless of your faith or nationality".

Hana highlighted that the vigil was "just a starting point for action within St Andrews". A range of events are set to continue support for people in Gaza and those affected by the crisis. More information can be found on the social media platforms of MENA, STAMSA, and Amnesty St Andrews.

Image Provided by the Vigil for Palestine

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