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Students hold a memorial for the Egyptian victims on steps of Redpath Museum. (Jack Neal / McGill Tribune)

Vigil for slain Egyptians held on McGill campus

a/McGill/Montreal/News by

On Feb. 25, members of the Montreal community gathered at a vigil held on campus to pay their respects to the 21 Egyptian victims killed in Libya. 

A video released by Libyan Islamic State extremists on Feb. 15 showed the alleged execution of 21 captured members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

Participants of the vigil stood outside the Redpath Museum, holding candles and signs commemorating the lives of the Egyptian victims. 

The vigil was organized by U1 McGill Arts student Gabrielle Anctil and Concordia student Antonious Petro, who said they hoped to bring attention to issues of violence that result from intolerance.

“This vigil wanted to serve as a reminder that, yes, in 2015, it is still possible to die because of your culture, religion, [or] ethnicity,” Anctil said. 

Vigil attendee Kelly Schwab,  a McGill alumni and current Concordia Masters student, stated that the event was moving and brought together members of the Montreal community.

“I think it turned out to be a beautiful event,” she said. “It was quite cold […] but it brought together quite a mix of the community—francophones, anglophones, Concordia, McGill, students, non-students. I think it was a very simple, very lovely statement about non-hate, expressed in a solemn walk to the steps of Redpath, and a brief trilingual speech on the loss of individuals to discrimination, hate, and violence. “

Petro and Anctil stated that they hoped that the vigil would serve as a platform for the Montreal community to be able to gather and contribute proactively to awareness of such issues.

“I think a lot of people feel powerless about these issues, and I think that it is very positive that we got together and showed our support,” Anctil said. “A lot of passerbys stopped and read our signs, so hopefully they felt touched by our message.”

According to Anctil, the vigil was also spurred by Petro’s personal connection to the victims. 

“[The idea for the vigil] came from [Petro] who grew up in the village where these people were from,” Anctil said. 

Schwab underscored the necessity of remembering the stories of people who were killed in Libya.

“The issue is important to me on a basic human level—I condemn the use of violence in all forms,” Schwab said. “In organizing this event, it was important not to focus on the action as one taken against the Coptic community specifically, but against individual lives—that these people were deserving of life, trying to make a better living than what was available to them in their own countries.” 

Schwab also highlighted that the vigil was a reminder of how injustice affects the lives of people around the world. 

“Its important for us to be aware of how others exist and live their daily lives,” she said. “The fact that […] these men had to go abroad to find work because of systemic failings in their own countries is traumatic in itself [….] The vigil for me was an active reminder to incorporate these thoughts into my life here in Montreal.”

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