'A humanitarian issue:' Vigil held on Marquette campus for 50 killed at New Zealand mosques

MILWAUKEE -- Marquette University on Monday evening, March 18 hosted a vigil honoring the 50 victims who lost their lives in shootings at two mosques in New Zealand Friday, March 15.

The white supremacist accused of gunning down 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand has dismissed his lawyer and opted to represent himself at trial, prompting the prime minister to declare Tuesday that she would do everything in her power to deny him a platform for his racist views. The gunman's desire for infamy was made clear by the fact that he left behind a convoluted 74-page manifesto before Friday's massacre and livestreamed footage of his attack on the Al Noor mosque.

New Zealand massacre

Faezh Dalieh

Despite the fact that the attacks happened far from Milwaukee, people united Monday with a message.

"This is not just a Muslim issue. This is a humanitarian issue. It's a threat against our humanity and justice everywhere," said Faezh Dalieh, Muslim Student Association president.

The Muslim Student Association president and vice president were among the first to light a candle in honor of the lives lost in New Zealand.

"Just because it's far away, it's still other human beings being stripped away from their lives and right to live and their right to do what they want and be what they want," said Dalieh.

Aamna Javed

More than 100 students, staff and community members focused not on the gunman, but the victims who died while praying together.

"I cried so much. Geographically, we're different, but emotionally, physically, physiologically, we're all human, and the fact that this happened, it's not OK. It's never going to be OK," said Aamna Javed, vice president of the Muslim Student Association.

Along with the university's president, students listened to stories of hope and hurt.

"Doesn't matter if it's Muslims. Doesn't matter if it's not Muslims. If they're Caucasian, if they're black, Mexican, whatever it is -- innocent lives shouldn't have been taken, regardless," said Javed.

The students had a powerful message. They said if you don't know about Islamic traditions or people who believe -- knowledge is power, and they encouraged and invited you to learn.