A crowd of more than 300 people prayed, sang and showed their support on the Baylor University campus Friday for Muslims at the school and in the community.
University Chaplain Burt Burleson oversaw the event in front of the statue of Judge Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor on Speight Avenue.
“We want them to know we’re trying to understand and be with them, which is the essence of compassion,” Burleson said.
He invited students to write encouraging messages and prayers on pieces of white fabric to tie onto wire attached to a frame. A large banner reading “We love and support our Baylor Muslims” sat at the foot of the statue.
Burleson also invited Muslim students to the event with personalized emails.
Religion senior Evan Edwards helped organize the event and advertised it through social media and email. He hoped at least 60 people would attend.
“For a Christian university such as Baylor to take a stand in support of our Muslim brothers and sisters is a really big deal,” Edwards said. “We’re a welcoming place of people of all different faith traditions, and we’re going to allow everyone to practice their faith as they will without persecution, oppression or hate speech.”
In the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. He has also suggested surveillance on mosques and a database of all Muslims living in the United States.
“Some of the political rhetoric we’ve seen recently is disturbing,” said Catherine Jones Payne, the spouse of a Baylor graduate student. “As a Christian, my job is to show love for people. I don’t think Jesus would say hateful things about Muslims.”
Sana Rajani, a Muslim Baylor student, said she received that message at the rally.
“The fact that Baylor even did something like this told me that they do love us,” Rajani said. “They do want us to be here, and there was definitely a time when I didn’t feel like that was it. But the fact that they did this really made me want to come show my support for all the Muslims, not just for myself.”
Mary Darden, who is married to journalism professor Bob Darden, denounced the generalization of Muslims because of recent events.
“For people to paint Muslims with the brush of IS is kind of like people painting Christians with the brush of the KKK,” Darden said, referring to the Islamic State militant group. “It’s not right. We need to educate people so they understand these are good, loving, caring people that are trying to change the world by getting their education here at Baylor.”
The event concluded with the crowd singing “For the Healing of the Nations.”
Burleson also invited students of all faiths to participate in Baylor-sponsored dialogue sessions to promote spiritual unity.
Josh Ritter, assistant director for formation in the Spiritual Life Department, said the Bobo Spiritual Life Center welcomes students of all faiths to discuss cultural and faith-based backgrounds. The center has also hosted cross-cultural dinners and panel discussions for students.
“We offer space for all of our students to come and tell their story,” Ritter said.
Anisha Zaman, another Muslim Baylor student, said she has received negative feedback because of her religion but never at Baylor.
“Obviously it’s great seeing everyone here and everyone supporting,” Zaman said. “The amount of positive reaction to this is really something that’s touched me. So of course I wanted to be here regardless of finals and studying going on.”