Battell vigil honors victims of tsunami

In Battell Chapel Thursday, students and faculty alike were given a glimpse of just how personal the tsunamis that devastated Southeast Asia and Africa were for so many.

Pujitha Weerakoon GRD ’10, who comes from Sri Lanka, expressed his gratitude for the safety of his family and his sorrow for those who lost loved ones. He was joined by Yale religious leaders and top administrators yesterday in a memorial service that included textual readings, student reflections and musical selections.

“This wave of destruction also brought a wave of compassion,” Weerakoon said. “My country is ravaged by civil war; I hope now [the warring sides] will work together to build a better homeland for our children.”

University Chaplain Frederick Streets, Yale College Dean Peter Salovey, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler and University Secretary Linda Lorimer were among the speakers who reflected on the impact of the natural disaster that has killed more than 150,000 people.

“The immediate help of people all around the world reminds us of our capacity to care for others,” Streets said. “It reminds us how we are a global community.”

Salovey reflected on the wave of disasters, from civil wars, to Sept. 11, to the recent tidal wave, that has struck mankind in the past decade.

“Only five years old and the millennium has started with a vengeance,” Salovey said. “What are we to make of this catastrophe? Finding meaning is difficult when there may be little meaning to be found.”

In addition to speeches and reflections, there were musical performances by students and faculty. Violin, viola, cello and organ pieces were interspersed throughout the memorial. A final organ piece was played by Institute of Sacred Music professor Martin Jean.

Other speakers included Muslim Students Association President Gul Raza ’06, Buddhist chaplain Bruce Blair and Rabbi Lina Grazier-Zerbarini. All three, as well as Salovey, emphasized the importance of unity in the face of tragedy.

“We are reminded how our lives could be in someone else’s hands,” Salovey said. “Our fates are shared; disaster reigns down on communities, not individuals.”

Blair said he hopes there will be the unity necessary to rebuild that part of the world.

“I join with those of various traditions in the wake of the devastation in finding that place where wisdom and compassion work as one,” Blair said.

The memorial tried to reflect the many spiritual values of the Yale community through textual excerpts. Students and faculty read from a variety of sources including reflections by Gandhi, Hindu prayers, the Book of Job, the Qur’an, Abdu B’Hai and traditional Jewish prayers.

Daniya Ponganutree ’07, one of several students who shared their own feelings on the disaster, pointed out that globalization refers to more than economic competition.

“Globalization refers to a world where technology allows for people to help each other out no matter where they are,” Ponganutree said. “Frontiers become meaningless.”

Despite the confusion and sorrow caused by the tsunamis, Streets advised the audience to remain faithful.

“We as members of Yale draw strength from our various faiths,” Streets said. “Please continue to pray for those who continue to suffer from the disaster.”

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