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Photo essay: Students gather to pray for south Asian flood and earthquake victims

By Leo Dornan and Nikki Moriello / The Pitt News Staff

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In the wake of recent floods and earthquakes across South Asia, a circle of Pitt students gathered to pray together Friday night in the William Pitt Union.

About 28 students from the Muslim Student Association, the Hindu Students Council, the South Asian Student Association and Asha for Education sat in a circle in the WPU Assembly Room, slowly chanting Hindu prayers together as they remembered the unidentified victims of recent natural disasters.

“We wanted to honor and remember the victims, especially because there’s been so little press coverage of these disasters,” Avani Kolla, a junior neuroscience major and president of Asha for Education at Pitt, said.

Floods began with the heavy rains in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and other South Asian countries in November, and two earthquakes — one magnitude 6.7 and one magnitude 7.5 — rocked Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

According to CNN, more than 300 people have died from the flooding alone, with about 100 people still missing. In total, more than 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Friday’s remembrance service marked the first time those clubs of different faith backgrounds collaborated for a religious event.

“It’s great to see all these different people coming together,” Heba Mahjoub, a sophomore biology major and president of MSA at Pitt, said, “We’re here to spread prayers and spread peace.”

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The candles flicker as the 28 students gather in the WPU Assembly Room for a remembrance prayer for the natural disaster victims.

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Students follow along as Harshit Agarwal, sophomore neuroscience, religious studies and psychology major and business manager for Asha for Education and the HSC, reads a Hindu prayer.

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The floods and earthquakes have left 1.8 million people without homes. Members of SASA, one of the four organizations which co-hosted the event, joined in the group prayers asking that God watch over the victims and grant them healing.

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Students followed along for the Hindu prayer. Agarwal chanted the prayer first and then invited the other students to join him. The 28 students came from different faith backgrounds to dedicate a solemn hour to the victims.

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Photo essay: Students gather to pray for south Asian flood and earthquake victims