Monday was supposed to be the day that Lindenwood University Belleville celebrated the flags that represent the nations from which their foreign students hail.
Instead, it turned into a prayer vigil and a celebration of the French tricolor.
Campus president Brett Barger said the Belleville school currently has students from 40 nations enrolled in classes. Three of them are from France and one of those is from Paris which was targeted Friday in multiple waves of terrorist attacks.
“Today we were going to add flags” to a display in the Dixon Student Center which features the banners of students’ home countries, Barger said. “But because of what happened in Paris, we decided to show unity with France instead.”
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You can’t drive out hate with hate. You can only drive out hate with love.
Brett Barger, campus president of Lindenwood University Belleville
Barger told the group of about 100 students and faculty gathered on the Dixon Center steps that terrorists win when we succumb to fear and change the way we live.
“You can’t drive out hate with hate,” Barger said. “You can only drive out hate with love.”
Lindenwood-Belleville’s Parisian student, Nidhal Meiz, a sophomore majoring in business, said he was surprised and touched by the gesture.
“I didn’t expect it,” Meiz said. “It was very, very nice.”
Meiz said he learned about the Paris attacks through social media and immediately began to try to contact his friends and family in France with no luck.
“I tried to call my parents and no one was answering,” Meiz said.
Fortunately, he said, when he eventually got in touch with them, everyone he knew was alright.
Jobe Evans, a sophomore from Edinberg, Texas, is Meiz’s roommate. He said he’ll never forget the look of fear on his friend’s face when he discovered what happened back in his home country.
“We just want to show we support him,” Evans said.
I know a lot of people in that part of the world that I’m worried about. I want them to know that I support them and that it’s important for us not to surrender to this.
Evi Sipola, a Lindenwood University student from Tampere, Finland
Evi Sipola, a junior in biology from Tampere, Finland, said she was also worried for friends back in Europe when the news of the terror attacks broke.
“I know a lot of people in that part of the world that I’m worried about,” Sipola said. “I want them to know that I support them and that it’s important for us not to surrender to this.”
Dean of Students Angela Wingo-Rust told the assembled group after a prayer in both English and French and before a moment of silence that its important for students from around the world to know that their classmates and the staff at Lindenwood-Belleville is here for them.
“We need to be supporting them and we need to be uplifting them,” Wingo-Rust said.