On April 1, three graduate students from the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health brought together students and faculty and staff members from across campus to honor the lives of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; her husband Mr. Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23; and her sister, Ms. Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.
The informal lunch offered an opportunity to remember the three Muslim students, who were killed in Chapel Hill on February 10. Mr. Barakat was a second-year graduate student at the UNC School of Dentistry, and his wife had been accepted to start studies there in the fall.
The lunch also provided a chance for members of the UNC community from assorted cultural backgrounds to meet and share a meal together.
“We organized the intercultural lunch to honor the lives of Deah, Yusor and Razan, who were murdered earlier in the year,” said Ms. Fadumo Abdi, one of the event organizers. “It was also done in the spirit of recognizing the diversity in the UNC community and the culture that binds and unites us all. We wanted to share the importance of these UNC values with everyone who was able to attend.”
Ms. Abdi is a graduate student in the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the Gillings School, as are co-organizers Ms. Rebeccah Bartlett and Dr. Dilshad Jaff.
Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean of the Gillings School, spoke during the lunch.
“This event is important for several reasons,” she said. “First, it is our School’s and our students’ recognition of the tragedy that occurred when three wonderful students were killed. But it also is an opportunity for fellowship and a time to articulate again how important it is that this School be a place of safety and comfort. We welcome all people here, whomever they are, wherever they come from, whatever their beliefs, color, religion or other personal qualities. Rather than dividing us, these differences can and do enrich our community.”
Dr. Jane Weintraub, dean of the UNC School of Dentistry, also spoke at the event, as did Dr. Jim Herrington, executive director of the Gillings Global Gateway.
“My professional career has been blessed with a richness beyond measure because of colleagues and friends from other cultures,” Dr. Herrington said. “I welcome future opportunities to celebrate the cultural richness embodied in the students in the School of Public Health.”
Dr. Peggy Bentley, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition and associate dean for global health at the Gillings School, offered some closing thoughts for the assembled group.
“The diverse set of students who organized this wonderful intercultural lunch discussion reflect the very best of our student body,” Dr. Bentley said. “They understand the importance of really getting to know others, listening to their stories and understanding the richness of cultural diversity and cultural humility. As is the usual case at the Gillings School, our students lead the way. We are extremely fortunate to have them on our campus and in our School.”