Office of the President
November 28, 2023

Remarks for Nov. 27, 2023 vigil of peace and healing

From the President

*Remarks as prepared for delivery

The news we received on Sunday morning was heart-rending: that three Palestinian college students, including one from Brown, had been shot in an irrational and hateful act of violence.

Thankfully, we learned since them that Hisham and his friends—high-school classmates Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed—will survive.

I heard from Vice President of Campus Life Eric Estes, who traveled yesterday with Professor Beshara Doumani to Burlington, that Hisham wants nothing more than to get back to campus and do the normal things that college students do: attend classes, finish his junior year. The things he should by rights be doing this week.

Our collective responsibility in the coming weeks and months is to be there for Hisham and his family. I know that they will receive care and love from Hisham’s friends and professors, from staff in the College and Campus Life, and from our medical experts to the extent that that’s needed or helpful.

Hisham’s family is our family, and we will do all we can to support them as he recovers and comes back to Brown.

Right now, as we wait to learn more from Hisham and his family about how we can help, one of the most meaningful things we can do is pray for his full recovery.

Many of you may know that Hisham and his friends attended Ramallah Friends, a Quaker School in the West Bank. So silent prayer—which is practiced by the Quakers—seems especially appropriate right now. I would like to ask you to join me in a few minutes of silent prayer and reflection for Hisham, his family, and his friends.

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I want to leave you with my own hopes for this community.

We can’t disentangle what happened to Hisham from the broader events in Israel and Palestine that we’ve been dealing with for decades. The drumbeat of news since that horrible day in early October has been an incredible burden to bear: learning about the suffering and deaths of so many Palestinian civilians, many of them children, following on the heels of horrific deaths and kidnappings of civilians in Israel. No one in the region has been left unscarred.

And here, in this country, and even on this campus, we have seen an increase in hate against Palestinians, Muslims, Israelis and Jews.

Although we don’t know the details yet, it is horrific that the mere fact that Hisham and his friends were being proud Palestinians—wearing keffiyehs and speaking in Arabic—that may have prompted the shooting.

Sadly, we can’t control what happens around the world and across the country. But there is so much we are doing and will continue to do, to make sure that this community—the Brown community—is a place where everyone is safe and supported to be their full and best selves.

At a faculty meeting last month, I said that “Every student, faculty and staff member should be able to proudly wear a Star of David or don a keffiyeh on the Brown campus, or to cover their head with a hijab or yarmulke.”

If people on this campus can’t appreciate differences in the backgrounds and viewpoints of others, then where?

If people on this campus can’t treat each other with kindness and understanding then where?

Brown is a strong and loving community, but even strong and loving communities can be tested. During this difficult time, let’s find it in our hearts to be our full and best selves, for our own sakes and for the sake of our friends and colleagues at Brown.

And, of course, to be there for Hisham when he returns to campus.