Many people in the crowd proudly displayed Palestinian flags while commemorating those who have been killed in the latest Israel-Hamas war. (William Ping/CBC News)
Around 350 people gathered at the Colonial Building in St. John's on Sunday for a candlelight vigil commemorating the more than 11,000 Palestinians killed since the beginning of the latest Israel-Hamas war last month.
"We're really, really, really upset about this, we want ceasefire now," said Sobia Shaikh, a member of the St. John's Palestine Action Committee.
"We wanted to really highlight the horrific loss of life and our horrific amount of grieving."
The vigil included prayers from Muslim, Jewish and Christian representatives, as well as a reading of names of healthcare workers who have been killed in Gaza. Dozens of candles were lit and teddy bears were placed on the steps of the Colonial Building to commemorate the children who have been killed.
Sobia Shaikh, a member of the St. John’s Palestine Action Committee, addresses the crowd at the vigil. (William Ping/CBC News)
"It was a meaningful event for, I think, everybody," said Shaikh.
At the centre of the vigil was a large sign, listing the names of 10,000 Palestinians who have been killed.
"It spans the whole Colonial Building stairs and every single person was lost this last month," said Shaikh. "This particular assault has been happening for 35 days."
At least 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, including 4,500 children, in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct. 7, the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza said in a statement on Friday. The ongoing war began when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing more than 1,200 people and taking about 240 people hostage.
Attendees of the vigil took some time to look at the names of 10,000 Palestinians who have been killed since Oct. 7th. (William Ping/ CBC News)
Though Sunday's vigil offered a place for quiet mourning, the St. John's Palestine Action Committee remains focused on stopping the violence.
"We are calling on our ministers, provincial and federal, but especially federal, to call for a ceasefire right now," said Shaikh, calling on MPs Seamus O'Regan and Gudie Hutchings.
"Mr. O'Regan has said nothing on the issue of Palestine and we're very concerned that that does not reflect the thousands of people who've been coming out to these rallies."
John Harris, the executive director of external affairs at Memorial University's Students Union, attended the event. He said it was important to ensure Palestinian students feel recognized during this time.
"We have a lot of Palestinian students at MUN and to see people whose families are being killed, who are fleeing, who are facing violence, I think it is just really heartbreaking," Harris said.
"Folks from across the city came together to remember those lives lost," Harris said. "We're just taking the time to send our prayers to those who are affected, especially here in the community."
Though the vigil represented a time for mourning, many took the opportunity to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. (William Ping/CBC News)
Harris echoed the calls for government officials to advocate for a ceasefire.
"We have a duty to protect those who are the most vulnerable in this world," Harris said. "Right now our government is refusing to call for a ceasefire, which is the one thing that can help save lives right now."
"We want humanitarian aid to be able to reach Gaza because it is some of the worst humanitarian conditions that has ever been seen. And we need action now from our government."
Sobia Shaikh, left, and John Harris. Harris says recent weeks have been a harrowing experience for the Palestinian students at MUN. (William Ping/CBC News)
Shaikh shared a similar sentiment.
"We want people to be talking about this," Shaikh said.
"We are privileged here. We've got to push back on our governments who have been fairly silent on this matter."