Haas addresses campus community following New Zealand mosque shootings

Nick Moran

Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas sent out a campus-wide statement via email responding to the mass shooting in New Zealand March 15. Haas sent his thoughts and prayers to those affected and offered on-campus support to students.

In a statement on the Division of Inclusion and Equity’s website, the university condemned the shooting, stating that it will “unapologetically educate to interrupt intolerance.”

“Grand Valley State University recognizes the responsibility we have to speak out against efforts that attempt to divide or target people based on identity,” Haas said in the statement. “We condemn these acts as reprehensible and contrary to the values of our campus and our country. Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiments have no place in society.”

Both messages expressed sympathy toward GVSU’s Muslim community. Haas said in his email that he personally reached out to Muslim Student Association leaders.

GVSU’s Kaufman Interfaith Institute also released a statement on the attack, offering love and support for the international Muslim community. It noted that those killed were attending weekly Friday Jum’ah prayers, a congregational prayer. 

“This heinous act of terrorism, though occurring overseas, affects Muslims all around the world and certainly our beloved neighbors in west Michigan,” KII’s statement read. “As we stand together and resist such hatred, may we continuously strive for safety and peace so that our community and world would be a place where everyone’s life is valued and respected.”

The shooting that prompted the email was an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 people. Police detained the gunman and three other suspects within 36 minutes of the attack, with one suspect already convicted of murder.

The terrorist attack came as a shock to many New Zealanders, who consider their country one of the safest in the world. According to Newshub, New Zealand declared a 40-year low in murders after releasing 2017 figures. At 48 murders that year, the number was lower than the 50 people killed in the Christchurch shooting. 

The terrorist attack sparked promises from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reform gun laws, who banned semiautomatic weapons the weekend following the attack.

For students in need of support following the events, Haas offered the Division of Inclusion and Equity, Campus Interfaith Resources and the University Counseling Center as resources. Interfaith Services Coordinator Kevin McIntosh is available to connect students with support or resources as well.