Three young scholars (age 20) were shot in Burlington, Vermont last weekend. This tragic event will most likely go down as a hate crime because they were wearing the traditional Palestinian scarves called a kaffiyeh and talking Arabic mixed with English. People will call it a hate crime and either dismiss it or rise in anger. Neither action will excuse the horrific act or explain it.

Tahseen Aliahmad, a student at Trinity College in Connecticut; Kinnen Abdalhamid, a student at Haverford College in Pennsylvania; and Hisham Awartani, a student at Brown University in Rhode Island, were out for a walk after celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with relatives and attending a birthday party for a 6-year-old when a man stepped off his porch, raised his gun and shot them point blank without saying a word.

Jason Easton (age 48) has since then been arrested and charged with three counts of second-degree attempted murder. His motive is being investigated, but to most of the readers it will appear to be clearly an act of hate, no matter what comes out of the investigation.

The lives of these young men have been changed forever.  Hisham was struck in his spine and may never be able to fully recover and walk. Tahseen’s bullet lodged in his chest and his recovery will be long. Kinnan almost managed to escape before he was hit from behind, only realizing that he’d been shot when he limped over a fence to safety. It is unknown if they will ever be able to overcome the emotional or physical trauma to return to their respective schools where they have promising careers as top students.

Seen in the bigger picture of what is going on across the ocean, this is symbolic of the divisiveness that is caused when there is no recognition of the human interdependence that needs to be planted in the hearts of people. Until the world accepts the fact that we need to get along in order to survive; hate, war, poverty and other ills that divide us will continue to get worse. The only recourse for us is to embrace our differences and create a united front against those elements of life that separate us.

Losing the potential of these young men would be a further tragedy. There can be no doubt that the significance is representative of the millions of lives and potentials that are lost across the world due to war, hunger, disease, and poverty. No matter how big or small, each person is born with the expectation that their life will benefit the world. When the promise of one individual is terminated, the world loses the added benefit that they can offer. When one soul is eliminated, we lose their potential contribution to making the world a better place for everyone.

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