In early August, a mosque in Joplin, Mo., burned to the ground. It was the second fire that damaged the facility this summer — the first, determined to be arson. In light of this attack and others like it across the country — including the heinous shooting at a Sikh gurudwara outside of Milwaukee that killed six worshippers — Sojourners called on our community to help us get the word out that we are called to love our neighbors. All of them.
The response was overwhelming. As a result of generous contributions, Sojourners not only took out an ad in The Joplin Globe, but also erected billboards with the same message, both in Joplin and in Oak Creek, Wis., three blocks from the Sikh gurudwara.
The message is simple. "Love your Muslim neighbors." "Love your Sikh neighbors."
It's not radical in language, but it is a radical love that Jesus extends to us and asks us to show others.
“It is amazing that loving our neighbor is such a radical statement, as it is foundational to the teachings of Jesus," said Rev. Steve Jerbi, pastor of All Peoples Church, which has been actively involved in responding to the shooting at the gurdwara. "Yet, the walls of division, fear, and even just knowing our neighbors is too often our reality. This statement reminds us, in light of both tragedy and in everyday life, that we are called to love our neighbors. This is a chance for Christians to continue to express not just our sympathy, but our love for sisters and brothers in the Sikh community.”
Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO and secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, said he is hopeful the billboards send a strong message to people of other faiths.
“Let there be no doubt: as Christians, we want to live in peace with Muslims, Sikhs, and with all men and women in this world. This is intrinsic to our religion and is essential to stories from the life of Jesus and in his teachings," Tunnicliffe said. “We want these billboards to communicate solidarity against violence and the desire to live peacefully with one another, regardless of faith tradition.”
In light of other recent attacks against Muslim institutions in the Chicago metro — an acid attack outside a Muslim college preparatory school in Lombard, Ill., and an air rifle shooting outside a mosque in Morton Grove, Ill. — Sojourners intends to raise additional funds to spread the message to these communities.
The billboards pictured are located at the intersection of College Avenue and 13th Street in Oak Creek, and at the intersection of West 7th Street and South Schifferdecker Avenue in Joplin.
To add your voice to the thousands calling on peace and civility toward people of all faiths, donate HERE so Sojourners can extend the message.