When the mosque in Joplin, Mo., on the outskirts of town burned to the ground on Aug. 6, the imam’s 4-year-old son knew what to do.
He wanted to build another.
After all, that’s what his family had done with their home after it was destroyed by the tornado that tore through the town a little more than a year earlier.
The imam's family has a new home, but the wait for a new mosque is going to take a while.
A little more than a month after the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque was destroyed by fire, the local Muslim community is moving forward with support from the interfaith community.
But progress is slow.
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.
Following attacks on seven U.S. mosques in the last two weeks, including three attacks last weekend, many Muslim Americans are approaching the end of Ramadan on Aug. 19 under a cloud of fear as Muslim groups try to increase security without spurring panic.
According to reports, vandals shot paintballs at the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City on Aug. 12, and in Lombard, Ill., someone threw a bottle filled with acid at an Islamic school while 500 people prayed inside. The night before, a neighbor fired an air rifle at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove, Ill., while on Aug. 7, two women were videotaped throwing pig legs on a proposed mosque site in Ontario, Calif.
The first violence happened on May 22, 2011 when a tornado killed 158 people, injured 1,000 more, and wiped out more than 25 percent of your town. That was nature's violence.
A human form of violence began 14 months later, with two attempts in 2012 to burn down the mosque of the Islamic Society of Joplin. The first attempt, which took place on America's 236th Birthday, July 4th, only burned part of the roof. The second attempt on Hiroshima Day, August 6th, was successful in totally destroying the mosque.
You are not alone. Around the country, other forms of violence have occurred this year — daily, weekly, monthly:
- Chicago's daily shootings have led to more than 300 gunshot homicides so far this year. (1/3 happened this summer.)
- The July mass shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., killed or wounded 70 people.
- The August shooting in a Sikh Temple by a neo-Nazi in Oak Creek, Wis., killed or wounded 10 people.
What can I say to the good folks of Joplin?
A group of faith leaders Thursday exhorted Americans to do more than pray for better times.
Representing seven different faith traditions, many advocated a period of public mourning after a week that saw a shooting rampage at a Sikh temple and a suspicious fire at a Missouri mosque.
"It is my hope that this is more than a time to express personal sorrows," said Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"Our most concrete rejection of violence occurs when we engage the neighbor, the neighbor who is new in our community, the neighbor who worships differently than we," he said.
A Joplin, Mo., mosque has again been the target of a "suspicious" fire, according to the Joplin Globe. The Islamic Society of Joplin reported on Monday the second fire this summer — this one engulfing the entire building.
The mosque's Imam said the blaze will not keep worshippers from their prayers. From the reports:
“This should not stop us from serving God,” said Imam Lahmuddin, the mosque’s religious leader. “We still have to fulfill our obligation. We will do our prayer in other places. If we don’t find a place, we will do our prayers in our home. We cannot miss any of the five prayers.”
A few weeks ago, we asked you to sign a petition asking the Department of Justice to investigate hate crimes against the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque. Federal officials are offering $15,000 for information leading to the man who set the mosque on fire July 4th.
Beau Underwood wrote for Sojourners two weeks ago: “The biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christians to speak out against these attacks. By protecting the rights of American Muslims to worship in the United States, we provide a powerful witness to those countries where Christian minorities face attack and persecution, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, and Kenya. If we expect others to take our advocacy for global religious freedom seriously, then our efforts must begin in our own backyard.”
More than 5,500 of you signed this petition, which is incredible! But we don’t have to stop there.