Churches in Joplin rally around Muslims after fire

Just as the people of Joplin, Missouri, came together after a 2010 tornado ripped through their community, the town’s congregrations have rallied around the Islamic Society of Joplin after their mosque was burned to the ground by an arsonist.

The Washington Post tells the story:

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.

For now, one mosque member has opened up his home for prayers and gatherings. There are about 40 families in the Muslim community, but not everyone comes for all the prayers. The most crowded time is Fridays, when about 30 or 40 people gather.

There’s no timeline for construction yet, and no structural plans. The basic need is a worship space, but the old building also had areas for teaching and social activities.

“It is the center for everything,” said Imam Lahmuddin, the mosque’s imam.

When the time does come to rebuild, the Islamic Society of Joplin will have financial backing from across the country. An online fundraiser for a new building has raised more than $400,000, surpassing the $250,000 goal.

Where the new mosque will be built remains a question. Some members think the new mosque should be at the same site — along a quite road outside the city limits. Others think it should be built somewhere else, closer to the heart of the city. Safety is among the considerations.

The fire risked undoing the sense of community that grew in the aftermath of the 2010 tornado:

Mark Statler, a pastor at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin, said the fire came as a blow to the city — especially after the way the community rallied together in the aftermath of the 2010 tornado.

“It kind of shattered this illusion that we were this strong, unified, all-on-the-same page-kind of community,” he said.

Although the fire itself shattered what Statler called the “we are Joplin” mentality, the response has reinforced the sense of community….

Christian churches band together to offer support:

Statler’s congregation members wrote encouraging notes and delivered a basket of cards to the Islamic community. Another congregation, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, hosted an interfaith meal. When Ramadan ended, about 300 people from five different churches gathered with the Muslim community at a hotel convention center to celebrate.

A group of religious leaders signed a full-page advertisement of support in The Joplin Globe, the local newspaper.

Jill Michael, a pastor at South Joplin Christian Church, said many of the Christian leaders involved in the advertisement have divisive doctrinal differences, yet they came together for the Islamic community.

Some churches posted the words “love thy neighbor” on their signs. Sojourners, a national Christian social justice organization, threw in its support with an electronic billboard message: “Love your Muslim neighbors.”

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