Neighbors Being Neighbors after Joplin Mosque Destroyed by Fire, a Look Back

2711889859_effc34339e_mA year ago, on August 7, a mosque in Joplin, MO, was burned to the ground in an early-morning fire. The cause of the fire has not been determined but was deemed “suspicious,” especially since an arsonist had started a fire on the roof barely over a month earlier, and a sign at the mosque had been set on fire in 2008.

The destruction of the mosque, which made international news, was followed a few weeks later by a “Neighbors” rally, organized by Ashley Carter, a student at Joplin’s Ozark Christian College. As she wrote on the event’s Facebook page, the purpose of the rally was to

show that love is stronger than fear or hatred. In an effort to support our neighbors, we’ve created this event. . . . All in all, this is about paying it forward: giving love before hate crimes can be committed.

On August 6 of this year, the Islamic Society of Joplin posted a documentary on YouTube, focusing on the fire and the rally. It was very interesting to me to watch the video for several reasons: I live in Joplin and attended the event, I know several of the OCC students who helped with the rally, and I know Kimberly Kester, spokeswoman for the Islamic Society, who appears in the documentary. The film also shows local Muslims responding to the tornado that struck Joplin the year before the fire. As a Christian, I have heard many people talk about that tragedy from a Christian point of view, but this was the first time I’d heard someone speak about it from a Muslim worldview.

Rick Love, a Christian and president of Peace Catalysts International, was one of the speakers at the rally. He told the hundreds who attended,

This gathering does not mean we believe in some kind of imaginary One World Religion. We are not expecting or affirming theological compromise. We are expecting each religious community to be authentically faithful to their historic beliefs and find within those beliefs the resources to reach out to one another in love and respect. . . . We believe that our communities of faith should be a force for peace, justice, and reconciliation instead of discord and strife.

Many of the participants in the rally wore t-shirts that read on the front “LOVE—Making things beautiful from things that aren’t.” On the back, they said, “I will . . . ,” with space for each person to complete the phrase with a black marker. I can’t help but be reminded of the topic of my previous post, with its own fill-in-the-blank: “I like ____________.®”

I like good neighbors.

(Rick Love, “Hate Crime Meets Love Rally: The Joplin Mosque Burning,” Peace Catalyst International, August 27, 20012)

[photo: “Row House,” by David Sawyer, used under a Creative Commons license]