Pelham Road Baptist Church | Greenville, SC

A little Good News

A little Good News

We can all use a little good news. In our country, we are free to practice our faith. ALL people are free to practice their faith, even those who adhere to no faith. While there are some among us who fear and hate people of other faiths, there are more that respect and love and I want to share one such story tonight.

After a mosque in the small town of Victoria, Texas, burned to the ground last February, the local Jewish and Christian communities came together to help those affected.

Members of the B’Nai Israel temple gave the keys to their synagogue to the Muslim community so they would have a place to worship, according to USA Today. Four churches in town also offered space for the Muslim congregation to hold services, according to NPR.

“Jewish community members walked into my home and gave me a key to the synagogue,” Dr. Shahid Hashmi, a co-founder of the Victoria Islamic Center.

“We were very happy to do this,” Melvin Lack, treasurer of Congregation B’Nai Israel told USA Today. “You feel what’s happening in the community, and everyone reacts.”

The fire occurred a few weeks ago in January. All authorities can say is it was arson, no suspects have been found.

Children from the local Catholic school in Victoria also visited the mosque on Wednesday, forming what the Islamic Center called a “human chain of love and peace,” according to a Facebook post. The students also presented the Muslim community with a tree.

“The tree will be planted in the grounds of our new mosque & prominently displayed to remind us of this beautiful moment,” the post reads. “This is the spirit of love where the cross hugs the crescent.”

Also, the Islamic Center also received financial support: a GoFundMe page has raised more than $1 million for reconstruction, according to USA Today.

Then there was this. Moments after word got out about the vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in University City, a wide array of religious organizations offered their support.

Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation said she believes the vandalism at the cemetery and bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers across the country are part of a new wave of anti-Semitism.

She said regardless of the motivation. Recent events make Jewish people feel threatened and vulnerable.

In the moments after learning of the vandalism, Talve said she got calls and texts from priests and African American church pastors.

But she said another group that’s also feeling isolated and targeted is standing alongside the St. Louis Jewish community. Talve said local and national Muslim American groups are partnering to raise money for the cemetery.

In just three hours Tuesday, the Muslim’s Launch Good page raised more than $25,000.

Talve said its proof love is stronger than hate.

“The story is not the desecration,” said Talve. “We can fix that and we will, and we’ll make it better than ever. The story here is the story of all of the people who have come forward to say no to hate, people who know what hate is themselves and have come in solidarity to stand with the Jewish community.”

Talve said Friday night her congregation will honor those whose headstones were vandalized by reading all of their names during their regular Shabbat service. (Primary source, KSDK Channel 5 St Louis)

Two stories. Two stories of some who hate. Two stories about more who love. Minorities are under attack but so are love and goodwill. Our greatest weapon to fight back is, as the Apostle Paul wrote, love.

Our nation has a strong aroma of Christianity. There are many who think its influence is fading, and while we recognize that Judaism and Islam both teach and practice charity, the influence of Christianity can be smelled. The example of charity the Church has modeled, the example of investing in the community, and the practice of loving our neighbors makes a difference. Christian influence is not fading, when I see forgiveness and charity, human chains of peace and words of welcome I see our faith being practiced and preached.

Hopefully, we will never face this in our community, but if we do, you should know we will be the first in line to help, to do what is necessary to send the message that we are “Bethel,” the house of God, to whatever group needs the message of God’s love.