CAIRO - Irritated by the Islamophobic atmosphere that marred a city council session on the building of a new mosque in Minnesota, three churches plan an interfaith event on Sunday, July 8, to show solidarity with Muslims in the area.
"I thought it was unfortunate there weren't Christians speaking on behalf of the Muslim community, showing their support and solidarity," Elsa Marty, the daughter of state Sen. John Marty and one of the organizers, told the Star Tribune on Thursday, July 5.
Three churches in St. Anthony in Minnesota plan the inter-faith event to show support for the Muslim community in the city.
The event, organized by members of Nativity Lutheran Church, Faith United Methodist Church and St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, aims to show that not all citizens in St. Anthony are against Muslims.
"We want to make sure that's not the reality here, that we are hospitable to our neighbors of other faiths," said Marty, who attends Nativity Church.
Last month, St. Anthony city center rejected plans to locate the proposed Abu-Huraira Islamic Center in the basement of the former Medtronic headquarters.
City council officials argue that the Muslim plans were rejected for maintaining the business nature of the area.
The council's session saw residents criticizing Islam, describing the faith as evil.
Muslim leaders are considering a court challenge against the city council's decision.
"They have high hopes for that meeting," Sadik Warfa, a spokesman for Muslim leaders proposing the center, said.
"We have every right to worship. It comes down to religious liberty. We are here to stay, we are part of the society. We are growing, and we need a center, too."
Mosques have been facing fierce opposition across the United States recently.
At least 35 mosque projects from Mississippi to Wisconsin have found foes who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Even more, some mosques were vandalized including a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case for which a $5,000 reward is being offered.
Organizers say the event will focus on promoting understanding between followers of the two faiths.
"I think we're called to have understanding and respect for each other's faiths," the Rev. Leigh Brown, pastor at Faith United Methodist and a speaker of the event, said.
"I think we worship the same God, even though we have different paths to that God.
Two Christian and two Muslim leaders are scheduled to speak about religious understanding at the event.
Attendees will also break up in smaller groups to talk about their beliefs.
They [Christianity, Judaism and Islam] have a common root. They have common ideas and interests, with regard to the values they stand for," said Brown.
The church gesture won plaudits from Muslim leaders.
"IRG in the past 10 years has reached out to over 100,000 Minnesotans in a face-to-face setting, said Zafar Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Resource Group (IRG), a Muslim advocacy group that has given presentations about Islam to nearly 2,700 churches, businesses and other groups across Minnesota.And I can say with absolute confidence that in each of these 3,000-plus interactions, we have come away with a feeling of having built that human connection and friendship."