By Roger McKinney
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Speakers, music and fellowship are planned for the Neighbors — Joplin Mosque Rally from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday in Landreth Park.
More than 700 Facebook users had indicated on the event’s Facebook page on Thursday that they would attend. The event is free.
The rally was planned in response to the Aug. 6 fire that destroyed the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque. About 50 families were part of the mosque. Ashley Carter, a student at Ozark Christian College, organized the rally.
“I feel really good about it,” Carter said of the plans. “I’m excited to see who all is going to come.”
She said volunteers for the rally are “a lot of awesome people,” including international students from Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg (Kan.) State University.
“The rally is going to be a statement that we won’t let fear or anger stand in the way of the love we have for our neighbors,” Carter said.
Officials with the FBI say they haven’t determined the cause of the Aug. 6 fire, and they’re continuing to investigate. A July 4 fire that damaged the mosque has been ruled an arson. A surveillance video shows a man lighting a package and throwing it onto the roof of the building.
Scheduled speakers at the rally include Hina Qidwai, with the mosque; local Starbucks manager Sara Berry; and Rick Love, president of Peace Catalyst International.
Love said in a phone interview that his Arizona-based organization’s mission is to be an evangelical peacemaker.
“We’re trying to model and demonstrate a model for peacemaking for evangelicals,” Love said. “We are committed to multidimensional reconciliation.”
He said that includes establishing relationships between Christians and Muslims through things as simple as having a meal together.
“We’re always thinking of creative ways to get people together,” he said.
Love said many evangelical Christians fear reaching out to Muslims, but that they should not.
“The rally is a beautiful example of what it means to love your religious neighbors,” Love said. “We’re seeking to be faithful to Jesus. I’m showing up to say to Muslims there, ‘You do have neighbors.’”
Love said all the positive responses to the mosque fire are encouraging, but that it’s sad that something negative had to happen to evoke the response.
“The Bible says we need to weep with those who weep,” he said. “We’re to hate evil and overcome evil with good.”
Love said he would have another message at the rally.
“I want to speak as an American, speak out against the poison of prejudice and stand up for the Constitution,” he said.
Performers at the rally will include Adam Francis, Kaitlin Curtice, Eine Blume and Kufara.
Carter said The Kominas, a New York City band, won’t perform at the rally as originally planned. Members couldn’t scrape together money for airfare.
Other activities at the rally will include writing messages on a banner for the members of the mosque, donating to the mosque and creating art with Art Feeds.
The Islamic Circle of North America has donated 500 backpacks with school supplies for those attending the rally.
THOSE ATTENDING are asked to provide a blanket or lawn chairs and are welcome to bring a picnic meal.