Hate Crime Meets Love Rally: The Joplin Mosque Burning
by Rick Love
I joined hundreds of people last Saturday night (August 25) at Landreth Park in Joplin, Missouri to show solidarity with Muslims whose mosque was recently burned to the ground. The Neighbors Joplin Mosque Rally was organized by 20 year-old Ozark Christian College student Ashley Carter. “We send a message to the world that we will not let anger or hate or ignorance or fear win,” she said. “Peace starts when we always respond in love. We are not going to let hatred win,” she added. “We are going to spread love with radical acts of kindness.”
Muslims responded warmly to Ashley's words. Attendee Shafique Chowdhury, a member of the mosque, said, "This is a big event. It shows the power of love over the power of hatred." Asjad Khan, another Muslim, agreed, "It raises our spirits. This helps to heal" (quotes from Joplin Globe, by Roger McKinney).
I can imagine critics of this event. They would see this as only some kind of sentimental, feel-good moment. A compromise of truth. Nothing to do with Jesus or the gospel. All heart and no head.
Well, it was a touching, beautiful time. It does feel good when a diverse group of people gather together to show love to one another. And the Bible actually says a lot about love, emotions, and the heart. T-shirts printed for the rally said it well: "LOVE. Making things beautiful from things that aren't."
But this rally was not just a “kumbaya” event. Ashley made it clear that it was her love for Jesus that motivated her. As a follower of Jesus, she felt compelled to make this happen. And as I said to those at the rally, “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.”
Nor was this just a religious service. We gathered as Americans who love our country. The different speakers agreed that burning down a mosque is a denial of our constitution and an attack on the American way of life. Freedom of religion is a constitutional right, so we gathered to stand up for this fundamental right (For more on this see this post).
One more thing about the T-shirts: On the back of each shirt was printed the words, "I will ...." Rally participants were encouraged to finish the sentence. I will ... what? When our Muslim neighbors suffer, what will we do? When we Christians talk about love but justify our anger, what will we do? When the Bible tells us to be at peace with everyone but we prefer our prejudices, what will we do?
What Ashley willed to do was confront the Joplin mosque burning hate crime with a love rally. Together with hundreds of others, we willed our love to create something beautiful. Sounds a lot like Jesus was walking around Joplin that night.