About 200 people from a cross-section of faiths gathered at a rally Dec. 5 at the First Christian Church in Seven Corners and marched along Route 7 to the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center to show solidarity in the wake of terrorism, counter hate against the Muslim community, and express compassion for the refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
“We are blessed to have a robust faith response, a response of good well,” Imam Johari Abdul-Malik told the crowd. “No matter what others may say, there is great power in our unity.”
|Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of Dar Al-Hijrah thanks the crowd for their support.|
“We are going to stand together,” he said. There hasn’t been one prophet, or guide, or messenger from any of the world’s religions “that didn’t extend a greeting of peace.”
The crowd included representatives from about 30 congregations – Muslim, Presbyterian, Jewish, Episcopalian, Unitarian, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, and others.
The event was organized by VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) so “our brothers and sisters at the mosque can see that we’re here with them and they are not alone,” said VOICE Executive Director Alisa Glassman.
“We believe in the theology of love. It is stronger than the theology of fear,” Glassman said. “Today is a reminder of who we are and who our better selves are.”
“We are going to scare people who believe division and polarization is the answer,” said Rev. Kathleen Moore of First Christian Church. “We will scare them with love. We love our neighbors.”
“We welcome refugees. Jesus was a refugee. Our whole country was founded by refugees,” Moore said.
|People representing many faiths march together along Leesburg Pike.|
“It’s important to be able to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters to show compassion to the refugees fleeing violence,” said Rebecca Messman, associate pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon.
“The Statue of Liberty has no statute of limitations,” Messman said. Jesus urged his followers to accept those who speak different languages and have different skin tones and different prayers, she said. “We dare to proclaim: Love drives out fear.”
Many of those who came to the rally brought blankets to be added to the huge amount of blankets and coats donated by Dar Al-Hijrah members for refugee camps abroad. There were so many, in fact, the mosque had to order a second truck.
When asked why she came to the rally, Khaji Adbi, an immigrant from Ghana, said she wants people to know Muslims feel bad about terrorism, too. “We don’t want to hurt anybody. We are not them.”
Thoraia Husein, a native of Sudan who joined the march with her six children, said “all of us came as immigrants or refugees. It’s sad to see the country we love turn its back on suffering.”
Carol Pine, of a Unitarian Universalist church said participating in the rally “is a way to witness our faith,“ and Geoffrey Megargee of Arlington, who said he’s not religious and not a church member, said he came because, “I felt it was time to get off Facebook and do something more concrete.” Tanice Francis of Alexandria, who brought 10 blankets, said many people had helped her in the past, so she wanted to help others.
When asked about the hate crime at the mosque Nov. 19 – someone threw a Molotov cocktail and two smoke bombs onto the parking lot – c said the man arrested “is also a victim.” He was motivated by anger and frustration, has mental health issues, and was “emotionally acting out,” he said, but was not part of a hate group and is not dangerous.
According to a news report on WTOP, local elected leaders gathered for a prayer service at Dar Al-Hiajrah Dec. 4 to show support for the mosque and condemn hate crimes against Muslims.
Abdul-Malik said area imams plan to get together to work on a long-term strategy to build community. VOICE is also hosting additional interfaith gatherings throughout the region along with PATH (People Acting Together in Howard anx metro affiliates of the Industrial Areas Foundation.