CAIRO – Reaching out to Joplin community, leaders of a Missouri Muslim Islamic center are planning a series of cultural nights to continue interfaith dialogue launched after the destruction of their mosque in fire a few months ago.
“The Islamic Society of Joplin received so much support from the community,” Kimberly Kester, a member of the Islamic Society of Joplin, told Joplin Globe.
“We want to share with others in an effort to foster a better understanding of Islam.”
Last August, an arson attack burnt a Joplin mosque in southeast Missouri to the ground.
The mosque’s roof was previously destroyed in a similar arson attack on July 4.
No injuries were reported in the attack, but the building of the Islamic Society of Joplin was a total loss after the blaze.
Working on the reconstruction of the mosque, the Muslim community said it was urgent to reach out to the wider Joplin community to continue a dialogue with community members.
Cultural nights were arranged to answer questions about Islam, dispel myths and promote interfaith relations.
In the next cultural night, planned at 6:30 pm Friday, Kester will give the presentation on an introduction to Islam in which food will be served.
Working as a staff member at Missouri Southern State University, Kester said her lecture about the foundations and fundamentals of Islam was given earlier to students and staff members at the university.
The cultural nights will be at 6:30 p.m. on the second Friday of the month.
The first cultural night last month by Imam Lahmuddin focused on Muslim customs and practices for the dead.
The April 12 cultural night will include a presentation on hajj, pilgrimage to Makkah required of Muslims.
Nusrath Mansoor, a high school student who did a project for National History Day on the topic, will make the presentation.
The cultural nights were seen as an opportunity to reach a common ground between different faiths in Missouri.
“We also want to learn about other religions,” Kester said.
“We want to keep the interfaith dialogue open.”
She added that members of the mosque have been inspired by the community’s response after the mosque was destroyed and after the May 2011 tornado.
The community dialogue started after the fire when interfaith leaders supported their Muslim neighbors, extending their hands to the new mosque.
Supported by the interfaith community, the Islamic Society of Joplin received financial backing from across the country.
An online fundraiser for a new building has raised more than $400,000, surpassing the $250,000 goal.
However, when it comes to solid procedures for the mosque construction, there is no timeline for construction yet, and no structural plans.
Another challenge is setting the location for the new mosque.
Local Muslims also were inspired by the recent visit by Jewish and Muslim students from New York to volunteer to rebuild houses destroyed in the tornado, Kester added.
Grouping under the banner “Rebuild Joplin”, volunteers from ICNA Relief worked with the Jewish Disaster Relief Corps (JDRC); and Bridges, a Muslim-Jewish interfaith dialogue composed of New York University students last January.
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