Anglicans rally around Peterborough Muslims

Shazim Khan, the imam of the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, says the arson was an
Shazim Khan, the imam of the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque, says the arson was an "isolated incident," adding, "this will not change our perception of this community, which is peaceful, loving and welcoming." Photo: Screen capture/CBC News

Anglican churches have joined the broader Peterborough, Ont., community in an outpouring of support and generosity for the members of the city’s only mosque, the Masjid Al-Salaam, which was torched by arson in a probable hate crime late in the evening of November 14.

The clericus of the regional deanery of Peterborough donated an initial $250 and called on all deanery parishes to match this amount, which should bring in several thousand dollars, according to Dean Gloria Master. “We received a message from Bishop Linda Nicholls saying, ‘Do what you can in reaching out.’ Almost all of our congregations have offered matching funds.”

The response has been overwhelming—”almost like a runaway train,” she added.

All Saints’ and St. Luke’s Anglican parishes offered to provide the mosque’s members with worship, meeting and educational facilities. “A couple of other Anglican churches also offered space, but All Saints’ is more centrally located,” said Master.

It is possible that we may use the All Saints’ space offer once we know our space needs,” said Dr. Kenzu Abdella, president of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association (KMRA) and chair of Trent University’s department of mathematics.

According to the Peterborough Examiner, Abdella is also meeting with the president of Beth Israel Jewish congregation to discuss sharing its synagogue until the mosque repairs are completed. The mosque purchased the former Christian church in 2001.

“The community has responded very admirably to declare its opposition to this act,” said Nicholls, area bishop for Trent-Durham and suffragan bishop of Toronto. She drove to Peterborough and personally delivered a letter of support and condolence to the mosque.

Apart from any deanery-matched funds forwarded through congregations, St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church is serving as a receiving centre for donations from individuals wishing to help restore the heavily smoke-damaged mosque at an estimated cost of $80,000-$100,000. “Some of the envelopes are sealed, but the open donations amount to about $2,000 so far,” said Archdeacon Bradley Smith, the new rector at St. John’s.

According to the Peterborough Examiner, as of the evening of November 16, the restoration fund, which was rapidly amplified by online crowd funding via the FundRazr site, was halted at the KMRA’s request, as it had already topped the target amount with donations of $110, 548 raised in 30 hours. The KMRA said it will donate any excess money after repairs to charity.

“The reaction from the community has been outstanding,” said the Rev. Glenn Empey, an Anglican priest and director of spiritual affairs at Trent University, which has a very active Islamic students’ organization. “We are mobilizing all possible resources to help our Muslim students deal with this.”

On Twitter, the Peterborough mosque tweeted this comment: “There are no words to describe how amazing[ly] our community has represented itself as a giving, loving, peaceful and supportive community.”

Diana Swift
Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.


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