- (Photo: St. Philip's Episcopal Church)
Churches in a Missouri City came together to help support and organize an iftar for the local Muslim community after a suspicious fire burned down their mosque.
Congregations in Joplin worked alongside the local Muslim community and the Council on American Islamic Relations to hold the iftar Wednesday evening at Saint Philip's Episcopal Church.
Father Frank Sierra, rector of St. Philip's, told The Christian Post in an interview that his church was asked by CAIR to host the event.
"The Council on American-Islamic Relations needed a place. They were going to come down in support of the Muslim community and they asked us," said Sierra. "We have worked with them before on interfaith events that we've had with them … It turned out that we, our parish house was best."
In addition to St. Philip's, other Joplin congregations involved in the iftar included South Joplin Christian Church, United Hebrew Congregation, First Community Church and Peace Lutheran Church.
While the fire has not yet been officially deemed an arson incident, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2008 the sign at Joplin's Islamic Society was set on fire by an unknown individual.
CAIR has recently offered a $10,000 reward for any information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the guilty party.
The mysterious fire at the Joplin mosque came not long after the deadly shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis.
"These disturbing incidents point to the urgent need for increased police protection for Muslim and Sikh houses of worship nationwide," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad.
"If left unchallenged, religious intolerance can and does harm innocent people."
Regarding how Joplin's faith communities would respond, Sierra explained to CP that an interfaith response to what happened was still in the works and that certain charitable venues had been established.
"At this point in time," said Sierra, "we are having a group of clergy and churches … we are working on a response that would be an official statement and then we are going to have a fundraiser" to benefit the Islamic Society of Joplin.
"At this point, we want to do some type of response, but we are trying to plan it to get as many people involved as possible and to be open to anyone who wants to participate."
An iftar is a meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during the month of Ramadan, wherein during the day they fast. In 2012, Ramadan began around July 20 and will conclude next week.