- (Graphic: Sojourners)
An evangelical social-justice-focused organization has expanded its billboard campaign stressing religious tolerance in response to a recent arson attack on an Ohio mosque.
The Washington, DC-based Sojourners will post several billboards within the next seven to ten days which will read "Love Your Muslim Neighbors."
The billboards will be located off of I-75 near the I-75/I-475 interchange, which is near the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, which was recently the target of an arson attack.
Timothy King, Chief Communications Officer for Sojourners, told The Christian Post that a major focus of the billboard campaign is to note that religious tolerance is "part of a faithful Christian witness."
"Even when we don't believe the same things as our neighbors, we can still live in peace with them and show them the love of Christ," said King.
"It's only an extremist fringe that would ever attack another religions place of worship in this country. But, unless offer up an alternative voice, it will be the message and acts of extremists that most across the country and the world hear."
On September 30, a fire hit the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo. It caused smoke and water damage to a prayer room. Police later ruled the fire an act of arson. According to the Associated Press, investigators believe that an Indiana man started the fire.
Asma Uddin, Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told The Christian Post that Sojourner's billboard campaign was a "brave step."
"Hatred and intolerance, when it takes on violent form such as these arson attacks, can be countered in numerous ways. One way is through enforcement of criminal laws," said Uddin.
"The other, longer-term, solution that should complement criminal enforcement is to spread values of community, and the billboard campaign is a critical component of that solution. I think it's a brave step in today's climate, and one that should be emulated by many."
According to Uddin, there has been "a definite increase in the number of hate crimes" against Muslim and Sikh Americans.
"There has been a definite increase in the number of hate crimes perpetrated against these communities. In fact, between 2010-2011, the number of such attacks on Muslims have tripled," said Uddin.
"And this year in particular, we've seen extreme incidents, such as arson at the construction site of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, arson that burned down the Joplin, Missouri mosque, and this most recent arson attack in Toledo."
King of Sojourners told CP that billboards of a similar nature have been posted near other places of recent religious intolerance, such as Joplin, Mo. and Oak Creek, Wis.
"Sojourners is in contact the leaders of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo and local Christian leaders as new details about the situation arise," said King.