There was no fear last night at the Corvallis Salman al-Farisi Islamic center.
A drenching November rain fell as hundreds of townspeople sheltered their candles against the wind, standing with our Muslim neighbors as we took back the Mosque from those who had tried to destroy this sacred place.
The mayor and four religious leaders addressed the hundreds of people who huddled under umbrellas and raincoats.
The mayor told us of how the Imam had been nominated as Man of the Year for his service to the community and had declined this honor because his religion taught that a person should be humble and not aggrandize himself. He spoke of how Corvallis was a family and--like a family—how we shared the sorrow of our Muslim neighbors.
The Christian pastor praised the Imam as a holy man who—in the face of this attack-- had continued to rejoice that no one had been hurt in the fire. He told us of how one of the Imam's sons had been there at that Pioneer Square Christmas Tree lighting. Had the bomb been real, this young man would have been one more American among many lost to terrorism.
The Rabbi spoke of how this dark evening was the night before Hanukkah and how our Muslim brothers and sisters had been "dealt a blow of darkness". He said that he was looking at the response to that darkness in the festival of lights of all our candles. He also told us that in those years when Hanukkah had coincided with Ramadan, the Corvallis Jewish and Muslim communities had celebrated together. The prayer was that Jews and Muslims all over the world could one day sit down together in simple celebration of brotherhood as they had done.
The Quaker minister taught the crowd a simple song "I want to be your friend", written by a Quaker man named Hamid from the Philippines who was working with youth in Afghanistan.
The Imam denounced all forms of extremism and terrorism, telling us that they had already forgiven the one or ones who had done this--not out of weakness but because there was no place for prejudice here towards anyone.
"We are sending a clear message to the whole world, to learn from this small city and the big people here. The lesson they should know is that people of different races, genders and nationalities are tonight here side-by-side, supporting each other and caring for each other and loving each other.
If we can do this in a small city, then it can be done anywhere in the world. The Muslim community--never they will forget it! We are lucky to be in this city. Thank you very much. God bless you all."
The rain lifted as we moved to circle the Mosque with our candles to surround it with light. We stood for five minutes with our private prayers and tears, reclaiming this house of worship.
Afterwards, everyone gathered in small groups, talking and laughing together as if after a wedding. Full of the love that we had made real, we rejoiced in the simple yet powerful act of being together.
Last night, we stood together in the dark against the fire which sought destruction, and we held out our own gentle fire to dispel that darkness.
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Crossposted from newsvine.