By Victoria Advocate
Sunday, Jan. 28, marked the first anniversary of the senseless burning of the Victoria Islamic Center.
As tragic as this was, good has come from it. The fire has helped the Muslim community gain more public support from the Crossroads, which is still evident a year later.
Almost immediately after the fire occurred, support for the Muslim community began to pour in locally and from around the world.
That support has continued to grow in the past year as Muslims, Jews and Christians have come together to learn more about one another.
Instrumental in helping this happen is the Communities of Faith, which started in 2016 as a response to the shooting of police officers in Dallas. Made up of area religious leaders, the group meets to discuss members’ beliefs and faith while learning about other religions. As a result, Muslims have been invited to other churches to visit and meet more people in the town they call home.
Mosque leaders see this as the best positive response to come from the horrific act of the burning of their house of worship.
We know there are still people in this area who do not like or understand Muslims, often unfairly equating them to terrorists they read about in the news. We hope this movement of support and learning will help open their minds and hearts to their neighbors who are business owners, professionals, students and parents.
People who have opened their minds have learned the Islamic community is much like them — people who choose to worship in their faith and to lead faith-filled lives.
As the year has passed and the support for the Islamic community has gotten stronger, members of the Muslim community see themselves as more a part of the city than before the fire.
Recently, several hundred people attended the groundbreaking for the new Islamic center. It will take a while for the new building to be completed, but the growth in the community is making the wait worthwhile.
While huge steps have been taken toward a more unified faith community, more work is needed. Many, including Muslim leaders, believe it can be done. They believe the more progress we make now, the better the lives of their children and grandchildren will be in years to come.
That is the least a parent can hope and pray for.
As Victoria continues to be a caring community, we believe the support system continues to grow to become a model for other communities around the world to want to follow.