Article source: http://komonews.com/news/local/church-takes-in-bellevue-muslim-community-after-arson

 BELLEVUE, Washington — A neighboring church in Bellevue has given a local Muslim community a place to gather and pray after the community’s mosque, the Islamic Center of the Eastside, was destroyed by arson.

Last Saturday crews battled a massive fire that ripped through the Islamic Center of the Eastside. Police arrested a 37-year-old at the scene after they found him lying on the ground near the fire. He was charged with second-degree arson this week.

The Muslim community who gathered at the mosque suddenly had no place to pray. They scrambled and got access to a backroom in the Highland Community Center, but that was only temporary. Luckily, this week their neighbors stepped up.

The Bellevue Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has sat next door to the Islamic Center for decades. The church saw this as an opportunity to lend a hand.

This week the church offered its neighbors a large open room (a converted classroom) free of charge for families to gather and pray for as long as they need.

“It’s really very simple,” Church Director of Public Affairs Gordon Wilson said. “It’s just neighbors helping neighbors. Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor.’ They’re right next door. How can it be more obvious than that?”

The church even left a welcome sign at the front door, along with two large boards covered in messages of hope from members of their congregation.

“It was a surprise, and it was very heartwarming,” Islamic Center board member Shams Pirbhai said. “That means a lot to me and to our whole congregation.”

The Islamic Center community plans to lease a larger space in the next few months, but now they don’t have to rush.

 

Pirbhai says their community has been blown away by the outpouring of support from families and groups around Bellevue. And this gesture holds a special place.

“They are really good neighbors and really helping us out,” Pirbhai said. “And we appreciate that.”

 

This is not the only time the Mormon and Muslim communities have come together.

In December 2015,  an Australian man’s Facebook post about his experience in a Mormon church went viral.

A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints invited a group of local Muslims to a Brisbane ward for their annual Christmas program and a tour of the church, said Ali Kadri, spokesperson for the Islamic Council of Queensland.

“They displayed amazing manners in taking the multi-faith groups on a tour of the church,” wrote Kadri in his Facebook post. He said his group attended the event representing Holland Park Mosque, which is 108 years old.

According to Kadri, members from the LDS church gave the group a room to pray in when the time came for evening prayers.

“Two faiths praying to the same God, in a different way, within [the] same building,” wrote Kadri.

Kadri told KUTV he believes after so much bad news, the world is hungry for love and respect.

“Small gestures like these should be normal and nothing special,” Kadri told KUTV. “The fact that this post has gone viral simply shows that we need to keep on doing this ’til it becomes the norm.”

Kadri says he hopes moments like these will overshadow the hate and negativity in the world.

“Those who divide people will be plenty,” he said. “But it is those who unite humanity who will leave a legacy like Lincoln, Ghandhi and Mandela.”

Sue Owen, Queensland director of public affairs for the LDS church, said inviting inter-faith groups to their event was a wonderful way to connect with members of other religions.

“We really think that by joining together we will find peace,” Owen said. “We can promote peace by finding out what we have in common, rather than what sets us apart.”