Area churches want the members of the Islamic Society of Greater Harrisburg to know that they are not alone.
In response to a hate letter sent to the Muslim organization from a group calling itself Americans For a Better Way, area churches offered their support to the Muslim community by attending a service and surrounding the Steelton mosque in a show of unity.
Elizabethtown Church of the Brethren leaders sent a letter pledging their support and offering “any practical assistance.”
The Rev. Greg Davidson Laszakovits, a pastor at the Church of the Brethren, said pastoral and lay leaders agreed to send the letter “after seeing the horrible letter ... (the Muslim group) had received.”
The church’s letter begins, “It was with profound sadness that we heard the news of a hateful letter to your community of faith. Such vitriolic speech has no place in a civilized society, and is not acceptable.”
It closes by stating: “Please know that even though we hold some different religious beliefs and celebrate different traditions, you are not alone.”
The letter was signed by Matthew Heinz, board chairman; Nancy Hivner, board chair elect; Carroll Kreider, moderator; the Rev. Jason Haldeman; the Rev. Pamela Reist; the Rev. Josh Tindall and Laszakovits.
On Sunday, Elizabethtown church leaders urged the congregation to express support to its Muslim neighbors.
“We hope we can flood them with letters of love,” Laszakovits said. “Loving your neighbor is one of Jesus’ commandments.”
The anonymous letter, which was sent to mosques in five states, was received at the end of November and was titled “To the Children of Satan.” It began, “You Muslims are vile and filthy people.”
It went on to say, “There’s a new sheriff in town — President Donald Trump. He’s going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the jews (sic).”
While not addressing the letter itself, President-elect Trump has denounced such acts. Appearing on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” he said, “If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”
The day after the letter was received, state Rep. Patty Kim, D-Harrisburg, organized a news conference at the mosque in Steelton to condemn the letter. Steelton police agreed to step up surveillance in the area.
Leaders of the Islamic Society of Greater Harrisburg were unavailable for comment, but on its website, the group thanked members of churches “who came to ISGH to stand by with us and tell the world that hate against Muslims is not American.”
Dr. Shakeel Amanullah, chairman of the Islamic Community Center of Lancaster Board of Trustees, said his organization also has reached out the the Islamic Society of Greater Harrisburg.
Amanullah said that although there have been a number of incidents aimed at Muslims across the country, that has not been the case in Lancaster.
“It has been just the opposite here,” he said. “It’s been very positive. We feel truly blessed.”
Amanullah said the center has received calls of support from the local Christian and Jewish communities, as well as from atheists and agnostics.
“Lancaster is like a beacon of light,” he said.