Church leaders reach out to Joplin Muslims after mosque burns

Reward offered after fire destroys mosque

After learning about an early morning fire Monday that burned down the Islamic Center of Joplin, Mark Struckhoff immediately thought of a July arson attempt there.

Struckhoff, executive director of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks, said although investigators are searching for a cause, Joplin’s Muslim community was still experiencing a profound loss and the area’s faith community still needed to speak out against intolerance.

“It was really in the spirit of loving concern,” Struckhoff said of council efforts under way to collect and send donations to the Joplin Muslim community. “We wanted to find a way to express our support.”

Together with the Interfaith Alliance of the Ozarks, the organizations are asking people of faith “to pray for those who are suffering as a result of this tragic event, and to work for greater religious freedom and collaboration in the Ozarks.”

Member churches founded the council in 1969 with a mission to improve the quality of life in the region through outreach in the name of Jesus Christ, by “doing together what can best be done together.”

Plans for a further demonstration of support are being developed with the Interfaith Alliance of the Ozarks and will be announced soon, he said.

Struckhoff said member churches already were calling the council office Monday morning expressing concern, and one indicating that it has already collected money. The church wondered if the council could help facilitate the delivery of the gift.

The center was a total loss, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation release on the incident.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Kaste said if the fire is found to be deliberate, it will be investigated to the fullest extent possible.

“Any act of violence to a house of worship is taken very seriously by law enforcement and threatens the very core of the safety and security that our communities enjoy,” Kaste said in a news release.

The Jasper County Sheriff’s Department and the Missouri Department of Fire Safety and Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms also will be investigating the fire that destroyed the building’s security cameras.

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