By Courtney Ryan and Rebekah Graham
On Friday, Sept. 14, the local Harrisonburg Mosque was vandalized with spray paint graffiti containing vulgar racial slurs and inappropriate drawings. The Islamic Center of the Shenandoah Valley serves as a meeting place for weekly prayer and services. Amidst the graffiti, there also were about 30 cars parked on surrounding streets whose windows were smashed.
The community within Harrisonburg displayed an overwhelmingly supportive attitude throughout the process. Saturday, Sept. 15, a mere one day after the devastating happenings, an event at the mosque was scheduled to take place. Based on a public Facebook announcement, more than 500 attendees committed to go. Because of the exponential response, the Redeemer Classical School, also defaced, decided to host these attendees in their building.
An informal gathering transpired on Sunday, Sept. 16, in an event titled, “We Are All Harrisonburg.” People of all faiths met at the mosque, offering their support to the community affected by the vandalism of the mosque’s exterior. In a message sent out by Brian Augustine, Board Chair of Redeemer Classical School, he writes, “The Golden Rule teaches that we are to ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’… “. In honoring God’s command to love those who do us harm, he invites individuals to participate in the gathering, strengthening the Harrisonburg community.
The outcome the mosque received was tremendous; that so many people, and especially those of differing faiths, would come and stand in solidarity with both of these institutions. We are taught from a young age to love, but for many us that is never a real or demanding challenge. The vandalizing of the Islamic place of worship could have easily touched non-religious individuals or even those of different beliefs with indifference. Harrisonburg should be proud that it is made up of a community that is accepting, values others, and displays diversity.