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Christian college student’s idea leads to rally for burned mosque

Burned Mosque in Joplin, Missouri

By Josh Levs, CNN

(CNN) – When 20-year-old Ashley Carter heard about a mosque burned to the ground in her town this week, she was shocked.

“I was very saddened,” she told CNN on Wednesday. “I thought it was very evil.”

So Carter, a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri, texted a friend, suggesting they organize an event “promoting acts of love.”

But quickly, the idea changed: They would organize a “rally of people coming together, from all walks of life, all religions, a really diverse group of people trying to promote this radical love.”

She spoke with an organizer at the Islamic Society of Joplin, whose worship house serving about 50 families in the southwest Missouri city burned down Monday. Investigators have not determined the cause, but the mosque has been attacked in the past.

Carter and some of her friends then created the plan for the rally and announced it on a Facebook page. The next day, Tuesday, word began to spread. By Wednesday morning, nearly 400 people had posted that they would attend the event, scheduled for Saturday, August 25.

Carter said she was inspired by “my love for Jesus. And I know that Jesus calls us to love people.”

“With everything that’s been happening in the news this week” — which includes a shooting Sunday at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin that left six worshipers and the gunman dead — “I was pretty discouraged,” Carter said. “Regardless of what you believe, I think everybody’s entitled to loving whoever.”

Her plan is just one way the community is working to help the mosque.

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Joplin is hosting an iftar — a meal eaten by Muslims after dark during Ramadan — on Wednesday evening. The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced that speakers will include members of the interfaith community. Sponsoring groups include the South Joplin Christian Church, the United Hebrew Congregation, the Fist Community Church and Peace Lutheran Church, CAIR said.

And a fundraising effort to help rebuild the mosque is off to an auspicious start.

The website of the official campaign shows a goal of $250,000, with more than $40,000 raised by Wednesday afternoon.

A video for the campaign refers to the mosque as “our refuge in a crazy and hectic world.” It shows what the mosque looked like, followed by images of the charred wreckage.

Carter says she expects donations to be taken at the rally. And anyone who wants to donate money to cover the costs of staging the rally can through the Facebook page.

Different kinds of bands will play, including religious bands, she said. And speakers will talk about “promoting love.”

“When there’s an act of hate, you have a choice to make it something beautiful. So that’s what this is all about: making things beautiful from things that aren’t.”

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