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Muslim groups crowdfund to help burned Southern churches rebuild, ‘stand against hate’

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Burned van at College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, TN. SOURCE: Deacon Scott Schaefer

Burned van at College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, TN. SOURCE: Deacon Scott Schaefer

NEW YORK — A fundraising campaign has been launched by a group of Muslims in the United States to help the seven black churches that recently burned down or suffered extensive damage. The group is using the platform LaunchGood and has already raised over $32,000.

The wave of incidents currently under investigation all began the week Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine church members inside the historical Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He is currently behind bars charged with nine counts of murder.

The massacre occurred June 17, 2015. Since then churches of various denominations in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida have burned. Officials said three have been ruled arson, and several fires are still being investigated.

SOURCE: Glover Grove Baptist Church

SOURCE: Glover Grove Baptist Church

On June 21 the College Hill Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tenn. was vandalized in an act ruled by officials as arson. On June 23 the God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Ga. burned, and was ruled arson. The following day, on June 24, the Briar Creek Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. was burned and ruled arson.

On June 26 the Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville, S.C. burned and the “cause was undetermined,” officials said.

That same day, officials said that electrical wiring was responsible for The Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida burning to the ground.

Briar Creek Road Baptist SOURCE: Lori Mcpherson

Briar Creek Road Baptist SOURCE: Lori Mcpherson

There are two other events still under investigation. The Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tenn. caught fire on June 24 and “it appears to be a lightning strike,” officials said.

The Mount Zion AME Church, torched 20 years ago by the Ku Klux Klan, burned to the ground on July 1.  The FBI believes a lightning strike started the July 1 fire.

“These kinds of attacks on Black churches are a very old form of intimidation in the South, historically used to strike fear into the hearts of Black people,” the Muslim group wrote on the campaign’s LaunchGood page.

“ALL houses of worship are sanctuaries, a place where all should feel safe, a place we can seek refuge when the world is too much to bear,” Faatimah Amat-Allah Knight wrote on the campaign page.  “We are calling on you to help add our support to faith communities across the country pooling their resources to rebuild these churches.”

“There has not been anywhere near the amount of resources needed to rebuild these churches,” she wrote.

God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon Georgia. PHOTO: Nia Sade Walker

God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon Georgia. PHOTO: Nia Sade Walker

The group of supporters added that they can identify with targeted bigotry.

“The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African Americans,” wrote Imam Zaid Shakir. ”We do, however, understand the climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country.”

The group said that a “network of Muslim activists and organizations, including Muslim ARC, the Arab American Association of New York and Ummah Wide will handle all of the logistics for ensuring the funds get to these churches.”

A screen grab of the LaunchGood campaign as of July 8.

A screen grab of the LaunchGood campaign as of July 8.

LaunchGood is a platform that crowdfunds Muslims worldwide. When asked how the organization works to determine the validity of fundraising campaigns, a contact person at LaunchGood responded they work with the accounts and listed contacts. There is a review process that can take a day or two before the campaign goes live.

The nationwide Muslim network is not the only effort to raise funds for these churches. An umbrella organization “Rebuild the Churches Fund” was started by the Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis. So far they have raised over $130,000. Donations can be made online or through the mail.

This group posted that communities of all faiths are invited to hold special offerings as a sign of interfaith solidarity against racism and with our sisters and brothers of faith. They have a list of congregations nationwide that have already agreed to have a special collection for the burned churches at least once during July. Click here to view that and/or donate.

The Richmond synagogue Congregation Or Ami is listed, and a church in Northern Virginia is also participating.

Those wishing to give can also make a check out to Christ Church Cathedral with “Rebuild the Churches Fund” in the memo line and send it to:

Rebuild the Churches
c/o Christ Church Cathedral
1210 Locust Street
St. Louis, MO 63103

The Glover Grove Baptist Church in Warrenville also has a way for people to donate directly.  All contributions can be made at any Security Federal Bank:

Security Federal Bank
Glover Grove Phoenix Fund
“Rising From The Ashes”
P.O. Box 810
Aiken, SC 29802

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