Mosque Helps Tidy Up Vandalized Church

Love thy neighbour as thyself.

A mosque in Mississauga has taken the holy words to heart and is donating thousands of dollars to help a nearby Catholic church clean up after it was hit with a spate of vulgar acts of vandalism last month.

After hearing of the incidents through the media, Hamid Slimi, imam of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, paid a visit to nearby St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church. He was shocked after Father Camillo Lando showed him some of the vandal’s behaviour caught on security video.

Iman Hamid Slimi standing in front of his Mosuqe

“It was a very bad scene,” said Slimi. “The guy who did it ripped pages out of the Bible. He broke the altar. He threw the cross,” said Slimi. “When I saw this, I thought it was pure injustice. It was just wrong.”

Moved by what he saw at the church, Slimi told his congregation about the incident at a Friday sermon and urged them to donate. They raised almost $5,000 in one day.

“I told my community, there is nothing we can do now. But the church needs funds,” said Slimi. “We believe there is no discrimination in charity. It is the act that is rewarded. It doesn’t matter who is the recipient.”

Last month, security video captured images of a man entering the church. He rips pages from bibles, throws the holy books, steals property and lays a cross on the ground before leaving. A few days later, the church was attacked again; the adjoining school was sprayed with graffiti and a statue of Jesus desecrated.

Peel Region police later arrested Iqbal Hessan, 22, and charged him with break and enter, committing an indictable offence and five counts of mischief over $5,000. During the bail hearing, Hessan said he was “upset with the Christian religion.” His father told the court his son had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which he believed had caused his anger and imbalance. Hessan is due back in court June 30.

After reviewing the man’s mental health history, police decided they were “not proceeding with a hate crime (prosecution), because there was no evidence of mal-intent,” said spokeswoman Const. Fiona Thivierge.

Nevertheless, the incidents shook the church and the congregation, which was established in 1956 — especially the desecration to the statue of Jesus Christ, said Father Lando.

“He mutilated the statue of Sacred Heart,” he said. “The arms were broken, and there was black spray paint all over it. We will have to get it replaced,” he said. He estimated the damage to the property at $10,000.

But even then, he urged his congregation to forgive.

“Our attitude is to pray for the one who did it. To forgive and to forget,” said Lando, who said that, in addition to Slimi, he has received many calls of support from the Muslim community.

On Wednesday, Slimi presented Lando and the church board with the cheque. He told the grateful parishioners his congregation was pleased to help and felt it was the least they could do. “I told them, this is what any Muslim would do,” he said.

Lando plans to inform his congregation about the donation this weekend at mass.

“I will tell my congregation that it was really a beautiful and generous gesture on their part,” he said. “And also it’s an act of confidence and understanding. We are walking together in this community. We keep our faith, and we have to honour and respect people of other faiths.”

Courtesy of: The Star 

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