TEXAS – Muslim and Jewish religious leaders will be sharing their inspiring unity story in Vancouver this week at an anti-racism forum, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“Racism and hate crime, it seems to be prevalent these days,” Omar Rachid, a leader of the Victoria Islamic Center in Texas, told CBC News.
“If Gary and I can contribute to the conversation of peace, remove the politicians from the equation, I think peace can certainly be achieved.”
Rachid was referring to Dr. Gary Branfman, a board member at the Temple B’nai Israel in Texas.
Back last year, when Rachid’s Islamic center was burnt down in an alleged hate crime, Gary offered to share his place of worship with his neighboring Muslims.
Rachid described what it felt like to see his mosque destroyed.
“It was truly devastating — every time I talk about it, I get a bit emotional,” he said.
“It almost serves as an eviction notice from the entire community to the congregation.”
Yet, Gary’s intervention changed everything.
“I gave him a hug and offered him the keys,” Branfman said.
“It’s kind of interesting and surprising to me that I received such notoriety for just doing what a human being should do in this situation.”
Spreading their story of kindness beyond Texas at the event held at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, both leaders hope to end misconception that people who are different, whether by religion, race, sexual orientation or any other way, are not expected to co-exist peacefully.
“Sadly, it shows how low the bar has been set if that’s all it takes to get interviewed from San Diego to Israel on this sort of an issue,” he said.
“The situation that we are showing is that this is, or at least should be, the norm.”
Using the event, held at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Richmond, to spread their story of peace and kindness beyond Texas, both leaders hope to end misconception that people who are different, whether by faith, race, sexual orientation or any other way, are not expected to co-exist peacefully.