ST. THOMAS, Ontario – A local church in St. Thomas, Ontario, has cleared a room to host Muslim congregational prayer every Friday, known as Juma`ah prayer, hosting Muslims who used to travel for long miles to perform the weekly prayer.
“In the winter time, too, it gets dangerous and there’s very limited time to have lunch and then pray and then the drive to come back,” said Iffat Farooqui, who works at a law office, told CBC News on Friday.
Living in St. Thomas for more than 25 years, Farooqui said making the trip to London wasn’t feasible for people who work or didn’t have the means of transit.
“Not everybody is able to do that,” she said.
In a city with no prayer space, the offer from St. Hilda’s St. Luke’s Anglican Church to host Muslim prayers solved a key problem for Muslim worshippers.
The solution was suggested after Farooqui, a longtime diversity committee member at the church, reached out to church board member Nancy Lovelock about finding a space that can accommodate up to 30 people.
“Why not?” Lovelock extended an invitation to the Muslim community after consulting with staff.
“That’s what good neighbors do and that’s what people who are about helping other people do.”
Though Farooqui suggested paying a rent, the church officials offered the space free-of-charge.
“Why would we charge people to pray?” said Lovelock, adding that this a win for everybody.
“It will increase our understanding of a different faith and be good for both of us to get to know one another a little better.”
The church and Muslim community in St. Thomas maintain a strong bond. Last year, they gathered for a unity dinner. They also worked together to help settle refugees.
“It sends a positive message … that we can work together and live side-by-side,” said Farooqui.