RALEIGH, North Carolina – Marking a year after three Muslim students were killed in Chapel Hill, the families of the victims are preparing the opening of a community center that will serve as a base for events to honor their memories and to inspire understanding toward American Muslims.
“I thought this project, in the beginning, was going to take two weeks to finish,” Farris Barakat, the older brother of Barakat’s older brother, who is overseeing the project, told WRAL.com.
Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23 his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21 and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19, were fatally shot Feb. 10, 2015, at the couple’s condominium in Chapel Hill.
A neighbor, Craig Stephen Hicks, has been charged with murder in their deaths and could face the death penalty if convicted.
Over the past year, the families of the victims, widely referred to as the Three Winners, have been working to preserve their legacy.
The community center, that will be known as “The Light House,” is a project started by Barakat’s family in his honor will serve as a base for events to honor their memories.
It will be located at a house Barakat owned at 202 N. Tarboro St. in Raleigh.
Since their deaths, the families have hosted a variety of volunteer efforts in their memories.
“On the families’ end, we didn’t forget even for a second,” Farris Barakat said. “What’s very, very, very important is that the response to this tragedy is one that has been positive.”
Despite their loss, the victims’ families said they will continue to advocate mutual relations between different faiths and a better understanding of the American Muslim community.
Barakat’s sister, Dr Suzanne Barakat, met with President Barack Obama this week after his first visit to an American mosque.
“At one point, he thanked Muslim-Americans for their response to what’s going,” Farris Barakat said.
“It felt good to feel appreciated for the things that we do.”
Farris Barakat said he hopes the work that’s been done since his brother’s death will continue to inspire understanding toward Muslim-Americans.
“It’s an opportunity for others to reflect and to learn from the examples they left in death and in life,” he said.
A recent survey found that American Muslims are the most moderate around the world.
It also showed that US Muslims generally express strong commitment to their faith and tend not to see an inherent conflict between being devout and living in a modern society.
An Economist/YouGov poll found that a large majority of Americans believe that US Muslims are victims of discrimination amid recent attacks against the community.