While working with a Mennonite Disaster Relief team in Texas following Hurricane Harvey last summer, project director Doug Reesor was approached by a group of volunteers.
“They said they wanted to help, but they weren’t Christians,” he said. That didn’t matter. MDS allows people of any and all faiths to help; so they joined forces.
The request, however, triggered a thought in Reesor’s mind.
“We had a number of people of different faiths who were giving their time and caring, and I thought, ‘Why can’t we as faith groups be more unified?’ ”
Reesor, a member of Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster, 328 W. Orange St., decided to act on that impulse.
When he heard that the Islamic Community Center of Lancaster was looking to raise $1.5 million to either buy the building it currently leases at 275 Hess Blvd. or build a center elsewhere, Reesor approached them with the idea of hosting a joint fundraiser to aid their cause.
They quickly agreed.
This evening at 7, Community Mennonite will host a gathering for the ICCL. It will feature an auction including authentic Turkish carpets and woodwork as well as food and music.
Shakeel Amanullah, chairman of the ICCL board, said they welcome the idea of working with people of different faiths.
The ICCL board is looking to add space to accommodate the growing number of people who attend prayers and the weekly religious school.
If they remain at their current site, he said, renovations are needed to address issues, including making the second floor of the building handicapped accessible.
Although the local Muslim community holds services at the site, the plan is to create a community center, not a mosque.
“The center would be open for people whatever their faith,” Amanullah explained.
The ICCL board has previously made the center available for other nonprofit groups, and Amanullah said their goal is to continue to provide a meeting space for others.
Earlier this year, Community Mennonite Church donated funds to ICCL. The funds are part of the church’s annual budget and are earmarked to help build worship sites in the United States and around the world. Today’s fundraiser would complement those funds.
This is not a one-way endeavor. Next month, members of the Muslim and Jewish communities will accompany an MDS team to West Virginia where they will build bridges — literally and figuratively.
“My idea is for a bunch of guys to get together and get to know each other,” Reesor said.
He noted that while Lancaster has an interfaith coalition, he wanted to create something at the grass-roots level.
Why? “The spirituality of the world depends on all of us.”