Forging a new community relationship

Lynchburg’s First — The mosque where over 70 families gather to worship, is located off of Airport Road and is the first of its kind in Lynchburg.

Two men call Lynchburg their home community — one a Christian and one a Muslim. In a city full of churches, a community of Muslims began a mosque. Going beyond the boundaries of two very different religions, both men formed a strong and accepting relationship.

Lynchburg’s first mosque, located off of Airport Road near Campbell County, opened in 2008 and is a home of worship to over 70 families. This worship center for Muslims is part of the Greater Lynchburg Islamic Association, which was founded in 2006.

Beginning with nearly a half dozen Muslim families, members of the GLIA realized they were in dire need to provide a place of prayer for these faithful followers. Now 25 to 30 families regularly attend Friday prayers.

“We have children that we need to teach our faith to,” President of the GLIA Maqsud Ahmad said. “We need to teach our children not only on Sundays, but we need to show them the reciting of the Qur’an and the whole of Islam.”

Lynchburg is a city swarming with such places of worship for all religions. Dr. Edward Smither, professor of intercultural studies at Liberty University, is a Christian whose belief system is rooted in biblical principles. The command in Matthew 28:18-20, which commands all Christians to tells others about Jesus Christ, is one to which Smither holds tightly. That passage is commonly referred to as the Great Commission.

Reaching out to the Muslim community in Lynchburg is a passion of Smither’s. When Smither learned of the mosque, he immediately sent a personalized letter to Ahmad and the GLIA, welcoming them. His extension of friendship paved the way for acceptance.

“When I first heard about the mosque in Lynchburg I was concerned about how they would be received,” Smither said. “Having lived in North Africa and loving Muslims, I wanted one of the first things they heard to be welcoming. So I wrote a note telling them I was thankful to God they were in the community.”

Receiving a positive response from the Lynchburg community as a whole, including other religious communities, was encouraging to Ahmad. Building relationships is important to the GLIA as they keep open doors to everyone, offering many opportunities to connect with local churches and synagogues for dialogue about their differing religions.

“We are very open to the community and with the other religions. All faiths should come together to make acquaintances and to learn and share problems together,” Ahmad said. “This is the main idea with all three major religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) — that we fellowship together, always in peace.”

The mosque serves as a place for any Muslim to fellowship and remain faithful to their prayers to Allah in the midst of their busy schedules.

GLIA decided to create this mosque to have a place to practice their beliefs collectively. This was most important for the Jumah prayers (Friday prayers) and the Isha (the last evening prayer of the day). Having five prayer times per day, the congregation strives to join others at the mosque specifically for these prayers, Ahmad said.

“A mosque is just like the church — families come together in fellowship for prayers,” Ahmad said.

Smither uses this time as an opportunity to meet other Muslims in the area and to observe how they practice their own religion. As a professor of Introduction to Islam, Smither also works with Ahmad to present an opportunity for his students to attend Friday prayers once in the semester. The purpose of this field trip is to observe and continue their education through first-hand experience.

“In seeking to make disciples of all nations, it is imperative that we understand the worldview and beliefs of those whom God has called us to reach,” Smither said. “This involves moving toward them, building friendship and trust, and learning first-hand what they believe.”

THOMASON is the special assignment editor.

One comment

  • I appreciate your efforts and your article regarding this mosque. Muslims are highly misunderstood, especially in this area. I am American and I attend this GLIA. The families are very friendly and we are blessed to have this house of worship. Thank you for acknowledging us. I personally have not had a warm reception in this area when speaking to non-muslims.(Whether it was family or strangers) My family attends TRBC regularly and I also go with them sometimes, I think it is a lovely church as well. I believe God’s presence is everywhere. Most people forget that. Again thank you for this article. With more positive publishings in the media we may educate others in a lesson of tolerance of other religions and mutual respect.

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