Rev. Albert Becher, pastor of Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church in Irving, Texas, said his parish and its associated school will not change any schedules following the Nov. 21 protests at the Islamic Center of Irving, which is a short distance down the street from the church.
On Saturday Nov. 21, armed protesters lined the sidewalk and parking lot outside the Islamic Center of Irving carrying signs that read, “Stop the Islamization of America,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
Irving has been a center of anti-Islamic sentiment due in large part to Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne’s often anti-Islamic rhetoric. Ahmed Mohamed’s arrest at MacArthur High School, two miles from the University of Dallas campus, brought the situation to a head.
Becher stated the protesters, who came from many places, demanded an explanation for the activities of ISIS in Syria and France, in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Paris Nov. 13. They also condemned violence in the Middle East, particularly against Christians.
“They were thinking and challenging the Muslims here in the Mosque of Irving as [to] what they are, [wondering] if they are a part of ISIS, which is not true,” Becher said. “The protesters wanted to challenge them here to speak more about the troubles in the world today.”
Put simply, Becher said, the protesters fear the activities of ISIS happening not only in Irving but also nationwide.
“They want to protect America and the American people,” Becher said.
Holy Family of Nazareth has enjoyed a friendly relationship with the mosque, Becher stated.
“There is existing brotherly dialogue [between] Holy Family and the mosque that we have started [and have maintained],” Becher said. “We have been to their mosque with open invitation. At any time we can visit them and ask any questions about them.”
On many occasions, Imam Zia Sheikh, the religious leader of the mosque, has invited Becher and school employees to the center for special occasions such as Ramadan.
Because of the friendly relations between Holy Family of Nazareth and the Islamic Center of Irving, the church supports the mosque.
“Holy Family as a parish supports and stands with their intention of promoting brotherly love, peace and community service for the city of Irving,” Becher said.
Becher said he responds to the Catholic Church’s call for interreligious dialogue.
“It is a part of our mission in the Church to maintain interreligious dialogue with leaders and people of other religions and to relate them the love of Christ,” Becher said.
The Catholics of Dallas are not the only people of faith who desire interreligious dialogue.
“The Muslims here want to dialogue with all the people of good will to know their situations too,” Becher said.
To that end, the center has scheduled a meeting with other religious leaders in the Irving community, including those from both UD and Holy Trinity Seminary, in December.
To counteract the armed protestors, supporters of Islam lined the parking lot of the mosque on Sat. Nov. 28, despite cold temperatures.
Instead of carrying weapons, the people carried flowers, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Many of the peaceful demonstrators hugged worshippers who came to visit with the protesters and thank them for their support.