Garden churches rally to support Somali neighbors

Religious communities in Garden reach out to local Muslims

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – Garden City is still reeling after the news broke about the planned terror attack that targeted Somali refugees, but local churches are coming out to support their Muslim brothers and sisters out of inter-faith solidarity.

“We were helping refugees before this happened, and this hasn’t stopped it,” said Kevin Larson, a youth minister at Garden Valley Church.

For two years now, he’s been helping the International Rescue Committee to resettle refugees in Garden by collecting donations, mostly household goods.

“Linens and Tupperware and clocks and kitchen appliances,” he said.

Larson says the attempted terror attack has only strengthened his church’s willingness to help, even after hearing that court documents revealed the group was considering targeting churches that supported Muslim communities.

“I’m a little surprised,” said Larson, “I’m a little shocked, but I guess we’re doing what we need to be doing if the world hates us.”

“No, I’m not frightened at all,” said Pastor Denise Pass with the Presbyterian Church. “I have no fear of any harm that might come to me.”

Pass stands by those words. She organized what she called a human shield on Sunday in support of the targeted Mary Street residents.

“It angers me that someone would, the minuscule number of those who claim to be followers of Christ would hijack the faith that I have and use that as a weapon against those communities,” she said.

She says she was horrified to learn about the plot says what makes Garden great is the solidarity other communities are showing their Somali neighbors.

“Hate cannot be the final word of what happened here. It has to be love.”

Pass says she is planning a candlelight vigil on Saturday night as a way of showing the Mary Street residents continued support, letting them know that they are wanted and remembered.

The International Rescue Committee helps to resettle refugees and has an office in Garden City.

They released a statement saying, in part, “The foiled plot is a disturbing reminder of how unfounded fear and hatred among a few people can turn into violence that devastates entire communities.”

The three men arrested and charged in the case will be in court in the next week.