CBS to film documentary on Springfield Muslims, Christians

Members of Masjid Al-Madina in Springfield hold Friday prayers. Bill Lackey/Staff
Members of Masjid Al-Madina in Springfield hold Friday prayers. Bill Lackey/Staff

Clark County Muslims and Christians will host a series of events beginning today to foster respect and awareness of the ways members of the two religions are living together in peace in Springfield.

The work being done in Springfield to develop ties between the religions has drawn the interest of CBS News, which plans to send a film crew to Clark County as part of a documentary for a series focusing on religion and culture.

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Carl Ruby has served as pastor at Springfield’s Central Christian Church for three years. But he said local leaders and members of the area’s Muslim community have been building friendships long before he began leading the church.

This weekend’s events will be a success if people walk away understanding more about their neighbors, he said.

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“I’m hoping people can walk away with an acquaintance that they could have coffee with,” Ruby said. “The biggest thing that contributes to negative stereotypes and misunderstandings is that we just don’t have a personal contact with someone of a different faith.”

Samina Ahmed, a member of the Al Madina Mosque in Springfield, has spent several years working to share and explain her Islamic faith to people who might know little about it otherwise. She’s been active in the Global Education and Peace Network and chairs the city of Springfield’s Human Relations Board.

“I’ve never been prouder to be an American Muslim than today because of the humanity I see in people who just came out of nowhere to support Muslims,” Ahmed said.

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The mosque and church will team up for three events.

At 1:15 p.m. today at Al Madina Mosque, 1800 S. Burnett, Imam Yunus Lasania will provide an educational presentation on Islam, followed by traditional Muslim prayers at 2 p.m.

At 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Central Christian Church, 1504 Villa Road, Ruby will officiate a public worship service focused on loving neighbors when their faiths differ. Then at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Central Christian, Lasania and Ruby will moderate a panel discussion titled, “Beyond Tolerance: Honoring the call to love our neighbors.”

Ruby talked in Columbus earlier this year about his opposition to a proposed executive order signed by President Donald Trump that would have banned citizens from seven predominantly Muslim nations from entering the U.S. for 90 days. U.S. courts blocked that order and an attempted revision also hasn’t been allowed to proceed.

Ruby’s speech caught the attention of the television network.

“As a Christian I don’t think we should be making that distinction,” Ruby said of the executive order. “If a person is fleeing for their life and if they’ve been vetted, they should enter whether they’re a Christian or a Muslim.”

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He credited both members of Springfield’s Muslim community and city leaders, who have pushed back against stereotypes against Muslims since the terrorist attacks on New York on Sept. 11, 2001.

Both Ahmed and Ruby said this weekend’s events are just part of a long-standing effort to promote understanding in Clark County. Springfield is a typical Midwestern town, Ruby said, but it’s ahead of many similar cities in promoting inclusiveness.

“There have been good things happening all along,” Ruby said. “For reasons I don’t fully understand we’re at a tipping point in a very positive way of moving beyond merely tolerating one another and actually becoming neighbors and loving one another.”

If you go:

• 1:15 p.m. Friday, May 5 at Al Madina Mosque, 1800 S. Burnett, Springfield — Imam Yunus Lasania will provide an educational presentation on Islam, followed by traditional Muslim prayers at 2 p.m.

• 10:30 a.m. Sunday, May 7 at Central Christian Church, 1504 Villa Road, Springfield — Pastor Carl Ruby will officiate a public worship service focused on loving your neighbor when faiths differ.

• 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7 at Central Christian Church, 1504 Villa Road, Springfield — Imam Yunus Lasania and Pastor Carl Ruby will moderate a discussion, "Beyond Tolerance: Honoring the call to love our neighbors."

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