Faithful pray for officer attacked at Flint airport
Flint — An interfaith group gathered in Wilson Park on Thursday evening in a show of support for the officer attacked at Bishop Airport.
City leaders stood with faith groups alongside students and families for a moment of silence and prayer for Lt. Jeff Neville, who was stabbed in the neck in an unprovoked attack. Amor Ftouhi of Quebec, Canada, has been charged with committing an act of violence at an airport, a 20-year felony.
Muna Jondy of the Flint Islamic Center helped coordinate the event and said it was important to hold the vigil “because this is what we do in Flint,” she said. “We show support for each other.”
“It’s unfortunate that it takes things like this to bring us together,” she said, referring to the attack. “But honestly, every so often we need to come together to remind ourselves, to remind our community, the state and the nation that this is what we do as Americans, we struggle together and we stand together.”
The Islamic centers of Flint and Grand Blanc have raised more than $5,000 for the medical expenses of Neville, Jondy said.
“While we’ve had to beef up security at our services, this is still our community, and this is a community response and we will be here for the community in spite of any stupid acts.”
Pastor Debra Conrad of Woodside Church on Flint’s east side said she is a supporter of the Islamic community and came out Thursday to reinforce that support. “We need to keep in mind ... what is happening in the larger world and things that are done in the name of America and represent Americans that people will be upset about,” she said.
“I’ve made some amazing connections in this city in the interfaith community. We remind each other that there is a common path,” she said, looking out at the diverse group gathered.
“It’s so important to have those connections with the Islamic Center and the Temple; it’s so important because it reminds us constantly of shared humanity,” she said.
Communities thrive in a shared humanity, she said, reminding people with a wink that Woodside services are at 11 a.m. Sundays, where “everyone is welcome.”
The Rev. Christy Miller-Black of Court Street United Methodist Church said the vigil was organized to support and pray for Neville “but at the same time, we are here to support and lift up our Muslim neighbors — that people understand that it is not us against them.”
Others like Steven Low of the Flint Jewish Federation and Flint Jewish Community Services told participants that “it isn’t one particular faith group that has fallen victim to stereotypes and demonization.”
“We know the Jewish community has experienced it, obviously the Muslim community is experiencing it, and the Christian community and others are experiencing it,” he said, “And while it might be cliche to say, an attack on one of our faiths should be seen as an attack on all of us, because we have shared values and we have more in common than what differentiates.”
Recent Genesee Academy graduate Yara Ataya, 17, said she came to support Neville and her fellow Muslims in the Flint community to demonstrate “that we don’t support any acts of violence, whether for Islam or against Islam.”
Even gathered with friends, Ataya said, she feels uncomfortable after every extremist attack.
“Just walking around having a scarf on my head, you know, you need a lot of confidence for that,” she said. “It’s not easy just going to the grocery store, and if I’m by myself, I feel targeted.”
Imam Muhammad Abdullah Waheed of the Islamic Center said in his closing prayer: “We stand united and nothing will divide us.” “We in the Islamic community in Flint are a part of the fabric of this community.”