The Rev. Bob Mitchell thinks neighbors should get to know their neighbors.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re Christian, Muslim or Jewish.
So, on Saturday the senior pastor of Christ the Lord Lutheran Church in Lawrenceville, and about 15 members of his congregation, will spend several hours at the Madina Institute in Duluth learning about Islam.
Despite recent threats, area mosques will plan to participate in the annual Visit a Mosque Day, where nearly two dozen mosques in Georgia will open their doors from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and answer questions about Islam.
“Sometimes we are limited to what we know about each other by what we see in the press, on TV or in a movie,” he said. “You really don’t know about another person until to talk with that person…The more we get to know our neighbors, the more those misconceptions can be corrected.”
People like Mitchell and Rosemin Omar, one of the organizers of the event, think such conversations should happen more and more—particularly these days.
In recent weeks, at least four mosques in Georgia have received threats.
As a result, the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has urged leaders of local mosques to improve security—and that will be the case on Saturday.
“We want to foster and strengthen interfaith relationships by improving communication,” said Omar. “Due to misinformation, people have questions about Islam. We are providing them with the avenue to get that correct information while in a casual environment. There will be no questions off the table at Visit A Mosque Day.”
The timing comes as many in Islam feel their faith is under attack by the current administration. Shortly after taking office, President Trump signed a temporary immigration executive order blocking people from several Muslim-majority countries from coming into the U.S. It also put an indefinite hold on Syrian refugee admissions.
The travel ban was blocked by the courts, but the White House recently issued a revised order that, among other things, removed Iraq from the list of nations non grata.
At Visit a Mosque Day, there will be calligraphy, international foods, and instructions on wearing an hijab or head scarf. Additionally, for people who have never been, visitors will get to see what a mosque looks like inside.
Most mosques are always open to the public, and this event offers a casual setting, said Omar.
Frank Ditore, a electronic engineer from Suwanee, has probably visited at least three mosques in the United States and overseas. Muslims are also included in the small circle of people he considers very close friends.
Ditore, who is Lutheran, said he can’t speak for Islam or its theology of Islam, but the Muslims he knows “are family-oriented people that have high ethics and strong moral values…They have all the shared values that Christian Americans say that they have.”
Registration is not required. AtlantaMuslim.com has a list of participating mosques.
Organizers include AtlantaMuslim.com, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Georgia Chapter) and the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta.