Multi-faith response to Kansas terror plot

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Three Kansas men were arrested for planning to bomb a southwest Kansas mosque and apartment building.

The intended targets were about 120 Somali refugees that lived in the apartment building.

In response to that terror plot, about two dozen people gathered in Wichita, hoping to be a part of the solution to that kind of hate and fear.

The Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church hosted the NewGround: A Partnership for Change Workshop.

The discussion was led by Aziza Hasan, a Bethel College graduate, Co-Founder of NewGround, and someone who practices the Muslim faith.

Hasan had the group, made up of various religious and ethnic backgrounds talk about several topics, including hate.

“Do you think hate or fear are growing why,” said Hasan.

It’s a question that hit home for Bellia Goossen.

“I’m scared, I’m scared,” said Goossen.

Goossen has lived in Kansas for 34 years, and says she’s experienced that fear and hate.

“They ask me how is Mexico? I’m not even a Mexican,” said Goossen.

The goal of the discussion for Hasan, to build that bond between those of differing backgrounds.

“Being able to breakdown that hate that exists in our communities, it is not something that is just in the short term that we’re living in today and the news that is breaking, it is a long term strategy,” said Hasan.

The discussion is now taking on a larger meaning, just a day after three men were arrested for what investigators call a plan to attack Somalis in Garden City.

“What happened in Garden City happened closer to home, but we’re seeing happen all over the country, all over the world,” said Lois Harder, Co-Pastor for the Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church.

David Eichhorn was one of those who participated in the workshop.

Eichhorn is of Jewish faith. He says there were several takeaways from the discussion.

“We need to understand other cultures, other religions in order to be able to get along, in order to be able to build these bridges,” said Eichhorn.

For those like Goossen, she came away with possible solutions.

“Our country has become very separated and I think we need to work together in order to survive,” said Goossen.

When KSN spoke with Co-Pastor Lois Harder, we asked her how does a conversation like this, here in Wichita, provide a solution.

Harder says it won’t solve the problem today, something she says would take months and years.

However, Harder stressed that it at least sets the stage for us to understand people who are different than we are and hear one anothers stories.

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