Vigil fosters love, unity

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Members of different faiths and beliefs remarked on the importance of community, respect and love during a vigil held Sunday afternoon at the Prince Edward County Courthouse steps in downtown Farmville.

Patsy Watson

The vigil was held in response to vandalism Wednesday morning sustained on an exterior wall at the Islamic Center of Prince Edward County’s mosque, where the message containing a four-letter expletive beginning with the letter “F,” was marked on the wall of the mosque, followed by “God & Allah.”

About 30 members of the community and members of the Interfaith Collective gathered at the courthouse to hold prayers in the Islamic and Christian faiths, among others, and offer encouragements.

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Organizer Patsy Watson encouraged participants to introduce themselves.

During the vigil, Allison Crews performed a meditative exercise reportedly based in Tibet called a singing bowl.

Islamic Center of Prince Edward County Imam Khalil Latif addressed participants, describing the importance of understanding the faith and backgrounds of others in addition to one’s own.

“It’s one thing to know what you know. But the thing that unifies us is for you to know what you know for yourself, but also to learn and know those things about

Khalil Latif

others and the things that we share. So we can concentrate on the things that we share,” Latif said during the vigil. “To the degree that we perfect that … pebble that drops in the pond in the Heart of Virginia, those concepts will enemate out to the rest of the world. We can set an example for the rest of the world.”

Latif said he and other members of the center appreciated the concern and action taken by other members of the community following the vandalism.

“It was beautiful,” Latif said following the vigil and the response from the community. “There were a lot of people from the faith community. It offered an opportunity to thank them for continued support and prayers.”

He said Farmville Police Chief A.Q. “Andy” Ellington called him, and enlisted town forces to paint over the vandalized wall.

“As we as Muslims strive to be good neighbors, so have you been,” Latif said during the vigil. “And we appreciate that.”

Watson shared a quote by South African President and Revolutionary Nelson Mandela, instilling the importance of expressing love over bigotry.

“‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of the skin, or his or her background, or his or her religion,’” Watson cited during the vigil. “‘They must learn to hate. And if they learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.’”

Watson shared a story about a woman who stayed in the same nursing home as her mother. The woman, who appeared to have issues with her memory, would first ask an individual when she met them, “Do I know you?” Watson said before the other person had a chance to respond, the woman would say, “I love you.”

“What a great salutation that is for all of us,” Watson said. “When we walk by someone, to say “Do I know you?” and before they have the chance to say yes or no, to say, ‘I love you.’”

“That’s what we are all charged with doing,” Watson said. 

After the event, Watson encouraged each person to approach others at the vigil, ask if they knew them and then tell them they were loved.

Watson said the collective will continue to support those of different faiths and spend time with one another.

The Rev. Dr. Nancy E. Meck, pastor of Johns Memorial Episcopal Church, read a prayer during the vigil and said following the event she was thankful to unite as a community.

“What a blessing it is to come together for people of faith who love each other and love this town so much,” Meck said.