Children find new friends at Macon mosque

The handmade card that Hisham Yacout held in his hands was nothing fancy, just a red lace heart pasted on pink construction paper, but it meant a lot to him.

Hisham, 14, attends the Islamic Center of Macon. The card came from about 25 children of the High Street Unitarian Universalist Church of Macon, as well as other children in the community. The children visited the mosque Sunday to deliver friendship cards to the Muslim children there having school.

“It makes me happy that they spent their time making cards for us,” Hisham said. “It was a really nice gesture.”

Amal Mansoor, 10, wore a blue head scarf as she held a card that had “I love you” written on it and a peace sign drawn on the inside.

“It means a lot,” she said. “It shows that not everyone thinks I’m a terrorist.”

Paula Del Rio, the director of religious education at High Street, said the children had been working on the cards for the past three Sundays.

“We decided to show the children of the Islamic Center of Macon that we love them, that we are glad they are part of our community, that diversity makes our community stronger and better,” Del Rio said.

Grace Byron, 12, was among the visiting children.

“It’s kind of fighting for an overall cause,” she said. “They are a minority, and it’s hard for them sometimes to know that and deal with it.”

While the children sat at a table inside the mosque together having refreshments, Imam Muhammad Abbasi answered numerous questions from the adults about the Muslim faith.

“We are so thankful for them coming, especially at this time when we really need the support,” Abbasi said as the group began to arrive.

The center on Vineville Avenue is one of two mosques in Macon. Its largest service is on Friday, the Islamic equivalent of the Christian sabbath, when approximately 150 people attend. Abbasi said attendance has outgrown the building, and the mosque will move to a new location on Eisenhower Parkway before June.

Abassi, who is from Pakistan, has lived in Macon since 2008 and said he has not encountered negative reactions from people when he tells them about his faith. Asked what he would like people to know about Islam, he began by saying that the word “Islam” is Arabic for “peace.”

“The message of Islam is not to be violent in society but to spread the peace,” he said. “Those people who are (violent), they are not Muslim. They are against the teaching of Islam.”

On March 11 the mosque is participating in Visit a Mosque Day. Abbasi said people of all faiths are invited to come and learn about Islamic teachings and customs. The event is from 2-5 p.m. at 2131 Vineville Avenue.

Wayne Crenshaw: 478-256-9725, @WayneCrenshaw1