ALLEGANY — When news of the massacre at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, unfolded Friday, Father Michael Calabria felt compelled to reach out and show support for the local Muslim community.
Calabria, director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at St. Bonaventure University, and Brother Robert Lentz, went to the Islamic Society of Southern Tier in Allegany on Friday as members gathered there for prayers.
"As we were driving into the parking lot of the Islamic Center, (Calabria and Lentz) showed up in their full (Franciscan) robes and they both stood guard outside at the door of our mosque so that we could conduct our Friday prayers with a sense of security," said Asad Syed, a member of the Islamic Society of Southern Tier. "They stood outside in the blowing cold wind for over an hour. Everyone in our community is very touched and overwhelmed with this great, noble act of solidarity and courage."
Syed said his community cannot thank Calabria and Lentz enough for what they did "at a time when there was palpable fear among people coming in for prayers."
Calabria said he and Lentz both felt it was their duty as Franciscan Catholics, "who endeavor to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ" to show their love and support for the Muslim community.
"I also felt that it was a necessary gesture due to all the support the Muslim community has given to me in my role as director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, and how they have welcomed me into their community as a brother in faith," he said.
Dr. Adil Al-Humadi, who is active in the Islamic Society of Southern Tier, was also grateful for the support shown by the Franciscans.
"I expected nothing less from Father Calabria, at this difficult time, then what he (and Lentz) did to show solidarity with our community in the Olean area," Al-Humadi said. "This is the true meaning of human brotherhood and love, going by action and not just by talk alone."