A service event Sunday at UNC will honor the legacy of three Muslim students killed by their neighbor on Feb. 10, 2015.
Stop Hunger Now, sponsored by the UNC Muslim Students Association, is asking volunteers to donate money and join together to pack more than 15,000 individual meals at the Carolina Union on UNC’s campus. Details can be found at bit.ly/2k4llK1.
The event follows Thursday’s launch of a national campaign, #LoveThyNeighbor, which encourages acts of service and kindness to honor Deah Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and her sister Razan Abu-Salha, 19, who were killed in their Chapel Hill apartment.
The Our Three Winners Foundation, which keeps their service legacy alive, has partnered with social justice and civil rights activist Van Jones’ #LoveArmy to promote the campaign and call for solidarity in the face of hate and xenophobia. The faith community is fighting back with prayer, organizers said.
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People are asked to post their experiences with the hashtags #LoveThyNeighbor, #LoveArmy or #OurThreeWinners.
It’s not about big events that attract thousands of people, said Arif Khan, a foundation board member.
“It’s at a grassroots level, a very sort of human concept ... you might not have any faith, you might find yourself to be a certain ethnicity or not a certain ethnicity, or you might find yourself to be a citizen or not a citizen, or you might find yourself to be part of a community or not part of a community,” he said.
“Whatever your differences are, at the end of the day, there is a common thread in all people, which is humanity and you should embrace that and bring forth positive life from that.”
While police have said the family was shot over a long-running parking dispute, their relatives and others have said Craig Hicks, who is charged with their murders, targeted them because of their Muslim faith.
“Tragically, February 10th marks two years since my brother Deah, his wife Yusor, and her sister Razan, lost their lives to a hate crime,” said Suzanne Barakat, the foundation’s chairwoman. “In a time of divisiveness and hateful rhetoric, our families ask that you join hands and come together to fight hate with love and fight darkness with light.”
Community action and solidarity is particularly important now, the organizers said, because of President Trump’s Jan. 27 ban on immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. They also noted growing hate crimes against Muslims in the last two years.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reports that 21.4 percent of hate crimes in 2015 were motivated by religious bias, up from 18.6 percent in 2014. About 22 percent of the crimes in 2015 targeted Muslims, the FBI reports, up from 16.3 percent in 2014.
The hatred that killed Dean, Yusor and Razan, Khan said, stems from an “irrational fear” of the unknown. The victims’ families wanted to channel that hate and the response to it into something positive, he said.
“Literally it touched not even just the local community,” he said. “It became city and state and country and really just an international thing where people around the world were reaching out and wanting to do things in their name.”
The #LoveThyNeighbor campaign also is raising $25,000 to support a service and philanthropy endowment – launchgood.com/LoveThyNeighbor – established with money donated after the shooting. Deah Barakat’s original goal was $20,000 to fund a Syrian dental relief project; the campaign raised over $500,000.
Barakat’s family also launched earlier this month the Light House Project, a Raleigh community center for young people and budding entrepreneurs.
“We will not let attacks on immigrants and Muslims define who we are,” said Jones, who also is founder and president of the Dream Corps.
“It is time for us all to rise up and fight back against fear and hatred. We must love and protect each other. Right now we can let each and every one of our neighbors know: We got your back,” he said.