Smithfield: Opinion

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Only the extremists grab headlines

The experience of my friend Ned Walsh, a retired Baptist minister like myself, mirrors my own.

Somehow it took me a while to realize that news organizations must sell advertising as they attract viewers, and nothing attract readers and viewers more than sensational stories about terrorist acts committed by extremists.

Nowadays the extremism that gets attention is so-called Islamic extremism. But I remember so well the times not so long ago when we heard in our news about extremist followers of a man named Jim Jones, who led his followers to South America and forced them to commit suicide. He and they claimed to be Christian. Perhaps some were, but they were also extremists. Then there were the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, whose intransigence led to their suicidal mass destruction. They called themselves Christians too. Perhaps some were, but they were also extremists.

Throughout the United States, and especially in the South and even right here in Johnston County, many people over the years were active in the Ku Klux Klan. Their activities included cross-burning and the intimidation of Jews, Catholics, blacks and other minorities over the years. They called themselves Christians. Perhaps some were, ut I believe most of them were just extremists.

Nowadays we have had Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS, whose members dare to call themselves observant Muslims. Yet they number less than half a percent of the world’s 1.5 billion practicing Muslims, who are generally peaceful and devout people who love their neighbors, yes, even their Christian neighbors, and never would think of harming their Christian neighbors.

Those so-called Muslims in the headlines have been roundly and thoroughly condemned and repudiated as non-Islamic time after time after time by the other 1.5 billion true Muslims, but somehow those condemnations and repudiations fail to make the headlines. Consequently, we non-Muslims in this country, who have failed to get to know our Muslim neighbors, continue to languish in our ignorance, and we continue to fear what we do not understand.

Ned and I have been regularly attending Friday prayer services with our Muslim friends in Smithfield ever since President Trump threatened to deport Muslims from the United States. We have come to know them and to appreciate them. Now they have purchased a building soon to become the Johnston County Islamic Community Center. Within the next few weeks and months, the non-Muslim community of our county will be invited to come and meet these good and patriotic Muslim neighbors at an open-house event and to experience their generosity and hospitality and their deep caring for their non-Muslim neighbors.

When you see their invitation in the news media, please respond by coming to learn for yourself that there is nothing to fear in love, because complete love always casts out fear – even in, and especially in, Johnston County.

Michael J. Watts


A call to action

In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the District 11 Guardian ad Litem Program is issuing a call to action for residents of North Carolina to stand against child abuse and take action to support children who have been abused or neglected.

At any given time, the cases of more than 10,000 children are in the state’s abuse, neglect and dependency courts. Most of them are in foster care or other out-of-home placements. These children come into the child-welfare system through no fault of their own.

The needs of North Carolina’s children coming into care are more complicated than ever before, and life in foster care can be chaotic, according to Iris Derrick, the program’s Atlantic Cape Fear Regional administrator. Every child deserves the support of caring, consistent adult with the training to help them heal and thrive, she says.

The N.C. Guardian ad Litem Program is calling on members of the community to help our program serve more of Johnston County’s most vulnerable children. Throughout the district, our Guardian ad Litem staff and community volunteers are recognizing and partnering to bring awareness to child-abuse prevention.

Without intervention, the odds are stacked against children in foster care. A child with a Guardian ad litem volunteer, however, will leave the foster care system two-and-a-half months earlier, on average, compared to a child without a volunteer. Studies show children with a volunteer receive more services that are critical to their well-being than children without an advocate, and those children are more likely to achieve educational success.

N.C. GAL volunteers are a constant for the child in a time of chaos, according to John Webster, GAL Program supervisor. A child may have multiple social workers, attorneys, therapists and foster placements throughout the life of the case but only one GAL volunteer, which can make all the difference for the child’s future, he says.

The District 11 N.C. Guardian ad Litem Program serves Harnett, Lee and Johnston and is a member of the N.C. Guardian ad Litem program, a statewide network of programs in all 100 counties across North Carolina. At the heart of the movement are over 5,000 highly trained volunteers who advocate for the best interests of more than 17,000 children who have been abused or neglected. In Johnston County, 49 volunteer advocates are fighting for the best interests of 152 children, but 60 more children need the care and support of a GAL volunteer.

For more information about the Guardian ad Litem Program in Johnston County, go to or call 919-934-3348.

Mandy McNulty

Volunteer recruiter, Guardian ad Litem Program