As we begin this new year, we want to express gratitude for the presence of our Maine brothers and sisters of Islam among us. The depth of their spiritual beliefs and practice and the wealth of cultures that they bring to our communities have inspired and enriched us all.

We are writing today because we know that, in the days since the attacks in Paris and Beirut, the downing of a Russian passenger jet over Egypt and the bloodshed in Mali and San Bernadino, there has been increasing pressure on the vast Muslim community.

The hateful rhetoric that has filled both the political landscape and personal conversations is totally against what we see as the highest ideals of our nation.

It is completely opposed to our understanding of the message of Jesus. That message of Jesus, which is a message of love, is at the center of our lives, just as the words of Mohammed, peace be upon him, are at the center of the followers of Islam.

Our understandings of the divine presence may differ; the ways in which we express our faith may differ; but as spiritual descendants of Abraham and as human beings sharing inherent dignity, we want all Muslims to know that we at Old South United Church of Christ in Farmington stand with them in these difficult times.

We hold them in our prayers and we ask that they hold us in their prayers as well.

Grace and peace be with them.

Randall Oakley, Mount Vernon, and also signed by 54 members of the Old South United Church of Christ in Farmington

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