Imam raises money for vandalised church: 'We have to transcend our differences'

Imam Slimi said that raising the money "is what any Muslim would do".Facebook

An imam in Canada has raised money for a local church after it was vandalised by a man "upset with the Christian religion".

Hamid Slimi, imam of the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga, urged his congregation to donate to the nearby St Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church, which suffered thousands of pounds of damage last month.

A man was caught on CCTV ripping pages from Bibles, damaging the alter and removing a cross and placing it on the ground. A few days later, a statue of Jesus was vandalised and graffiti sprayed at the school attached to the church. "When I saw this, I thought it was pure injustice. It was just wrong," Slimi told The Star. Speaking to Christian Today, he said he called the church immediately and went to see the damage for himself, asking Father Camillo Lando of St Catherine's if there was anything the local Muslim community could do to help. Slimi then mentioned the situation during a Friday service at his mosque, and took a collection. $5,000 was raised instantly.

"I told my community, there is nothing we can do now. But the church needs funds. We believe there is no discrimination in charity. It is the act that is rewarded. It doesn't matter who is the recipient," he explained.

"They [St Catherine's] needed $10,000, and they already had some, so we made up what was missing," he told Christian Today. "My idea of religion is that we have to transcend [our] differences; we're part of something bigger."

Slimi said that raising the money "is what any Muslim would do". Father Lando is "a very, very gracious man," he added. "They [the church] are very nice people, and they appreciated it."

A 22-year-old man, Iqbal Hessan, has been charged with breaking and entering and committing the crime. According to The Star, Hessan told the court that he was "upset with the Christian religion" and his father said that he'd been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which he believes to be the cause of his son's actions.

Police will not be charging Hessan with a hate crime "because there was no evidence of mal-intent," a spokeswoman confirmed.

Father Lando said his church's was praying for Hessan, and wanted to "forgive and forget".

He told The Star that he was grateful for Slimi's donation, which he called a "beautiful and generous gesture".

"It's an act of confidence and understanding. We are walking together in this community. We keep our faith, and we have to honour and respect people of other faiths."

Slimi said that maintaining inter-faith relations "is the only way to keep this world peaceful". He describes himself "humbly as a bridge-builder" and says it's a vital part of his calling as a Muslim to love other people.

"Unless we keep those bridges, we will see more insanity and madness. There are fanatics on both sides," he said. "I love human beings, and if I don't love people, I can't connect with them."