Dozens gather to support to Pittsburgh church targeted by alleged terrorist
Dozens of Pittsburgh residents of all faiths came together Sunday to support the congregation of Legacy International Worship Center in the North Side as they held their first Sunday service since police arrested a man accused of planning to blow up the church.
The interfaith event was organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh as a way to encourage different faith communities to be there for the congregation of Legacy as they navigate the difficult days and weeks ahead.
“We have been just overwhelmed with all the love that’s been shown on social media (and) people stopping by to make sure we’re OK,” said Jennifer Benton, marketing and communications director for Legacy. “We have been more than happy to welcome people of different faiths, different walks (of life) just to come in to show love.”
Federal investigators last week arrested Syrian-born Pittsburgh resident Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 21, and charged him with plotting to blow up the church next month in support of the terrorist group ISIS. The 21-year-old refugee — who entered the United States three years ago and graduated from Brashear High School earlier this month — allegedly had been plotting since April with an undercover FBI agent he thought was a supporter of ISIS.
Laura Cherner, communications director with the Jewish Federation, said the Jewish community knows all too well the pain of experiencing a threat and attack after the Tree of Life mass shooting in October, and they wanted to be there for Legacy.
“One thing that we saw especially after the Tree of Life shooting was just this overwhelming support from the entire community,” she said. “And I think this is just not only an opportunity to show that support back, but also just as a reminder how important it is for us to stick together and that we’re stronger together.”
Rabbi Ron Symons, with the Jewish Community Center, said different faith groups showing up in support is what it means to be a neighbor as a moral concept. They might actually live in the neighborhood, but they’re still neighbors in faith.
“We should simply be here to greet them and shake their hand and to ask them what their names are and to wish them blessings,” Symons said.
Peggy Osborne, a member of the Christ United Methodist Church in Bethel Park, said the first thought when she heard about the alleged planned attack was, “Oh no, not again.”
She came to the service with a poster that read, “United Methodists stand with Legacy International Worship Center.”
“An attack or threat on any community of faith is an attack or a threat on all of us,” Osborne said.
Cynthia Greathouse, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, said she was encouraged to see so many people show up in a spirit of love, peace and support.
“This is a day to celebrate this was thwarted,” she said.
As the service began — with a prayer, remarks from Mayor Bill Peduto and songs of worship — an overwhelming sense of gratitude was felt throughout the church.
“We’re just grateful to be alive,” Benton said. “Grateful everything was handled.”
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Emily at 724-226-4680, [email protected] or via Twitter .