Mosque of Jesus, Son of Mary: A Notable Gesture
A spectacular Roman Catholic church in Syracuse, NY is about to become the Mosque of Jesus, Son of Mary.
Holy Trinity Church, established in 1891, is a stunning piece of Gothic-style architecture with glorious stained glass windows depicting the life of Christ. It was closed in 2010 when the Catholic diocese there blamed a declining number of priests and a population shift from the cities to the suburbs.
St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church took over ownership of the building, and it was registered with the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board. In 2012, St. John’s petitioned the preservation board to sell the church to a parish in Baton Rouge, LA. The parish wanted most of the building's contents and its striking stained glass windows. The board turned down the request in favor of keeping the building intact instead of giving another Christian parish the opportunity to use the relics in the type of worship they were intended for.
Fast forward to December 2012 when the Catholic diocese sold the building to the Northside Learning Center, who subsequently leased it to an Islamic society.
The Northside Learning Center claims to be funded only by donations; their aim is to “aid in adult and youth literacy development, and to be instrumental in teaching self-sufficiency and self-actualization to newcomers in our community.” Their online newsletter begins, “May peace be upon you.” They are run by a board of five directors, the most prominently Dr. Yusuf Soule, whose stated goal is “to please Allah.”Another director, Abdulilah Al-Dubai, works part-time with the refugee program of the Islamic Society of Central New York. This is important because The Learning Center supposedly aids refugees and collects donations while making no public reference to being Muslim-centric. However, the fact is that 75% of refugees settling in Syracuse are Muslim.
The Catholic Diocese of Syracuse knew who they were selling their church to. They didn’t care that people like Anna Giannantomio, who attended Holy Trinity for nearly six decades, might be insulted that the Learning Center would lease the building to an Islamic Society that would petition to remove all crosses on the steeples and grounds. Catholic Charities didn’t care because they (along with Interfaith Works), have been assisting copious numbers of Muslim refugees in coming to Central New York for years. This begs the question: Why are they so determined to saturate the area with Muslims while at the same time they are being forced to abandon their Catholic churches?
Catholic Charities just received their five-year grant of about $600,000 a year to continue their Refugee Social Services Program.This is the first year Catholic Charities applied for the grant on their own. For the past thirty years, the Syracuse School District has applied for and received the grant on their behalf.
Syracuse has become so overloaded with refugees (the North side alone grew by 10% in the last decade), that temporary county assistance like Medicaid, food stamps and heating assistance have been pushed to their limits. Some of these programs, like HEAP (the heating assistance program), are doled out on a first-come, first-served basis. Unless existing citizens move fast when the application season opens, they lose out to new refugee families that have the power of Catholic Charities behind them. And while it’s never openly named as a cause of overstrained Food Banks in the area, it’s no wonder there is an increasing barrage of pleas for help from local charities that provide food assistance.
Comments made under the stories surrounding the new mosque in Syracuse indicate the people have no clue what the bigger picture is. They don’t seem to realize that Muslims have already converted a great number of Christian churches to mosques all across Europe, or that there are more practicing Muslims than Christians in many of those areas.
In 2012, the Gatestone Institute reported:
As Islam replaces Christianity as the dominant religion in Europe, more and more churches are set to become mosques, which increasingly serve not only as religious institutions, but also function as the foundational political building blocks for the establishment of separate, parallel Muslim communities in Europe that are based on Islamic Sharia law.
Last year Turkey’s battle over the Hagia Sophia Museum raised a relevant point. The Byzantine church that was converted to a mosque, then restored to its previous splendor was slated to be turned back into a mosque again. Various groups asked authorities to reconsider, including the Rhodes International Culture and Heritage Society. According to the International Business Times, they argued against converting it back into a mosque because:
Respect is essential -- respect for each other's religions and each other's heritage…That is the only way to preserve both the Ottoman heritage in Greece and the Christian heritage in Turkey. This means that we would never propose or support the conversion of any [former] mosque in Greece to a church. It would be counter-productive and strain the cultural relations and friendship between Greeks and Turks.
The Islamic Society in Syracuse doesn’t seem to acknowledge this kind of respect however, and apparently neither does the Catholic diocese.
The only bone they may be throwing the community is the name “Mosque of Jesus, Son of Mary.” Surely no Christian will object to that.
It is not the only mosque bearing Jesus name, as Islam claims him as a prophet. There are countless others, including across the Middle East. Closer to home inNew York City, the site of over 100 mosques,there is the similarly named NYC Muslim Center -- Masjid 'Eesa ibn Maryam (Jesus, Son of Mary Mosque).
According to Islam Today, the naming of the Mosque of Jesus Christ in Amman Jordan was considered a “gesture noticeable enough to be appreciated” because “both Muslims and Christians appreciated it.”
Local media in the Syracuse area only began reporting on the proposed mosque after sanctuary pews, benches and Christian symbols had already been removed by the Islamic group. In that liberal stronghold where Christianity draws its dying breath, it will likely be welcomed with open arms when it officially opens in June.
Jenna Bowen is a pseudonym.