Ten people were injured Sept. 17 when a knife-wielding man, Dahir Adan of St. Cloud, attacked shoppers inside Crossroads Center mall in St. Cloud. Adan was stopped by off-duty Avon police officer Jason Falconer, who shot and killed him just minutes after the attacks began.
“The attacks at the Crossroads mall were shocking to everyone,” said Benedictine Father Edward Vebelun, ecumenical officer for the Diocese of St. Cloud. “As members of the Body of Christ, we join our prayers for the victims and their families, as well as for the police who will continue to work diligently toward the security and safety of the entire region. We are profoundly grateful for their self-sacrifice in assuring public safety in the face of such randomly violent behavior.”
Father Vebelun, who also serves as pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Richmond and St. Martin Parish in St. Martin, said it also is important to offer prayers for the Muslim and immigrant communities of the area. Although it can be a terrifying and confusing time, he said, “we must keep in mind that these isolated attacks do not represent the core of Islam, and that it does not necessarily reveal a larger network of terrorism in central Minnesota.”
He said the road to peace must come through mutual understanding and positive relationships.
“Therefore, let us be inspired by this act of violence to be more diligent in promoting social harmony and peace among all area residents. Let us take the time to connect with people of all religious traditions, so that we might discover the core of our common humanity within the daily acts of kindness,” Father Edward said.
Similar thoughts emerged from area Christian and Muslim faith and community leaders including through press conferences held Sept. 18 at Lake George in St. Cloud and Sept. 19 at St. Cloud City Hall. During the press conference Sept. 19, area faith leaders gathered and introduced the social media hashtag: #StCloudTogether.
The following comments are edited excerpts from the Sept. 18 and 19 press conferences unless otherwise noted:
• “Please join me in praying for the victims of last night’s mall attack, for our first responders & for peace and unity in our community.”
— Bishop Donald Kettler via his Twitter account Sept. 18
• “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the injured and suffering, to the families touched by this and to those spiritually touched by this. The anti-fear is faith. And so as a faith community, we’ve come together to be able to bring about a sense of calm and understanding that may not exist in any other place at this time.”
— Pastor James Alberts, Higher Ground Church of God in Christ, St. Cloud, at the Sept. 19 press conference
• “The sisters have been praying and will continue to pray at St. Benedict’s Monastery. We have great hope that somehow we can walk over this bridge together.”
— Benedictine Sister Michaela Hedican, prioress of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph, following the Sept. 18 press conference
• “I knew there would be a lot of people who were going to be hurt by this, so it was very sad. We’re at a place in St. Cloud where we need to make a choice: Are we going to be a divided and resentful community? Or are we going to come together, trusting in the goodness of each other? I hope we do the latter, and I believe we can.”
— Kathy Langer, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities, after the Sept. 18 press conference
• “We come together to remember that we are better together. Together, we remember the people who were hurt Saturday night. We remember their families. We remember all the folks who were frightened. We remember all the police officers who did their callings in difficult circumstances. We remember all city officials and health care workers that have worked so hard to bring light out of this violent episode in our common story. We are a community together. Hate will not define us. We are better together.”
— Rev. Larry Strenge, on behalf of Bishop John Anderson of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Church in America, at the Sept. 19 press conference
• “We would like to express our condolences to the victims. We would like to appreciate the support of the interfaith group of St. Cloud. St. Cloud was a welcoming city. It will remain a welcoming city. Nothing can divide us.
The more we stand united, the more we will defeat our enemy. ISIS is not an Islamic group because they are not following the teaching of Islam. They hijacked our faith. [They are] trying to destroy us by using members of us to kill us. Let us deny this. [Let us] talk, sit down, know each other more, learn our cultures from each other.”
— Mohamoud Ismail Mohamed, Central Minnesota Islamic Center, at the Sept. 19 press conference
• “We acknowledge that when it comes to living in a peaceful society, each of us has a role to play. In days to come, we must each remember that ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ and we must be willing to speak up if we see any person being targeted for their religious belief. After all, one of the greatest commandments we are given is to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
— Rev. Peg Chemberlin, CEO, Minnesota Council of Churches, at the Sept. 19 press conference