An FBI investigation seeking terrorism connections to last week’s shooting in Pensacola, Florida, continues today. A 21-year old trainee from Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Alshamrani, shot and killed three people at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola on Friday.
Events like these often turn people against Muslims and anyone from the same country as the attacker. For example, the Pew Research Center reports 93 anti-Muslim attacks in 2001, the year of the September 11 terrorist attacks. That number rose to 127 in 2016; there were seven shootings or bombings in the U.S. fueled by fear of radical Islam between May 2015 and November 2016.
Patrick Murphy from I Found the Truth Ministries says U.S. believers should extend Christ’s love instead of condemning Saudi nationals.
Saudi nationals under suspicion
Though the FBI investigation is still underway and motive remains unclear, Reuters claims Alshamrani may have been radicalized. Sources told Washington Post that Alshamrani seemed “strange” and “angry” in recent weeks. On Tuesday, U.S. officials halted all operational training of Saudi nationals “until further notice.”
It’s a precarious time for Saudi nationals living in the United States. “They’re watching those stories and they’re thinking, ‘Oh, boy, I’m from Saudi… what are people going to think of me?’ It’s a real concern,” Murphy says. He encourages believers to extend a friendly welcome instead of suspicion.
“If I met someone that was from Saudi, I’d say… ‘You’ve probably heard the news and I just want you to know I don’t see you as that person. I see you as someone that would stand against [the attack] and I’m glad that you’re my neighbor’.”
Believers might try talking about how God is moving in Saudis’ homeland. “We know many Muslims in Saudi Arabia that have come to faith in Christ, and many of them are worshiping with [the] online church,” Murphy reports.
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SOURCE: Mission Network News, Katey Hearth