Photo courtesy of Pastor Hal Shrader

A group from Trinity Mennonite Church located in Glendale, Ariz., and a group from Islamic Community Center of Phoenix (Arizona) are pictured together at a celebratory relief kit dedication event. 

Glendale, Ariz. -- Trinity Mennonite Church and Islamic Community Center of Phoenix (ICC) joined together to collect hygiene items to compile relief kits that will go to support people who are suffering from displacement due to violence in the Middle East.  

The two communities and members from other congregations such as Koinonia Mennonite in Chandler, Circle of Peace in Peoria, First Mennonite and Sunny Slope Mennonite in Phoenix donated items and money to purchase supplies for 153 relief kits.

Individuals from ICCP and Trinity gathered for a celebratory relief kit dedication event on June 20th.

 “This event was a bright spot in our year,” says Hal Shrader, lead pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church since 2010.

Shrader, said this was a way for those in the congregation to respond to needs and engage in meaningful work that represents what they believe in. “The relief kit project was a perfect vehicle,” said Shrader. 

Last year Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) provided 14,507 relief kits to people in crisis to more than 11 countries.  

Each kit contains bath soap, shampoo, laundry soap, toothbrushes, bath towels, combs, a fingernail clipper, adhesive bandages and sanitary pads.  Providing emergency assistance like this is part of MCC’s commitment to respond to basic human needs and working for peace and justice globally in the name of Christ. 

(The completed MCC relief kits that will be donated to refugees in the Middle East decorate the sactuary at Trinity Mennonite Church in Glendale, Ariz. Trinity Mennonite partnered with a local Islamic Community Center located in Phoenix (Arizona) for this project. Photo provided by Pastor Hal Shrader.)

The idea for the church to partner with the ICC on the relief project came from Leroy Willams, West Coast MCC staff person responsible for Arizona church and donor Relations.

“I believe in reaching out to help others with greater needs that your own.” said Willems

Willems and his wife Joan served as MCC Sudan representatives from 2008 to 2011. The couple experienced firsthand the civil unrest and witnessed the serious needs of the people who were displaced from their homes fleeing violence.

He said he knows the relief kits will go directly towards helping the needs of people in these situations.    

Shrader and Willems believe that ICC has similar goals about serving the community in Phoenix and responding to global needs.  The two communities are building a relationship by their common purpose to be active in peace and justice work and to provide support of basic human needs for the poor and hungry. 

“We were delighted to help,” says Zeeshan Siddiqi, a board member with ICC. “We are always looking to partner with the community to build strong relationships.”

Siddiqi says he hopes ICC can do similar projects with Trinity in the future. 

Trinity has worked to develop a relationship with ICC for years, seeing this as one way of building bridges of understanding between Christians and Muslims in Arizona, Shrader said.

In May, two men who had attended services at the mosque attacked a Texas cartoon event featuring images of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.  They were killed by police. The center, even as it condemned the attack in Texas, became the site of anti-Islam protests and threats.

Trinity looked for ways to stand by members of ICC, and gathering relief kits was a good opportunity to work together, Shrader said.

Members of Trinity were invited as a special guests to a Ramadan Iftar dinner at the Community Center. Shrader also occasionally attends the weekly neighborhood mosque meeting. 

“The congregation is growing a relationship of friendship with ICC,” said Shrader.  “Trinity Mennonite Church wants to be good neighbors with the ICC. ”

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