The day after three Muslims were killed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina by a self-described anti-theist, I was very proud of my work for the Foundation Beyond Belief when Dale McGowan set up a fundraiser to benefit the Syrian-American Medical Society. One of the victims, a dentistry student, was working with SAMS to provide dental care to Syrian refugees. The boss explained to the Religion News Service why that’s important:
The idea for the Foundation Beyond Belief fundraiser came from Todd Stiefel, a humanist activist and philanthropist who lives in the Chapel Hill area. McGowan said he and Stiefel talked soon after the shootings to explore how the atheist and humanist communities should respond. The man accused in the killings, Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, reportedly made numerous anti-theistic statements to family and neighbors and had links to popular atheist websites on his Facebook page.
“One of the things I think other worldview communities have dealt with in the past is what to do when a portion of your community does something inhumane or violent, something that does not reflect your values as a member of that community,” McGowan said. “We wanted to say this guy may have been an atheist but the atheist community absolutely disowns this action, and we wanted to make it clear we recognize the victims as victims and make a gesture of healing.”
Before his death, Barakat recorded a video seeking donations for a SAMS project called “Refugee Smiles.” In it, he announced his intention to travel to Turkey with SAMS this summer to perform dental work among the Syrian refugees, especially children. He was seeking donations for toothpaste, toothbrushes and other dental supplies to take on the trip.
That made raising funds for SAMS a natural choice, McGowan said. “It felt like we could to some degree make something good come out of this horrible event,” he said.
Overall, that effort has now raised more than $450,000, about $20,000 of which was raised through FBB. Thank you to everyone who donated. This is a perfect example of why, when the opportunity arose to work with FBB even a few hours a week, I jumped at the chance. Everyone at FBB, starting with Dale, shows such incredible humanity and compassion.