(RNS) The pastor of an Orthodox Christian church in Tulsa, Okla., said the funeral this week for a slain Lebanese-American member of his flock will focus on faith and avoid politics.
The Rev. George Eber of St. Antony Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church told the Tulsa World that the service for Khalid Jabara will be a traditional and typical one for the denomination: long, with chanting, readings from Scripture and brief words from him on the life of the deceased.
“We will avoid all politics,” Eber told the newspaper. “We will keep demonstrators off of our property.
“The funeral is important,” he continued, “to address, ‘Where was God?’ and ‘Where does evil come from?’”
Beyond the church, which will be patrolled by off-duty police hired by the congregation, outrage swirls around the death of the 37-year-old Arab Christian, who was raised in St. Antony’s.
His family says his killing on Aug. 12 was a hate crime, and that the man accused in the case — Stanley Vernon Majors — had violently harassed the family for years. At the time of the slaying, Majors was already facing charges that he tried to run over Jabara’s mother with a car last year; that trial is slated for 2017.
The family faults police for failing to protect Khalid Jabara, in light of his 911 call and Majors’ history of intimidation — which they say he cast in racial and religious terms, taunting his neighbors as “Aye-rab” and “Mooslem.”
Soon after Khalid’s death, #justice4khalid began trending on Twitter.
In addition to many on social media, civil rights groups, including the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, have decried Jabara’s death. Some have pointed fingers at Donald Trump’s presidential campaign for fanning anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim prejudices.
Many people, Eber told the Tulsa World, mistakenly associate Arabs only with Islam. A significant minority of Arabs in the Middle East, the U.S. and elsewhere are Orthodox Christians.