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Faith leaders unite, offer support in wake of Colleyville synagogue hostage standoff

When Saturday’s incident began unfolding, the Faith Forward Dallas group quickly started reaching out to other faith leaders across the area.

COLLEYVILLE, Texas — It was a tense day across North Texas on Saturday, as communities watched several law enforcement agencies surround Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.

Faith leaders across the area were also concerned.

“It always sends shockwaves when faith communities are targeted and under stress in these awful ways," said Rabbi Andrew Paley of Faith Forward Dallas.

Worry grew as police revealed information that an unidentified man, later identified by the FBI as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram, interrupted Saturday’s weekly Shabbat service at Colleyville synagogue. Several congregants were held against their will, including the synagogue’s rabbi.

“Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a place of worship has been targeted, and many of us have had to respond to the aftermath in our own conversation, in our own context,” said Reverend Neil Thomas of Faith Forward Dallas.

Reverend Thomas and Rabbi Paley are co-chairs of Faith Forward Dallas. It’s a diverse coalition of local faith leaders united in a mission for peace and justice.

When Saturday’s incident began unfolding, that group quickly started reaching out to other faith leaders across the area.

“We were able to reach out to rabbis,” Rev. Thomas explained. "We were able to do some of the networking that took the pressure off, perhaps, some of the other agencies, and we were able to take care of some of our own, and make sure that we were in solidarity and prayer for one another

Rabbi Paley, who’s also a police chaplain, said he was asked by law enforcement to head to Colleyville to offer support. So, he rushed to the scene.

“There was one hostage who was released. He is in good spirits, and it was grateful to have the conversation,” Paley added.

The concern was echoed as local municipalities announced they’ll be dedicating police and other resources to increase patrols around other synagogues and sites in response to Saturday’s situation.

“I think that this will, again, call us together to ensure that we make our places of worship as safe as possible, and to ensure that we get a debrief with each other, in hope that we can try to prevent anything like this from happening again,” Rev. Thomas explained.

As they joined prayers for a peaceful resolve, Rabbi Paley and Rev. Thomas said they believe this incident will result in future training and a stronger commitment to peace and unity in communities across North Texas.

“We know that this is a terrible moment," Rabbi Paley said. "This is, again, a moment to demonstrate that we are one family that cares deeply about each other."

In the coming days, members of Faith Forward Dallas said faith leaders will debrief, regroup, and some will retrain in safety and security protocols for their places of worship.

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