VICTORIA, Texas – Hate may have burned down the Victoria Islamic Center, but love and compassion will see it built again.
The mosque serving the South Texas community was destroyed in a fire on Jan. 28, 2017, which investigators believe was set intentionally. The flames flickering in the night sky were an ugly sight for members of the congregation and seemed to send an even uglier message.
"That's like somebody giving you an eviction notice," said Omar Rachid, a spokesman for the Victoria Islamic Center.
Federal prosecutors have charged Marq Vincent Perez with a hate crime for allegedly starting the fire.
While he is scheduled for trial in April, the members of the congregation are focused on rebuilding, with the foundation for a new mosque being poured on Wednesday.
Money from around the globe has fueled the congregation's effort. A GoFundMe page shows more than $1.1 million raised for the project, and Rachid said the center has received other checks, too.
"We received donations from 90 countries," he said, noting that the center is still several hundred thousand dollars short of the amount it needs to complete the project.
In the meantime, the congregation worships in another building to the side, already anticipating the mosque they hope will be completed in July.
"I feel very relieved. You know, I feel very happy. I can't wait until it's finished," said Ibrahim Arabi as he arrived for Friday's services.
Though one man may have destroyed their place of worship, many more will have helped to build it anew.
"Human kindness is really, truly the most beautiful thing you can ever observe," Rachid said.