Hundreds of mourners gathered at a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Thursday to memorialize Khalid Jabara, a 37-year-old who was shot and killed on Aug. 12 in an apparent hate crime.
During the ceremony, Rev. George Eber, parish priest of St. Antony Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, urged mourners “to never forget God — no matter what. Even in this horrible time.”
Eber recalled Jabara’s character saying, “He was funny, a person people liked, friendly, gregarious, someone who brought a joy when there was darkness.”
The Jabara family are Orthodox Christian, and Khalid’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s from Lebanon. They settled in Tulsa to raise their three children where they started a family catering business, but there was trouble in the community.
According to a statement released on Facebook by Jabara’s sister, Victoria Jabara Williams, the family had experienced years of verbal and physical assaults by their neighbor, Stanley Vernon Majors.
Williams said Majors frequently harassed them, calling them “dirty Arabs,” “filthy Lebanese,” “Aye-rabs,” and “Mooslems.” She also said Majors had run over her mother with his car last year, leaving her with a broken shoulder, collapsed lung, broken ankle, broken nose, head trauma and fractured ribs.
Police arrested Majors for the attack and charged him with felony assault. But despite warning signs of Majors’ antagonism toward the family, police released him from custody several months ago so he could await trial in March 2017.
On Aug. 12, Jabara called the police, “stating this man had a gun and that he was scared for what might happen,” Williams said in her statement. Police showed up but left the neighborhood without questioning Majors. Less than ten minutes later Jabara was shot and killed outside his home.
Majors is now in police custody, again, on suspicion of first-degree murder.
“We can learn to love our enemy, but not on our own,” Eber said during the memorial. “I have been asked by the news media to label this. I look to history. We haven’t stopped these wars, these atrocious murders.”
Jabara’s killing has received national attention as yet another tragic and dangerous incident of xenophobia. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released a statement on Thursday, responding to Williams’ Facebook post:
Victoria, my heart breaks for you and your family over the loss of your brother Khalid. An attack like this is an attack on all of us, and we must come together to ensure that no other family loses a beloved son or daughter because of prejudice and bigotry.
Muslim American activist Linda Sarsour set up a LaunchGood campaign on Monday to raise money for the Jabara family. So far, more than 300 people have made contributions, totaling nearly $20,000. The funds will go toward providing home health care for Jabara’s father, who relied on his son as caretaker.
“We will not be silent. Let’s stand against hate and show our support for Khalid and his family,” Sarsour wrote on the fundraiser page.
The shooting comes at a time when the U.S. is facing rising xenophobia, often aimed at Muslims, Arabs and those perceived to be such.
“My family lived in fear of this man and his hatred for years,” Williams said in reference to Majors.
“Our brother Khalid was just 37 years old and had his whole life ahead of him. He was a kind spirit, loving brother, uncle and son. Khalid’s heart was big,” she wrote. “All of that has been taken away from us by this hateful man and a system that failed to protect our community.”