Church, community cared for families of synagogue hostages during hourslong crisis

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Church, community cared for families of synagogue hostages during hourslong crisis
© (photo credit: REUTERS/Shelby Tauber) Emergency responders are seen near a synagogue where a man has reportedly taken people hostage at a synagogue during services that were being streamed live, in Colleyville, Texas, U.S. January 15, 2022.

For hours on Saturday, Good Shepherd Catholic Community church in Colleyville came to the aid of Congregation Beth Israel as an armed man held Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three others hostage at the synagogue. 

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The help came in the form of a safe place for the rabbi’s family and spouses of the other hostages to wait out the ordeal. 

And Father Mike Higgins took time Sunday morning to praise the effort and how communities helped each other. 

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“It showed what the worst of the community can do and what the best of communities (can do) as well,” Higgins said Sunday during one of the morning Masses at Good Shepherd. 

The incident ended about 9:15 p.m. Saturday, after nearly 11 hours of police and FBI negotiations, when the hostages escaped unharmed and the suspect died as law enforcement breached the building. The FBI on Sunday publicly identified the hostage-taker as Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British citizen. 

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Church, community cared for families of synagogue hostages during hourslong crisis
© Provided by The Jerusalem Post An armored law enforcement vehicle is seen in the area where a man has reportedly taken people hostage at a synagogue during services that were being streamed live, in Colleyville, Texas, US January 15, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/Shelby Tauber)

Higgins said shortly after authorities learned Akram had taken hostages about 10:40 a.m., Colleyville police contacted church officials about a safe place to keep the families. 

Good Shepherd, 1000 Tinker Road, is just north of the Colleyville synagogue. 

The families of the hostages stayed at Good Shepherd for most of the day, sometimes just a few feet from reporters who were working in a staging area at the Colleyville church. 

“The families of the hostages were taken care by the church staff,” Higgins said. 

That was from about 11 a.m. Saturday until almost midnight. 

“I think it was an indication of how well the message of how we should deal with those in need has really seeped through the community here at Good Shepherd,” Higgins told the congregation

The priest noted how a ministry team and church staff jumped in to help throughout Saturday. The media was in the church’s hall while families were in the church’s administration building. 

“What were trying to do was give the families a safe space,” Higgins said. “They were able to have some time to themselves.” 

The Good Shepherd priest also noted that the Colleyville community swamped the church with food. 

”There’s a crisis going on, you need a casserole,” Higgins said in a light moment during the Sunday morning Mass. “You need brisket sandwiches, you need barbecue. They didn’t know the families were there; it was for the staff.” 

Higgins told the congregation that there was a lot of good that went on behind the scenes on Saturday. 

“Too many times we focus on the negative things,” the priest said. “And we don’t celebrate all the positive.” 

Higgins expressed gratitude to everyone who helped. 

“You can’t just image the terror they were going through,” the priest said, referring to the families. “I’m so proud of what this community was able to do.”

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