United Methodist woman helps arrange burial of Boston Marathon suspect

Martha Mullen

A United Methodist woman in Richmond, Va., said she was acting out of Christian compassion in helping to arrange the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.

“Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not hate them after they’re dead,” said Martha Mullen, in a phone interview. “That’s why I kind of got this ball rolling.”

Ms. Mullen, a 48-year-old counselor in private practice who studied at a United Methodist seminary, was distressed at news accounts about the difficulty of finding a burial place for Tsarnaev, who died in an April 19 shootout with police.

The body had been kept at a funeral home in Worcester, Mass., as cemeteries in Massachusetts and some other states refused to accept it for burial.

Ms. Mullen said she suspected his religious background was part of the problem.

“I understand he’s a terrorist and he did something terrible, but it seemed like the hatred was coming out of the fact that he was Muslim, uniquely – and that bothered me,” she said.

Ms. Mullen said she reached out by email to representatives of local Muslim, Jewish and Hindu congregations. An offer of a donated burial plot came from Al-Barzakh Cemetery in Doswell, Va., run by a group called Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia.

Ms. Mullen said she contacted Worcester police, who worked with the funeral home in Worcester and Tsarnaev’s family, resulting in the burial this week in the Doswell cemetery, in accordance with Islamic law and practices.

“I just kind of coordinated things and took a step back and let the family make their decision,” Ms. Mullen said. “They had many, many offers of burial places.”

Ms. Mullen would not identify her United Methodist church in Richmond.

“I don’t want to put the church out there because I think it would be perturbing to some members,” she said. “Not everybody is going to agree with me.”

Ms. Mullen said she informed her pastor about helping arrange the burial.

“She said she understood what motivated me and she supported my faith journey,” Ms. Mullen said.

United Theological Seminary, a UM seminary in Dayton, Ohio, verified that Ms. Mullen graduated from there in 2002, with a master of arts in Christian ministries.

Ms. Mullen said her Wesleyan background informed her decision to get involved in the burial matter.

“John Wesley advocated practicing a social gospel,” she said. “I take that very seriously – that I am to be involved in life, and I am to be an ambassador for Christ, even if it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient or dangerous.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that some neighbors of the Al-Barzakh Cemetery were upset to learn Tsarnaev was buried there.


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Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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I am so very proud to be a Christian and a Methodist. Thank you very much Ms. Mullen for this act of witness.

mary george
mary george

I am so proud to be a Methodist who also walks as the feet and works with the hands of Christ guiding me, Bless you for human capacity. Christ will take it from here,

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