As many know, Earth day was this past Sunday, April 22. Earth Day celebrates the beauty of our natural surroundings and is also the day we remind ourselves of the steps we need to take towards preserving the environment we benefit from on a daily basis. The Roswell Community Masjid commemorated this annual event by uniting the leaders of different faiths, as well as former and current candidates running for office from the surrounding community. These included religious figures such as Rabbi Alexandria of Temple Beth Tikvah, Hardeep Singh of SEWA, Minister Dave Dunn of Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North, Imam Arshad Anwar of RCM, and candidates such as Jere Wood and Bobby Kaple.
The event, organized by the Roswell Earth Coalition, opened with a brief introduction by former Roswell City Council candidate Bassem Fakhoury, highlighting the diversity in the room as well as stating the overall inspiration and purpose behind the event, “The concept of doing something good is [common] across all the different faiths” he stated. “It’s not about one day, it’s about what we can do [for the environment] on an ongoing basis.” He went on to explain what he described to be the three phases of Earth Day: the symbolic aspect of planting a tree, taking part in a service project to give back to the community alongside the people of Roswell Parks and Recreation, and lastly, taking a pledge to work towards bettering the environment on an ongoing basis.
The attendees were then welcomed to take part in the planting of a fig tree, a tree that is recognized to have religious significance in several faiths.
As expressed by Rabbi Alexandria, “I was so pleased to come and see that we have a fig tree. It crosses so many of our traditions. In my tradition is represents the time when we are all at peace.”
Rabbi Alexandria of Temple Beth Tikvah followed the symbolic ceremony with important words of her own- “This is the purpose of our gathering...people of many faiths united together on this earth day to send a message to all of our community, to remind all that we have a shared responsibility to care for and to protect this gift from God...our home.” She emphasized how Earth day serves as a point of unification, as it brings together people of various political parties and religions for the common aim of safeguarding the future of our planet.
Minister Dave Dunn of UMMAN also shared the views of Unitarian Universalists and their belief that there is divinity in every living thing, and that we as people are a part of an interdependent web of existence. He also expressed that creation is continuous and ongoing, exhibited by our everyday deeds and actions, a value many faiths share. “We're not connected to the natural world- we are it”. Minister Dunn stressed our duty as humans, “To protect the natural world because it is me, it is you, and it is us.”
RCM’s Imam Arshad Anwar then communicated the importance of maintaining balance on a daily basis, just as the world we live in maintains the same. He followed with a narration by the Prophet (PBUH) to convey the importance of creating light especially moments darkness.“There’s a lot of hope, no matter how much destruction there is in terms of how we’re treating the environment. Every individual...should be doing one little thing even if the world were coming to an end.”
Hardeep Singh of SEWA Gurdwara also brought attention to the fact that though our outward expressions may be different, our faiths share more commonalities than we may perceive, especially in the area of the environmental conservation.
The event was one that left the audience feeling empowered, as it conveyed the positive impact the community can have as a whole whether it be through large-scale projects, or through a combination of small acts to protect our natural surroundings.
Shared feedback by those who attended:
“I like that local people who made decisions were invited..there was a good mix of people from faith backgrounds and those from the governments so that they can understand how faiths are looking at what decisions are made”. -Hardeep Singh of SEWA Gurdwara
“I’m delighted to see the different faith leaders and communities come together to honor our earth.” -Jennifer Ratcliff
“I think it was an amazing event, I think the interfaith aspect showed that were all very similar, and when we come together and work together...we can save the Earth.” -Mary Robichaux; Candidate for GA House District 48