About 100 Muslims from Gwinnett County came together last week for a potluck picnic at Lucky Shoals Park in Norcross. Co-hosted by the Madina Institute and Masjid Omar Bin Abdul-Aziz, the event attracted numerous mosques from the broader metro Atlanta area.
The purpose of the picnic was to provide a social venue where local Muslims area could meet and network. Organizers hope that as more Muslims in the Gwinnett area build strong relationships, there will be increased collaboration and a stronger pooling of resources to benefit our Gwinnett cities and the greater metro Atlanta area.
The Mayor of the City of Lilburn, Johnny Crist, was a special guest at the event. Asma Elhuni, the spearhead organizer of the picnic, first met Mayor Crist when she invited him to speak to her class at Al-Falah Academy located in Lilburn.
To promote civic engagement in the Muslim community, Ms. Elhuni put together a team comprising of whom she calls “the movers and shakers in the Gwinnett Muslim Community: Amin Tomeh, Ibrahim Awad, and Amr Omar. The group of volunteers met with Mayor Crist to explain the vision and the significance of his presence.
" We may live near people who don't look look like you or act like you but we are all in this together. We are all a part of this community and participate in the community"-Mayor Johnny Crist
At the weekend picnic, the Mayor shared the history of Atlanta and discussed the importance of being involved in our respective communities. Long after his talk, Mayor Crist graciously stayed and was able to connect and speak one-on-one with many guests.
"It is great to see an effort by our elected officials to get involved with their Muslim constituents, and I hope to see more Muslims become active citizens of their cities," said Aisha Yaqoob, a UGA Graduate Student.
The picnic was also attended by adherents of other faith traditions. Robert Bexley and his wife, Whitney, heard about the event on Facebook and decided to meet their fellow Muslim neighbors.
Bexley explained, "I believe it is very important for me to challenge my comfort zones and to become involved in other cultures and faiths."
He added, "We are all neighbors in a single community."
One cannot ignore the possible effects an event like this can have in building bridges in the community as well as helping to increase civic engagement amongst the Gwinnett Muslim community.
Mayor Crist said that he felt at home, sharing typical picnic fare that he would enjoy at any other outing with family and friends. The only thing that missing: a cup of sweet tea with a slice of lemon adorning it. By emphasizing our common practices, the Mayor reminds us of the common humanity we share.
Crist’s presence and speech were well received by Muslims in attendance, some of whom had expressed at times feeling alienated or being strangers in their own communities. This gesture was a great way of including Muslims in the definition of “community” and, as Mayor Crist and the organizers hope, “lovers of the community” as well.
If you would like to get involved in future community collaborative events in the Gwinnett Muslim Community or would like to receive updates, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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