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A large crowd of Christians, Muslims and Jews gathered Thursday afternoon at Mercer University’s Atlanta campus to open and dedicate an interfaith prayer garden. Created in partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia (CBF/GA) and Mercer University, the Interfaith Prayer Garden and Labyrinth could mark an important moment in the work to build interfaith relationships in Atlanta.
The prayer Garden, made possible by donations from various community members and corporations, will serve as a quiet place for students, faculty, and staff to visit for reflection, prayer, and fellowship. Among the list of donors were members of various faiths who shared the mission of understanding among faith groups.
Noted for his major contribution was Mr. Aziz Dhanani, CEO of Premier Petroleum, Inc. and recent honoree of the 100 Influential Georgia Muslims award. Dhanani is well known in the Atlanta Muslim community for his philanthropic efforts and involvement in various organizations.
The garden is dedicated in the memory of his parents, Zehrakhanu and Allauddin Dhanani. Members of Dhanani’s family were in attendance of the ceremony, along with various friends and community leaders.
“We hope that this Interfaith Garden, which includes a prayer garden, outdoor classroom, and labyrinth, will be a space for fostering friendships, engaging in positive conversation, and reflecting on the the beauty of God that surrounds us,” said Sadiya Dhanani, daughter of Aziz Dhanani.
Welcoming the guests to the dedication ceremony was Dr. Alan Culpepper, Dean of Mercer’s McAfee School of Theology. He was followed by Dr. Lloyd Allen, professor at the School of Theology, who led the group in invocation.
Charlotte Connah, a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, spoke about the history of the Baptist-Muslim Interfaith Taskforce and how the garden came to be. Connah explained the CBF/GA’s vision to be one that creates “a spiritual oasis and a place where friendship that crosses every ethnicity, every culture, and every faith tradition can grow.”
Connah thanked those who made the Interfaith Prayer Garden possible, including Turan Kilic and Kemal Korucu of the Atlantic Institute, and community member Mohammed Qayum.
President of Mercer University, Dr. Bill Underwood, then recognized Mr. Aziz Dhanani for his contribution to the Interfaith Prayer Garden. Plemon El-Amin, former imam of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, spoke briefly and led the group in a Muslim prayer.
Reverend Joe LaGuardia from the Trinity Baptist Church then led the Dedication Litany.
“May this be a place where people of faith can find peace and grow in spiritual maturity and in commitment to reconciliation and understanding”, the reverend said, to which the group responded, “with joy and grateful hearts we dedicate this garden.”
The ceremony ended with a poem recited by Reverend Wayne Martin of the CBF/GA Interfaith Task Force and a benediction offered by Rabbi Scott Colbert of Temple Emanu-el.
Guests stayed after the ceremony to enjoy the peaceful summer day among friends and explore the labyrinth and prayer garden.
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