There I sat at a conference table with Betsy, Saba, Fatuma, Monir and Jeanette. We were not your typical tree-hugger types. Three of us are Muslim, one is a cradle Christian, one is a former Evangelical Christian with New Thought leanings, and me, well I'm a United Methodist clergywoman who was born and raised Jewish. (More on that in another blog!) Two of us wore head coverings, and half of us have reached the half-century mark. Yet, there we were, working out our manifesto for the Peace Forest.
The Peace Forest, an initiative of BridgeWorks, is what I think of as a Mother Earth Mission project. Let me explain.
Often, United Methodists, and other mainline Christians, think of mission work as providing assistance to those in need--whether the needs be material, financial, emotional or even spiritual. We excel at mission work in the wake of natural disasters. For instance, we were on the scene in a jiffy after Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and myriad other storms.
As I wrote about in a recent issue of Circuit Rider, ecological imbalances lie at the heart of many natural and unnatural disasters.But it's becoming clearer that it's not just people who need to be rescued and restored from natural disasters. It's the earth itself.
Our Peace Forest will address one of them--deforestation--while building bonds of community between different religious people.
This project brings together people from the three Abrahamic Faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) to plant a living symbol of earth care. One that can make a profound difference for the planet.
But, as Jeanette pointed out, it's hard enough to unite people around care for the earth. Let alone embarking on real interfaith work. Perhaps some will be attracted to the environmental aspect of our work and not care a hoot about religion. While others will be deeply committed to interfaith work and not be moved by environmental concerns at all.
Can we work together? Can we find others who will want to work with us?
I feel really confident that we will. In fact, I'm very jazzed about about this idea!
A few years ago, I read A Common Word Between Us. Written by Muslims to Christians and Jews it highlights the sacred "words" we share in common such as love of God and love of neighbor.
Reading it, I realized we not only have a common word between us, we share a common world! If we, who can agree on love of God and love of neighbor, can also discover the common words of creation care in our sacred texts, then we can bring about a positive revolution for each person on the planet.
That's what the Peace Forest is about: nothing more, nothing less! And it all starts with trees.