Atlanta-area Episcopalians and Ismaili Muslims build relationships through community service – Episcopal News Service

Members of the Epiphany Episcopal Church in Atlanta, Ga. And the Atlanta-area Ismaili community volunteer together at South Fork Peachtree Creek in Decatur on World Rivers Day, 26 September. Photo: Aziz Ajaney

[Episcopal News Service] In February, when Reverend Nicole Lambelet invited nearby religious leaders to take a virtual tour of Decatur, Georgia, through the lens of displaced black and Jewish communities, she didn’t expect her Episcopal Church. forms a new relationship with Decatur. Ismaili Muslim community.

“Probably five religious leaders responded to the mass email I sent, and 150 people came to our event, but Behnoosh Momin’s response was different,” said Lambelet, associate rector for the ministry. family and awareness of Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Atlanta.

Momin, communication and awareness volunteer for the Ismaili Council for the Southeastern United States, declined Lambelet’s initial invitation and instead offered to initiate an interfaith dialogue centered on shared religious values ​​and ethics.

Now the Epiphany parishioners of northeast Atlanta and the Ismaili community members in the nearby town of Decatur come together around what they already share, to learn from each other and to seek ways to partner on projects designed to improve their shared region.

“Our two communities believe in generosity and in helping the poor and other humanitarian services,” Momin said. “Pluralism and volunteering are important in the Ismaili Muslim faith. … We share this common point with the episcopal community.

For their first joint service project, the two groups focused on environmental stewardship and partnered with Decatur Georgia Interfaith Power and Light, or GIPL, and Clyde Shepherd Nature Reserve. On September 26, more than 50 volunteers cleaned up part of South Fork Peachtree Creek. This date was chosen because it was both World Rivers Day and the World CIVIC Ismaili Day.

“We are so excited about our new friends and episcopal relationships, and it has already been an incredible journey,” said Momin. “Environmental stewardship is a fundamental ethic of the Ismaili community, and this shared value with the Episcopal Church fits us very naturally. “

In a blog co-written Publish for the GIPL website highlighting their religious communities’ joint stream cleaning service project, Lambelet and Momin mention the importance of water in Christianity and Islam. In Christianity, for example, new members are initiated into the church by water baptism. In Islam, water is considered a human right and symbolizes purity.

Hannah Shultz, program associate for GIPL, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting Earth’s ecosystems and fighting environmental injustices, said the clean-up event at Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve was a “beautiful. example ”of the many commonalities shared by religious traditions but often overshadowed by differences. .

“We can learn a lot from each other,” said Shultz, who handled the logistics of the clean-up event for the Epiphany Episcopal Church and the Ismaili community. “I think we have our own theology and our own perspectives, but there is a lot to learn and inspire as we learn about common issues. We learn different ideas for caring for creation, but ultimately our goal is the same. The focus on justice really runs deep in both communities.

Ismaili is the second largest sect of Shia Islam, which is the second branch of Islam. Like all Shia Muslims, the Ismailis recognize the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, Ali ibn Abi Talib, as his successor by blood. Unlike the much larger Sunni branch of Islam, the Shiites believe that Muhammad’s successor must be in his line. The Ismaili sect got its name from Isma’il ibn Jafar, whom its members named the true Imam, unlike the much larger Twelver Shia sect, which named Musa al-Kadhim instead. Today, Ismaili is the only Shiite sect to have a living ancestral imam, officially titled Aga Khan, under the leadership of Prince Karim Al Husseini Aga Khan. About 15 million Ismailis live in more than 25 countries.

Lambelet said she visited an Ismaili Jamatkhana (private gathering space) nearby and took a course on Islam while she was a seminarian at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, but other than that, she knew little about the Ismaili community before meeting Momin. She also said she hoped that the interfaith events between the Epiphany congregation and the Ismaili community, including visiting each other’s places of worship, will educate members on both sides and foster an ongoing dialogue about social justice issues in and around Decatur. So far, members of the Epiphany have visited the Jamatkhana; The Ismaili community was due to visit the church at the end of October.

“There are many similarities and differences between the Episcopal and Islamic religions, and we are very excited about the similarities and learning how we can grow from each other through our differences,” Lambelet said.

Momin said, “There are also commonalities with the level of understanding of theological concepts of faith communities around social justice and the elimination of inequalities. If we educate each other on faith, ethics, values, commonalities and connections, we can work in this direction.

The women said they plan to make future common service projects larger than the first. They also hope that their new partnership will not only help the great Decatur community and their shared ecosystem, but also lead to individual growth in the faith.

– Shireen Korkzan is a Midwestern-based freelance journalist who writes primarily on issues of religion, race, ethnicity and social justice. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @smkrm


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