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Muslim Adults and Children Volunteer for Christina Watershed Cleanup

Today I welcome a guest writer to Interfaith Reflections, Sally O’Byrne. Sally is a member of Wilmington Friends Meeting and longtime teacher/naturalist with the Delaware Nature Society (DNS).  She is a past board member of DNS, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Christina Conservancy, and past president of Delmarva Ornithological Society.  An ‘urban homesteader’, she has always been interested in the nature that can be found in urban places, and is currently active in the Cool Springs Tilton Neighborhood Association.  Having studied the Christina River, its history and natural history, since 1980, she has been a site captain with the Chistina Watershed Cleanup for 3 years. She reports today about volunteers from the Islamic Society of Delaware and the Zakat Foundation of America, who helped with a recent cleanup of the Christina River watershed.

Christina Cleanup at Airport Road

600 px_ISD volunteers

This past Saturday was the 23rd annual Christina River Watershed Cleanup.  This is my third year as a site captain, my first at Airport Road, which is a new location and has never been tackled before.   It had years and years of debris and needed major help.

350 px_ Muslim male volunteerLast year at Banning, I had an unexpected number of volunteers show up from the Islamic Society of Delaware (ISD). Their usual spot, Fox Point Park, had some construction/traffic delay, so they showed up at mine.  This year, Fox Point Park was usurped by an Autism Walk and my old location Banning Park was too clean, so events came together to bring the 3 Banning/Fox Point site captains and 50+ volunteers together at Airport Road.  

The Zakat Foundation and the Islamic Society of Delaware have participated in this cleanup for 8 or 9 years as part of their community service.   They bring children of all ages and work in family or friend teams. Young children worked with their parents to roll tires into piles and put trash into bags. Teens and adults worked along the road and wetland, creating huge piles of garbage that were picked up by the county crew.  All wore fluorescent vests and (donated) bright pink gloves – which had to be daring for some of the guys!  The group did an outstanding job.
350 px Muslim children volunteersSeveral adults wondered aloud that others could be so thoughtless to dump the debris.  What sort of values would lead people to throw trash or be so cheap they wouldn’t pay the landfill tipping fee?  The children were learning as they worked and will probably never litter themselves.  One woman commented that she is disgusted by the trash on the road outside of their mosque and school and was very interested in the ISD/ZF ‘Adopting the Highway’.
This year, they told me they had members from Yemen, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, and African Americans, and that three different Islamic groups had joined together for this.  Several participants were wearing ICNA t-shirts (Islamic Circle of North America), and apparently a group had driven down from New York to participate. For ICNA this was their first year to participate in this effort
They commented that for this, they all were Muslims and it didn’t matter where they were from.  I asked if the group was both Shia and Sunni, and the two men smiled.    A ZF team member said, we don’t discuss politics, we just ‘do’ things together.  We are all Muslim.   I asked if it was easier doing this in America where you could leave old animosities behind and both said yes.   I was struck how this effort by families and friends, younger and older, seemed an act of stewardship, community, and a peace testimony.
All of us look forward to participating in this cleanup again next year.
Sally O’Byrne
April 13, 2014

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