Garden helps unite faiths: Muslim, Catholic students sewing good seed
EAST PRICE HILL – Catholic and Muslim students came together to not only provide a community service, but bridge gaps between their faiths on Saturday.
From 9 a.m. to noon, teenagers from Mother of Mercy High School and the Islamic Center together pushed wheelbarrows of wood chips and shoveled at the Image Center on Enright Avenue in East Price Hill.
The Interfaith Community Service Project to prepare gardens for spring planting is aimed at not only doing good for the community, but understanding each other, said Karen Dabdoub, executive director of the Cincinnati Chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“It’s really about breaking down those barriers created by others that we just accept because we don’t know,” she said. “It’s when we don’t have contact that you have the hate mongers spreading lies. But when we sit down and eat together, talk together and work together – surprise, surprise. People find they have more in common than differences.”
Bob Bonnici, a religion teacher at Mother of Mercy, approached Dabdoub about the project. He said he realized the importance of awareness after parents protested the idea of taking his students to a local mosque.
After Dabdoub came and spoke to his class, the parents allowed their children to go and it became an enlightening trip for the students, Bonnici said.
Stephanie Cline, 16 of Colerain Township, was one of eight sophomores from Mercy to participate.
“We’re going to be the next generation and it’s a change that has to start with us,” she said. “This is a good experience for us to learn that while we have differences, we also have similarities.”
Sadia Khatri, who works with the Institute of Youth Development and Excellence, held a shovel next to Stephanie. The project is especially important, she said, because Islam has been cast in such a negative light.
“This is a way to help young people separate the extremism from the everyday Muslims. You go to school everyday but when you’re working hard, side-by-side, to do something for the greater good, it’s so symbolic of what we should all do,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll leave here with a connectedness we didn’t have before.”