What does religion have to do with environmental stewardship? A volunteer group based in Washington, D.C. called Green Muslims is working to weave the two together through hikes, service days, interfaith climate meetings, and summer camp. The organization aims to make people– especially within the Muslim community– more aware of environmental issues.
This summer, with a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, Green Muslims began a brand-new program: a six-class interfaith summer program to bring kids of different faiths into the outdoors together. Called Our Deen is Green, where “deen” is the Arabic word for faith or religion, the program focuses on connecting children of different faiths through learning about the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The events have been hosted around the DMV, including Whitehall Farms and Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Virginia, Hard Bargain Farm in Maryland, and a final event coming up in September on Theodore Roosevelt Island in D.C.
Connecting kids to nature is something that is deeply personal to Sevim Kalyoncu, Executive Director of Green Muslims. “It was my daughter’s birth six years ago that got me thinking about the environment,” she tells me, “I thought, would she have the opportunity to be exposed to nature the way I was?”
Kalyoncu recalls one summer program where none of the children or parents were sitting down. Looking down at the grass, she realized that there were bugs crawling, and people were scared to sit. “We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Kalyoncu thought then, “But the exposure [to nature] in and of itself is key.”
The interfaith aspect of this year’s summer program is new for Green Muslims. While they didn’t receive as much religious diversity as they had hoped, Kalyoncu is hopeful that word will spread about future programs.
In the fall, with another grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Our Deen is Green programming will continue. Parents wanted something for younger kids, so the fall sessions will be geared towards early elementary-aged groups.
Beyond the fall, Kalyoncu hopes that Green Muslims can continue educating youth and speaking to the Muslim community about environmental issues. She also sees great potential in connecting to other interfaith groups and providing social events for people of all faiths to get out in nature and share their ideas. To learn more about their work and see their upcoming events, click here.