The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Peace garden plants seed of understanding

One thing Tom Anderson loves about Champaign-Urbana is the fact that the soil is so rich.

“People fight battles over this soil,” said Anderson, a member of the First Mennonite Church in Urbana and retired University professor.

On Saturday morning, Anderson wasn’t fighting battles over the soil; he was instead building peace.

Anderson was part of a project titled “Muslims and Mennonites: Planting Peace One Seed at a Time.” Volunteers from the First Mennonite Church and the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center came together to plant a peace garden. The project was started by Faith in Place, an organization which has programs to help religious congregations steward the world.

The project was led by Brian Sauder, Central Illinois congregational outreach and policy coordinator for Faith in Place.

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    “Our mission is to bring these different groups of people together so they can learn more about themselves, each other and peace,” Sauder said. “We want people to understand that it doesn’t matter how small the effort is, everyone can make a difference in the community.”

    Sauder organized the effort for the garden by gathering the volunteers and getting all the necessary supplies. He said that they would plant strawberries and raspberries along with sunflowers and other crops.

    Everything grown in the garden will be donated to the Women’s Fund in Urbana, to be used in the kitchen by people who Sauder said will appreciate it. He said he thinks it’s important for people to bond with the entire community not just their specific church. The Mennonite church and the mosque already share a parking lot, which he said was a good step. He is also starting a Sunday school class at the First Mennonite Church, which is co-taught by Sauder and visitors from the Mosque. This Sunday school class discusses the garden and its relation to peace.

    Anderson, who has a small farm at his home, is happy with the opportunity to share his knowledge and meet new people.

    “I do what I can to help because I have experience,” Anderson said. “This is just a really nice thing to do to meet more people. I’m also happy the youth has been getting involved.”

    People of all ages were part of the project. Sauder said children helped break ground last weekend, learning the core fundamentals of peace and convergence.

    Fatemah Hermes, graduate student and member of the mosque, said she just wanted to be a part of the garden.

    “I’ve already had two failed gardens, so hopefully my bad luck doesn’t rub off,” Hermes said. “I think this is just a good experience to get out there and meet people while making a difference.”

    Hermes acknowledged the earth was important and hoped that the project could serve as a positive example to help others come together and make a difference.

    “We all are very different but we are all people, and it is important to talk to people outside of your comfort zone,” Hermes said. “Peace is important, and that can certainly be shown through a garden.”

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