ICNA Relief joins hands with other faith based organizations to help the people affected by the flooding in Nashville, Tennesse.
“In a matter of 30 minutes, everything you worked for, everything you thought was valuable, it all looks like trash” Mayor Karl Dean estimates the damage from weekend flooding could easily top $1 billion in Nashville alone. Many of the families affected by flood are Somali and Kurdish Muslim Families, who are still struggling to stand on their feet after divesting blow to their households. Masjid Salahuddin and Islamic School were also badly hit.
ICNA Relief has started the flood cleanup project in full swing. More volunteers needed! Visit http://icnarelief.org
Jews, Muslims, Christians unite in flood cleanup project
Faithful put others first
By Bob Smietana, THE TENNESSEAN
Disasters don’t discriminate, says Dan Hoeft of the Jewish disaster relief group Nechama.
The Nashville flood hit Jews and Baptists, Methodists and Muslims, believers and nonbelievers alike.
That’s why Hoeft will work with anyone who’s willing to lend a hand to flood victims.
“I don’t care what religion someone is,” said Hoeft, while overseeing an interfaith volunteer project at the Wynstone Apartments on Millwood Drive in Nashville on Monday. “We have a job to do, and that’s to help as many people as possible.”
Hoeft is part of a volunteer project that’s brought Muslims, Jews, Methodists and Baptists together. Monday, the interfaith volunteers cleaned flood-damaged apartments and distributed food and other supplies. The Jewish and Muslim volunteers also are living together at a house owned by a local Methodist agency. This all comes at a time when relations between Jews and Muslims are strained because of the recent Israeli attack on a boat carrying supplies to Gaza.
“We’re tearing down stereotypes one person at a time,” Hoeft said.
The interfaith project is a first for Abdulrauf Khan, a member of the disaster relief team for ICNA Relief USA, a Muslim charity. Khan, who’s based in Melbourne, Fla., has worked in that state and in Texas on disaster relief in the past. But he usually worked only with other Muslims.
When he arrived in Nashville, Khan met with Hoeft and other volunteer groups and offered to help them reach Muslims affected by the flood. That offering was a blessing, said Brandon Hulette, interim flood recovery coordinator for the Tennessee Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Having Muslim volunteers trained in disaster relief means that volunteers can help flood victims who may have been overlooked.
“There are pockets like the Kurdish and the Somali communities that we aren’t able to get into,” Hulette said.
Loving other people
Khan tapped into local mosques to recruit volunteers such as Mohammed Khoshnaw of Antioch. Khoshnaw, who prays at the Salahadeen Center of Nashville on Elysian Fields Court, volunteered on Monday along with his wife, their two daughters and some teenage volunteers from the center.
When it comes to helping flood victims, religious differences don’t matter, he said.
“God created us to love each other. It doesn’t matter what religion they are,” he said.
Khoshnaw said he heard about the controversy over the Israeli raid but that shouldn’t affect what happens in Nashville, he said.
“That’s the Middle East, and we are here,” he said. “Here is not like the Middle East.”
Elie Lowenfeld, founder of the Jewish Disaster Response Corps from New York City, agreed. He said volunteers have more pressing tasks. And helping flood victims gives the volunteers a common purpose, rather than focusing on their differences in faith.
“It’s not, ‘Let’s talk about politics,’ ” he said. “It’s
‘How do we get this sheetrock out of here and not get jabbed by a rusty nail?’ We talk to each other as people. We work, and then we have lunch.”
That impressed David Myers, director of the Center for Faith-Based & Community Initiatives for FEMA.
“In being able to still come together even though the wider world politics are still tense — I think is a real testament to how disasters bring people of all faiths together,” said Myers, who was in Nashville on Monday and stopped by the project.
Living and working together also have created a sense of camaraderie, said Matthew Mazur, a Jewish volunteer from New York. During a lunch break, Mazur gave Iman Khoshnaw, a 9-year-old volunteer, a ride in a wheelbarrow while other volunteers watched and laughed. Earlier the two had teamed up to toss a door into the Dumpster. Iman Khoshnaw carried the door part of the way by herself, but was stymied when she got near the Dumpster.
“I’m not tall enough,” she said.
Monday’s project started out with the different faith groups wearing their own T-shirts — blue and green shirts for the Jewish volunteers, neon green for Muslims, red for the Methodists. By the end of the day, volunteers had begun swapping shirts.
Hoeft said that he and other leaders of disaster groups had been talking about doing an interfaith project for several years. The Nashville flood made that a reality, he said.
“We’ve moved from talking to doing,” he said. “And that’s a good thing”