A group of interfaith activists including Muslims and Jews joined in a tree-planting ceremony in London on Friday despite the tensions rippling from conflict in the Middle East.
Rabbi Natan Levy, head of operations at Strengthening Faiths Institution, said, “There have been pressures on some of us, both Jews and Muslims, not to do interfaith work at this time. But if we don’t speak, the voices of division will.”
The 15 trees were planted in Dulwich to commemorate the late co-chair of Faiths Forum for London, Leonie Lewis, who died last year. The group plan to plant 100 trees in all across the capital in her memory as their commitment to a green London.
Rabbi Levy acknowledged, "It's difficult to talk to my Muslim friends at the moment because our political views are so very different and opinions so deeply divided.
“But I hear more and more about women with hijabs being threatened and yelled at in our neighbourhoods, and I feel that right now is precisely the time we need to stand together. By digging the earth, planting these trees with imams, priests, and people of different faiths, I do feel a small seed of change is being planted with these trees, and that's so desperately needed right now.”
Mustafa Feld, director of Faiths Forum for London, who is Muslim, said the trees would “create a space of gathering together and overcoming differences, not just for us today, but for our children.
“It will stand as a living witness to the small fact that Jews, Muslims, and people of all faiths can come together to protect our environment, care for our neighborhoods, and work together for the good.”
He added that he knew “ from my Jewish friends that anti-semitic attacks are on the rise, and though a few trees in the ground won't stop this hatred altogether, it will show both communities how much more effective we can be when we work together.”
Howard Lewis, husband of Leonie, said that she was “a passionate supporter of inter faith and served Faith Forum for London for many years ensuring persons of all faiths were able to talk to each other in peace and harmony. She loved the trees and this project organised by FFL will preserve her memory into the future.”