BY RASHEED AHMAD
Atlanta, GA: April 10, 2016 was an important day in promoting peace, brotherhood and commitment among Atlanta communities. On this day, a tree planting ceremony was held on Mercer University’s Atlanta campus in which members of Aligarh Alumni Association of Atlanta (AAAA) and Mercer University took part. Leading the ceremony, Professor Dr. Robert Nash, interim Dean of McAfee School of Theology briefly went over the history of Baptist denomination in USA and its role in promoting freedom of religion. He also welcomed Dr. Towqueer Alam, Professor of Islamic Studies at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU, India) as part of the faculty-exchange program. Dr. Alam also led the tree planting ceremony.
Dr. R. Alan Culpepper, former Dean of McAfee School of Theology reminded how lack of understanding of other religions and cultures breeds mistrust, prejudice, hostility which we see so much today. He expressed the hope that our efforts would alleviate those misunderstandings.
Speaking on behalf of AAAA, Dr. Jalal Zuberi, the Chairman of Board of Trustees, commended the ongoing collaboration of faculty-exchange program and hoped it will advance further to also include student exchanges. He acknowledged and appreciated the contributions of AAAA members, specifically Syed Hasan Kamal, Mohammed Qayum, Dr. Asif Taufique, and the generosity of Aziz Dhanani in establishing aPeaceGardenat the center of Mercer campus. Charlotte Connah, an interfaith leader and a key supporter of this initiative, passionately recounted the journey and thanked everyone who aided in the process. Dr. Loyd Allen, Professor of Church History and Spiritual Formation led the closing invocation and prayed for the success of this effort. Mohammed Qayum, Dr. Wasi Siddiqui, Syed Waseem, Rukhsana Waseem, Dr. Rasheed Ahmad, Yasir Nomani, Dr. Shoeb Ahmad, Nasir Farooqui, Zubair Asmi, Nadeem Fatmi, Dr. Gulshan Harjee, Dr. Richard Swindle, Dr. S. M. Ghazanfar and some family members were among the attendees.
After the event,MercerUniversityhosted a sumptuous dinner in honor of Dr. Towqueer Alam. Dr. Alam’sMercerUniversityvisit ties to the memorandum of the understanding (MOU) signed by two universities two years ago. Under this program, Dr. Loyd Allen already visited AMU,Aligarhlast February and taught Church History. During his 4-week visit, Dr. Alam will teach courses on Islam and also participate in conversations on such topics as Islamic perspectives on human rights, peace and justice, role of Prophet Jesus, and so forth.
It is worthwhile to mention that Mercer-AMU initiative was an outcome of several interfaith meetings held onMercerUniversitycampus. It was originally started by individual volunteers, such as Mohammed Qayum, Charlotte Connah, Syed Hasan Kamal. With initial donation of land and funds fromMercerUniversity,Atlanta’s Aligarh Alumni Association generated the major portion of resources with significant sponsorship of Aziz Dhanani. ThePeaceGardenis now a reality with sincere hopes that such efforts will go a long way toward promoting goodwill, peace and mutual understanding.