SWAMPED Trip Day 2

Team SWAMPED had another successful day at the Nike Missile Base location of the Everglades. Yesterday was the last day at this location, working alongside Mava and her partner, John, who joined us as well. Our second half of service on Thursday and Friday will be at Biscayne National Park.

Our service included cutting down willow trees and spraying them with an herbicide that killed any future growth of these plants. The willow trees that we cut in this area were an invasive species. After the national park redirected the water source away from this area of the Everglades, this invasive plant began to grow and take over the plants that naturally grew here. To fix this problem, we removed these plants to allow for plants that were not invasive to grow in this area.

We also talked a lot about wilderness and what that meant. We decided that wilderness does not have to mean untouched by humans. The Everglades can be wilderness even though it has to be kept up by humans to ensure that invasive species do not take over.

Tomorrow we will be headed to Biscayne National Park to do work regarding sea turtles!

Thousands of Steps

A Pilgrimage is defined as a journey made to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. For us, this trip was more a pilgrimage to define and solidify our values as a group that values interfaith work, as well as an opportunity to deepen our understanding and compassion.We came from many different backgrounds, and each member of the team walked a slightly different path, yet each person  on our trip came away with a new understanding of interfaith cooperation and service.

The Interfaith Team returned to Lafayette from Washington, D.C. on Friday the 20th after a very successful week. Driving out of the city we all felt a bit of relief to be going away from the madness that was the inauguration and all the traffic, police, and people that go along with it. We walked 4 miles round trip to attend Friday prayers at mosque Masjid Muhammad near the Dupont Circle area of D.C. The prayer service and subsequent conversation with Imam Shareef at the same time as the presidential inauguration was taking place felt like our personal vow to continue to learn and support people of all faith traditions. It was an act of solidarity, of learning, and of faith in one anther as compassionate humans. During the prayer service, the Imam spoke about how we all have faith in something. He spoke of young children and babies that have faith that a parent will take care of them as a particular example. I took this to mean that we are not alone, that at some point in our lives, no matter our faith tradition, we all rely on other people. This sentiment was echoed over and over at the many service sites we volunteered at during the week. Many of the sites we visited served the homeless or impoverished populations of DC by providing needed food, clothing, transportation, support, and most importantly, dignity. At many of the sites, the staff who ran each program had experienced homelessness themselves, and their desire to serve those just as they had been served struck many on the trip. So often, we focus on the differences between faith traditions as points of division, instead of remembering to look at the common shared values. Differences should be celebrated, but not at the cost of forgetting another group’s humanity and diversity. As the group transitions back to life at Lafayette and prepares for the upcoming semester, we take with us values from our thousands and thousands of steps in all sorts of shoes.


Swastika: the symbol of good fortune or that of the Nazi?

The name Swastika is a Sanskrit word that means good fortune.It is an ancient religious symbol originating from the Indo-Aryans of prehistoric Central Asia, that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross with four legs each bent at 90 degrees. However, with the rise of Nazi power it went from being an auspicious symbol to a symbol of genocide and terror.

Visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. made me realise that if someone on the streets of the Western world saw me wearing a Swastika they are going to think of me as either a Nazi or ignorant. However, in reality I would just be wearing a sacred religious symbol. So, I decided to post this to show the difference between the Hindu symbol of good fortune and the Nazi symbol.

Image result for difference between hindu swastika and nazi swastika

The first symbol on the upper left hand corner was the Nazi party symbol while the bottom left corner is the Hindu symbol of good fortune. They are NOT the same!