There is much talk about the breakdown of communities in urban areas but our experience in Tooting in SW London is of an area teeming with multi-layered communities brought together by faith, politics, sport, art, social support, neighbourhoods, health and much more. These communities may not be immediately visible but looking closely at the buildings we walk past every day you start to notice how many house a community group – a nursery, a constitutional club, a yoga centre, a swimming club, a political party or a gym. In particular Tooting has a large and diverse number of places of worship.
In mid-2009 TTT joined a mile long walk organised by South London Interfaith Group and the Balham and Tooting Community Association where we were welcomed by seven different places of worship including those of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christian faiths. Inspired, we decided to create our own Transition Walk taking as its theme conversation about care of the earth from personal and faith perspectives.
Over several months we made contact with each venue and visited them to discuss the idea behind the walk – we were humbled by the incredibly warm welcome we received and the interest, support and hospitality we were offered. At each stop on the walk a faith leader spoke followed by a representative of Transition Town Tooting. Much common ground emerged between Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Hindu teachings about man’s responsibility to care for the earth and its bounty. The Transition Town representatives gave personal perspectives about their involvement the movement and their hopes and fears for the future of the earth.
The group carried a giant cardboard ‘book’ in which people wrote their impressions at each stage of the journey and pasted the talks and texts relevant to each visit. At the final venue (Mushkil Aasaan, a local charity) the youth group of a local theatre, Tara Arts performed a short piece based on a 9thC text from Basra describing how the world’s animals sued the humans for their lack of care for the earth. We were joined on the walk by the then local MP, Sadiq Khan, and the Mayor of Wandsworth, Cllr John Farebrother who both provided personal reflections and their appreciation of the space the walk had created for meeting on common ground.
‘A wonderful day, celebrating what we share, but also the creativity and individuality of faiths and cultures here in Tooting. A wonderful welcome through doors we so easily walk past and ignore.’ Kate Allan – BATCA (her full report of the walk can be found below)
PRESERVING THE PLANET: THE ‘EARTH TALK WALK’ report by Kate Allan
On Saturday 31 January, I joined a group of about thirty people on the ‘Earth Talk Walk’ organised by the Tooting Transition Town (TTT) network, who are a group of local people committed to a more sustainable way of life.
The Earth Talk Walk was a series of visits to places of worship of different faiths to hear about their approach to caring for the earth. It was a fascinating experience. The group received a warm welcome everywhere it went. There was a striking similarity among Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in their teachings about man’s responsibility to care for creation and use its fruits responsibly. At each stop, a faith leader spoke as well as a representative of Tooting Transition Town. The TTT person explained, often movingly, how he or she had been drawn to the environmental movement and their hopes and fears for the future. This counterpoint of TTT and faith voices was very effective.
The walk began at Holy Trinity, where Hugh Grear welcomed everyone. He drew on Genesis to show God at the centre of creation. He described the tension between man’s ‘dominion’ of the earth and his responsibility ‘to till and keep it’ and its resolution in the teachings of the New Testament. Sadiq Khan MP spoke briefly. The next visit was to the Catholic Education Centre at Tooting Bec (a beautiful Georgian house) where we were given an excellent lunch. The Mayor of Wandsworth, Cllr John Farebrother, provided some reflections.
After that we crossed to the Sunni Muslim Association in Tooting Bec Road, where there’s a small plain mosque behind a shop front. The SMA reflects the Sufi tradition in Islam, where the individual’s quest for closeness to God dominates rather than strict observance of prayers and rituals. The imam explained how the Koran gives man the role of God’s vice-gerent (deputy or appointee) on earth and charges him to care for everything in it. For instance there is a command about avoiding destroying crops and animals when waging war. The imam showed how Koranic teaching is applied to the present day. Mohammed told his followers not to pollute a water source with human waste. This is interpreted as forbidding chemical and industrial pollution today.
The following visits were to the Sikh Khalsa centre and the richly decorated Muthumari Amman Hindu temple. The Sikh spokesman emphasised the responsibility of all men as equals to look after each other and all creation. Our Hindu host described the innate feeling of Hindus for the earth. The first thing a Hindu does on arrival in a foreign country is to kiss the ground. Hindu deities and worship are bound up with nature and creation – water, rivers, the earth are at the heart of their beliefs. The next brief stop was at Tooting Islamic Centre, where the imam again drew from the Koran, in both English and Arabic, to emphasise man’s responsibilities.
The day was more than just a walk. TTT people carried a giant cardboard ‘book’ in which people wrote their impressions at each stage of the journey and pasted the talks and texts relevant to each visit. This will be reproduced as a booklet and will be a durable reminder of the event. The final flourish was a performance at Mushkil Aaasaan, the Asian women’s charity by a gifted young African actress of a story that originated in medieval Iraq. Dramatic and witty, it described how the animals took their revenge on humans who had ruined their lives by taking them to court – and winning.
Thanks to Sara for these photos
I am afraid that this montage is the best I have been able to cobble together from the Earth Talk Walk on 31st January. Any other photos gratefully received. Anyway … well done to Hilary for organising a really interesting day meandering between Tooting’s different places of worship. What was striking was how ...
For your very own, lovely, souvenir edition, print out, keep and collect autographs map of the Earth Talk Walk route on Sat 31 Jan, click here The Wandsworth Guardian will consider printing any interesting shots of the day so … will Lucy be dressing up? Will Hilary be using her thespian skills? Who ...
The focus of the walk will be a dialogue between different faith and community groups’ about the responsibility towards the earth and its conservation. The walk will address concerns about climate change, oil prices and the potential scarcity of the earth’s resources. It will help to build up a common set of beliefs and values ...