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Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association Raises Money for Local food Bank in Washington

Some of the money the runners raised is going to the Capital Area Food Bank, which serves Washington and surrounding communities in Virginia and Maryland

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The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association hosted a 5K run/walk to raise money for a local food bank and an international charity in Washington, D.C., Oct. 1, 2016. It was chilly; most runners dressed in black sweatpants and blue T-shirts. (VOA)

October 3, 2016: It was cool and unusually rainy Saturday in Washington, not the best day for an outdoor event, but that didn’t stop more than a dozen members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association from hosting a 5K run/walk to raise money for a local food bank and an international charity.

Most of the runners were dressed in long black sweatpants topped with blue T-shirts. A few brave souls wore shorts. Some topped their running clothes with rain ponchos and struggled to keep them from flapping in the breeze.

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Some of the money the runners raised is going to the Capital Area Food Bank, which serves Washington and surrounding communities in Virginia and Maryland. The funds are for anyone who needs them, not just for Muslim communities.

“We want to give to our neighbors first,” said Haris Raja, national director for the event, known as Walk for Humanity USA. “We want to serve our local communities first and make an impact in America.”

Watch the video: Ahmadiyya community of Pakistan: The MOST persecuted Minority

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Raja, a systems engineer with a degree from the University of Maryland, near Washington, said the news media and politicians sometimes saddle Muslim youth with a negative image. He said his group’s charity work is meant to show that young Muslims can be, and want to be, productive members of the community.

Haris Raja, national director for the event known as Walk for Humanity USA.
Haris Raja, national director for the event known as Walk for Humanity USA.

“We’re doing this in America to tell our fellow Americans that our religion is about helping humanity, our religion is about serving people,” he said. “The people who know us, and the people who know good Muslims, they will tell you that a blanket statement of saying Islam is bad or all Muslims are bad is not true.”

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In addition to the food bank, another charity receiving proceeds from the event is Humanity First USA, which works on disaster relief and human development projects.

Nudrat Salik, the group’s finance director, said the charity does international work, sending nurses and doctors to Guatemala to train local health care providers on women’s and children’s issues. They also do career training for women, helping them learn career skills.

“We establish sewing centers, for example, in certain African countries. We try to provide women skills … so they can provide for their families if they need to,” Salik said.

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The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, a group with 70 chapters and more than 4,000 members across the United States, sponsors Walk for Humanity USA events in a number of large U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, New York, Houston and Los Angeles. The event has raised more than $250,000 since it began in 2012. (VOA)

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Washington Becomes First State to Approve Composting of Human Remains

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree

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Katrina Spade, who promotes using composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains, poses in a cemetery in Seattle as she displays a sample of compost material left from the decomposition of a cow using wood chips, alfalfa and straw, April 19, 2019. VOA

Ashes to ashes, guts to dirt.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.

It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks.

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

“It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death,” said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill into law at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., May 21, 2019, that allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into soil in a span of several weeks. VOA

Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.

“That’s a serious weight on the Earth and the environment as your final farewell,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure.

Origins of human composting

He said the legislation was inspired by his neighbor Katrina Spade, who was an architecture graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, when she began researching the funeral industry. She came up with the idea for human composting, modeling it on a practice farmers have long used to dispose of livestock.

She tweaked the process and found that wood chips, alfalfa and straw created a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition when a body is placed in a temperature- and moisture-controlled vessel and rotated.

A pilot project at Washington State University tested the idea last year on six bodies, all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of the study. In 2017, Spade founded Recompose, a company working to bring the concept to the public. It’s working on raising nearly $7 million to establish a facility in Seattle and begin to expand elsewhere, she said.

washington, human bodies
A pilot project at Washington State University tested the idea last year on six bodies, all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of the study. Pixabay

State law previously dictated that remains be disposed of by burial or cremation. The law, which takes effect in May 2020, added composting as well as alkaline hydrolysis, a process already legal in 19 other states. The latter uses heat, pressure, water and chemicals like lye to reduce remains.

Angry emails

Cemeteries across the country are allowed to offer natural or “green” burials, by which people are buried in biodegradable shrouds or caskets without being embalmed. Composting could be a good option in cities where cemetery land is scarce, Pedersen said. Spade described it as “the urban equivalent to natural burial.”

The state senator said he has received angry emails from people who object to the idea, calling it undignified or disgusting. “The image they have is that you’re going to toss Uncle Henry out in the backyard and cover him with food scraps,” Pedersen said. To the contrary, he said, the process will be respectful.

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Recompose’s website envisions an atrium-like space where bodies are composted in compartments stacked in a honeycomb design. Families will be able to visit, providing an emotional connection typically missing at crematoriums, the company says.

“It’s an interesting concept,” said Edward Bixby, president of the Placerville, California-based Green Burial Council. “I’m curious to see how well it’s received.” (VOA)