Conflict or Cooperation? A Case for the Interfaith Youth Movement
Today's guest blogger is Jennifer Bailey, a rising senior at Tufts University, a Truman Scholar, and a former intern at the Interfaith Youth Core.
It occurred to me one Monday evening as I was volunteering at a local soup kitchen with my friends Caryn, a Jew, Zainab, a Muslim, and Chelsea, a Christian. As we laughed about relationships, ate leftover cake batter and took turns stirring vegetables, a thought made me pause: The world would have us hate one another, but here we are coming together to do something we all care about. There must be something divine in that.
I began working towards religious pluralism as a senior in high school through involvement with the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based international non-profit that works to advance the role of young people in actively expanding interfaith cooperation in the world. Dr. Eboo Patel, the Executive Director of IFYC, is fond of saying, "No peace without pluralism, no pluralism without youth people". It is young people, with their lived experience of diversity in the world, that have the energy and knowledge to propel the movement forward.
Across the United States on college campuses and in their local communities, young activists work tirelessly to conquer the great social challenges facing our world today. The Green Movement, ending the genocide in Darfur, HIV activism, LGBT rights and fighting for a living wage are all examples of social movements being spearheaded by young people. Far too often, passionate individuals engaged in progressive issues ignore the important role religion plays in framing these issues to the public. How often do we consider faith communities as potential supporters to mobilize when organizing events or rallies? To take it a step further, how often do we consider mobilizing multiple faith communities when seeking support?
Harnessing the principle of shared values to create sustainable social change in the world is the most underutilized strategy for young people seeking to make a difference. There are a variety of models and resources available from interfaith organizations throughout the country to teach individuals how to do so. The first step is making a commitment to actively acknowledge and engage religious diversity. Openly talking about religion with a friend from a different faith tradition or working with faith-based communities on campus when coordinating events can unlock a multitude of opportunities while advancing the message of pluralism.
As a Christian, I do this work because Jesus says in Matthew 22 that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. As one of the greatest commandments, it calls for the active pursuit of caring for others regardless of what they look like, sound like, or who they pray to at night. I do this work for my Muslim friend, born in America, who had her head covering ripped off on September 11 by a classmate she had known her entire life. I do this work because I am inspired by people who do not adhere to a faith tradition but do this work because they understand the urgency of promoting peace in a world torn a part by conflict.
In closing the first Parliament of the World's Religions in 1893, Charles Bonney declared, "Henceforth the religions of the world will make war, not on each other, but on the giant evils that afflict mankind." This is what I pray before I go to bed at night knowing that one day if it becomes a reality, the world I wake up to will be a much different place and that I had a role in building it.
The content of this blog reflects the views of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of either Eboo Patel or the Interfaith Youth Core.
August 11, 2008; 3:05 PM ET
Religion & Leadership
The Faith Divide
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