Opening discussion meeting of Interfaith Youth Net of Bangladesh:
Opening discussion meeting of Interfaith Youth Net of Bangladesh:
When religious tension between Muslims and Christians rocked northern Nigeria on Jan. 8 of this year, the refrain of religiously fueled violence sounded so much like it had before. The “other” was at fault for the problems of a region, country and world. But when the tensions boiled over and violence broke out, resulting in burning down of churches and mosques and the death of more than 100 people, the response was profoundly different.
This time, young volunteers from World Faith Nigeria took action. Responding to a distress call, they rescued 72 passengers from a bus that was set on fire by young attackers. On both sides were young adults taking action. But this time one set of young adults was responding to save lives and, ideally, prevent future violence.
Nigeria, like many countries around the world, hosts interfaith dialogues marked by the convening of religious leaders to counter acts of violence. While this work is groundbreaking and necessary, it alone is not enough to turn the trends of religious violence. Violence perpetrated by youth can best be countered by equally motivated youth working toward the greater good.
What’s the Dalai Lama’s secret? He’s got over two million Twitter followers, people buy his books in droves, his speeches sell out stadiums. In a highly cynical age, he’s held the public’s attention for over two decades with some pretty elementary ideas: the essence of human nature is to be happy, human beings are happiest when they help others attain happiness, all major religions nurture the most basic ingredient of happiness, namely compassion, but you don’t have to be religious to be compassionate, you just have to live up to the basic goodness of your human nature.
Like Socrates saying “I know that I know nothing”, it’s not just the simplicity of the message that attracts people, it’s the remarkable journey of the man who is articulating it. The story of his escape from Tibet into India, his successful establishment of a government in exile, his continual advocacy for peaceful negotiations with his Chinese occupiers even while the culture and lives of his people are crushed day after day — these things are well known, and more than enough to command admiration and attention
CHICAGO — For a guy who is only 35 and lives in a walk-up apartment, Eboo Patel has already racked up some impressive accomplishments.
A Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, he has four honorary degrees. His autobiography is required freshman reading on 11 college campuses. He runs a nonprofit organization — the Interfaith Youth Core — with 31 employees and a budget of $4 million. And he was tapped by the White House as a key architect of an initiative announced in April by President Obama.
“Imagine a world where people from different religious backgrounds come together to create understanding and respect by serving their communities. This is the world we are building.” (IFYC website)
Dominican University is taking the leap. In an effort to improve religious understanding, Dominican has partnered with the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) to serve as a model campus for initiating and supporting interfaith dialogue. One of only a handful of schools in the nation to participate in this intensive partnership with IFYC, the initiative will engage the entire university community over a three-year period.
“The timing of this initiative is pertinent and powerful,” says President Donna M. Carroll. “ Looking forward, interfaith dialogue and cooperation are vitally important to the creation of healthy communities, and a university like Dominican, with its own strong Catholic tradition, can be a catalyst for encouraging such conversation.”
WASHINGTON, March 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Justice and Society Program at the Aspen Institute and the Interfaith Youth Core will host an invitation-only conference, America the Inclusive at the Institute’s Washington, D.C. offices, onMarch 30.
Growing out of concern over the increasingly polarized conversation about religious diversity in the media and the public arena, the Conference will focus on the core American value of freedom of religious expression, and our long heritage of welcoming and including peoples of all faiths into the American experience. Models for youth and community organizations with a track record of success in building American identity from diverse cultural heritages, and innovative approaches that balance respect for religious identity with inclusion in the mainstream will also be addressed. READ MORE
When the forces of intolerance rear their ugly heads, the forces of inclusion go into action.
Consider Freedom Summer, the Mississippi Summer Project of 1964, when more than 1,000 out-of-state volunteers — mostly college students from the North — spent a summer in Mississippi, the state with the lowest black voter registration, then at less than 7 percent. These volunteers risked their lives to work alongside black residents in an effort to register voters. Tragically, several students were killed during the 10-week initiative, dozens and dozens were beaten, and more than 1,000 volunteers and locals were arrested.
This is just one example of an important American tradition. College students in America have a history of making an impact on critical social issues. Fifty years ago, the forces of intolerance targeted the African-American community. Today, the forces of intolerance direct their venom toward Muslim Americans.
Before our trip to the White House, this simple slogan seemed empty to us. However, after attending the Interfaith Youth Core’s Leadership Development Conference in Washington, D.C., this became our mantra, our belief that in order to become empowered and effective as interfaith leaders, we have to break barriers and work in harmony with one another.
As you will come to realize, I am very interested in different faiths and the relationships between these faiths. Last week, I had the opportunity of speaking to Sara Eftekhar, a third-year Nursing student at UBC. Eftekhar has put her Muslim faith into action by working with and uniting people of different beliefs through social action. She won the 2009-2010 Faiths Act Fellowship, which is a year-long, paid fellowship through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Interfaith Youth Core, and was one of eight Canadians chosen, out of a total of thirty young people from Canada, the UK and the US. The fellows were put into interfaith pairs and, inspired by their faith, served as ambassadors for the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.
Eftekhar had always been active in her community, but had never really thought about how her own faith and development could go hand in hand. The experience opened up her eyes to the world of interfaith social action.
“I was always really interested in development and health and as a nursing student that’s always been one of my passions,” she said, “but I never really looked at it from an interfaith perspective.”
300 strong, they came. Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, and non-believers, marked by their differences but united in their commitment to work with one another towards building a world where interfaith cooperation is a social norm.
Last week, 200 undergraduate students and 100 staff allies gathered in Washington, D.C. for Interfaith Youth Core’s inaugural Interfaith Leadership Institute. These student leaders are part of a growing network of young people around the world changing the conversation on faith and social action through the Better Together campaign. From the mountains of Young Harris, GA to the sandy beaches of Los Angeles, CA, they came ready to learn, share stories, and take action.