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World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

Pilgrimage And Faith: Buddhism, Christianity, And Islam 11 July , 2011

For millennia, people of all faiths have enriched their religious lives by embarking on physical journeys to sacred places. This summer, New York’s Rubin Museum of Art invites you to explore the role of these important pilgrimages in three of the world’s largest religious traditions: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.

“Pilgrimage and Faith” represents the greatest range of objects and geographical scope ever presented at the museum, with examples from Japan, France, Turkey, Spain, Iran, Tibet, England, Italy, China, Uzbekistan, Nepal, and India. Diverse examples of objects from each faith, including a Chinese Buddhist pilgrimage map, Muslim clay prayer tablets, a Tibetan Buddhist hand prayer-wheel, and a 14th-century Italian chalice, are among the exhibition’s more than seventy works of art and artifacts.

Dating from the 9th century to the present, some works are of high artistic skill, while others were intended for everyday use. Though these pilgrimage objects take myriad forms, inherent in each is a shared human need that transcends any one faith.

READ MORE

 

Comment on my Last Post 6 October , 2008

So I had an interesting response that someone wrote to me on my last post.  I will quote it here then respond below.  The response said:

 

“An Alternative Christian Response to Anti-Islamic Extremism”

Mr. Fredericks,

As your brother in Christ, I must fundamentally disagree with your article’s ideology. As with the Obsession video, when exposing individuals to a particular religion’s worldview, which promotes and encourages a certain type behavior, inherently evil in nature, are we then to merely classify the exposure as an “US vs. Them” manipulative dialectic rhetoric? In an attempt to appear tolerant and loving, should we as Christians sacrifice Truth on the altar of political correctness, dense with the aroma of non-confrontationalism?

The Muslim faith is wrong: It’s God (Allah) is false; its alleged historical beginnings distort the promise our Father established with our Jewish brothers and sisters; it supports necessary violence against “infidels” – like Jews and Christians – as well as tyranny. It’s a false religion, cleverly disguised by the enemy with subtle cloaks of moral truth.

Frank, what exactly do you think Christian Love is?

Is it Christ explaining what happens to the ‘wicked and lazy servant?’

Maybe it’s Christ calling the Pharisees “empty” and full of “dead men’s bones; or how about calling them “wicked” and “children of the devil?”

Better yet, what about Christ driving the money-changers out of the temple with a bull-whip. Is that Love?

The Answer: Yes, it’s Love.

Not your definition; not mine; but the Lord’s.

As can be biblically demonstrated, part of God’s Love is making people aware of the Truth – right and wrong; good and evil. The difference between where He is, where they are, and where they should be.

Just because I don’t agree with someone’s religious view, and I openly express it, does not make me or any other Christian a “hater.”

You cited the following as a “general message from the Middle-East:”

“We don’t hate you, and we love your democracy, we are just completely frustrated by the American foreign policy, don’t trust you to spread democracy (with US support of such non-democratic regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt), and feel humiliated by the western ignorance of our religious and cultural identities.”

Call it whatever you prefer: when “frustration” leads to violence that is a sin, identified as “hate.” Finally, I do believe that Muslims love democracy – not our kind, but theirs; the kind of one-way democracy that says Muslims can say and do whatever their faith promotes. However, no other religion is afforded that same right, especially when the views of the opposing religion are critical of Muslim beliefs.

A Brother in Christ,

Eddie

 

 

Brother Eddie,

Thank you for taking the time to respond.  While I usually write representing World Faith, I will take advantage of this opportunity to address you as a Christian, in theological terms.  Firstly I would like to address your confusion of Love and Judgement from a theological point of view.

Christ, both of the carnes and the logos of God (God in word and flesh) (e.g. John 1:1-3), represents both Love and Judgement.  The instances you mentioned are examples of Judgement, while Jesus called him to follow Him in his examples of Love.

So what is Jesus judging?  Hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who judged others by laws not in line with God’s intention, false teaches, and pride.  He judged the money changers in the Temple, who abused what is Sacred for personal gain.  

Interestingly enough is noting who Jesus didn’t Judge:  First, Jesus did not judge the woman caught in bed with man (John 8:1-11), but rather chose this opportunity to teach us the association of judgement and hypocrisy.  He announced, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”  Thus, in an opportunity of condemnation, Jesus chose to love.  His expression of love occurs while acknowledging her wrongdoing, but chooses forgiveness.  Jesus makes a pattern of this.  Another example of this is when He met the Samaritan woman at the well, who was divorced and living with a man not her husband (John 4:7-28).  What is so telling about this verse is that Jesus was bestowed love to one who was not a Jew, but a Samaritan, a religious community consider apostates by Jews (they were former slaves by the Persians, taken from Israel at the end of Hoshea’s rule in 722 BC [2 Kings 17:1-2]).  Thus, Jesus’s love and judgement are two seperate expression we must understand.

So we know from both the “the first stone” and from “the speck plank in your eye” that judgement is reserved for God, and our duty is to live our live by God’s law, and not judging ourselves, but loving others.  Jesus calls us to love.  He taught, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12-13).

Eddie, you asked ‘what is love?’  Specifically referring to God’s love, let’s use the New Testament as our basis, which is written in Koine Greek.  While Classical Greek had some seven words for love, the New Testament uses three words for Love, one reserved only for God.  The first is storgas, which means natural, family-like love (see 2 Tim 3:3).  The second is phileo, which is friendship, based on knowledge and appreciation (see John 21:15-17).  The final Love, which Jesus embodies, is agape, which is unconditional, perfect love, which requires sacrifice (see Mark 10:51).  This is what we are to strive for, and this is how we as Christians should base our love, off His Word, and His example.

Know that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), and we can’t  “cast the first stone” with sin, we are not fit to judge, and must love.  Now to address your comments on Islam.

While I personally have several irreconcilable issues with Islam theologically speaking, which would deter me of ever converting, I find your comments to be highly misinformed.  While I am not the authority on Islam, I have studied the entire Quran over a two-year period, and have spent 8 months in majority-Muslim countries, often while doing independent research on Christian-Muslim relations.  There are several key things you are mistaken on, which give rise to a deeper issue of misunderstanding.

To address specifics, first you stated that Islam “supports necessary violence against ‘infidels’ – like Jews and Christians – as well as tyranny.”  Firstly, the Quran plainly states that “whosoever killeth a human being, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind,” (5:32).  Many fatwa’s (religious rulings) have been issued reiterating this point, but you won’t see it on the evening news.  Furthermore, in Islam, Christians and Jews are not considered Kafir (infidels), but are Ahl al-Kitaab, or People of the Book. POTB were said to be the blessed.  The Quran states, “Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve,”  (2:62).  This elucidates a lack of exposure to the theology, history, and the debate therein of Islam on your part.

Teaching of violence you say? Acts of violence?  Ironically a friend of mine was suppose to meet me in Beirut, but got stuck in Chicago for the weekend.  That weekend, 18 were shot to death in Chicago, Beirut none.  Yet that isn’t the story as we seem to hear it  from the media.  Or extremist clerics?  Try this quote:

You’ve got to kill the infidels before the killing stops. And I’m for the leader to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Allah.” 

Sound familiar?  It’s actually: “You’ve got to kill the terrorists before the killing stops. And I’m for the president to chase them all over the world. If it takes 10 years, blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” -Pastor Jerry Falwell

So is Christianity now a religion of violence because one man invokes God to support communal violence?  I pray not, and I know the Bible well enough to know better.  But if I didn’t? Perhaps if all i heard were the crazy pastors (who are plentiful) spewing edicts of hatred, I would fear Christianity as a violent force.  Now let’s bring it back around:  If you don’t know the teachings of Islam, and the media focuses on those who teach unislamic violence, then you probably have a skewed image of a religion of over a billion people.

Getting specific on Obsession, I know the organization(s) that made the film, namely the Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International, and met a representative of theirs during the showing at NYU two years ago.  Fittingly, it was the Jewish students who so vehemently opposed the film, saying, “How dare they (Clarion/Aish) represent us with such a hateful message!”   

in Obsession, the message was clear, “don’t love your neighbor, fear your neighbor.”  Is fear included in love?  Quite the opposite:  John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Fear, as we know, is not of God.

How is this wrong?  Well fear is aroused for no reason, but they serve a purpose.  Whether political, financial, or personal, they abused the Sacred for personal gain.  They, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, are the moneychangers in the Temple.  They are the haters.

So this bring me back to the essence of the op-ed I wrote.  All religions have a those who abuse religious language for political gain.  Rather than getting caught up in that and doing hurtful things, like attacking a filled mosque with gas irritants, rendering scores into hospitalization, we should do something else.  We should take our Muslim neighbor out to coffee, ask our Jewish friends questions about their faith, read about a faith you know very little.  We should love.

Brother Eddie, it is not despite my faith that I have dedicated my life to developing opportunities for young people to understand each other across faith identities, but it is because of it.  This is my mission field, and as I have explained above, it is in pursuit of loving as Christ loved.  I am taking a stand as a Christian and saying I am not a hater.  A god that taught hate and fear would be no god I could worship.  So, Eddie, are you a hater?  If not, then join me for a discussion in a service project sometime.

In Faith,

Frank Fredericks

 

PS  parting quote:  “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out God hates all the same people you do.” -Anne Lamott

 

Meet the Druze 9 July , 2008

Well the past few days were a prime example of when things go quite differently than you expect.  Upon leaving Beirut towards Damascus, I got held up waiting for the Syrian visa, which is par for the course.  This time however, rather than taking two hours (as it was in January) they took five hours.  By this time it was 10:30 pm, and there were no cabs in sight.

 

Then that’s when things get interesting.  A woman had heard me talking to another man there about finding a taxi, and recognized that I am not native (my broken Arabic is a bit of a giveaway), and told her husband that they should help me since I am a foreigner.  After looking around he said he saw no foreigner, but she ensued and he invited me in their car to get a ride to Damascus.

 

Rather then following old adage of “stranger danger,” I took a chance and accepted.  On the way after our introductions we all discovered that we were heading to Amman, them two days later, and me the next day.  Maen, the husband, proposed, “How about this, why don’t you come to Souaida with us, join us at my parents home, meet my children, and then come with us to Amman.  You can be our guest.”  I accepted.

 

Souaida, a town of Christians and Druze, is a decent-sized town complete with a market, but show no signs of foreigner presence.  Being Druze, they shared with me stories of their prophets and traditions.  One in particular that stuck out was that of Nafs al-Kulliyya.  He told me about how Nafs al-Kulliyya was a prophet before Easaa (arabic name for Jesus), and he was arrested, and eventually beheaded, having his head put on a platter.  That’s when I made the connection and told him that in english we call him John the Baptist, which ended up being the same name literally translated.

 

I told him that John the Baptist is burried in Damascus, in the center of what was once a church, but now is the Ummayad Mosque.  In another part of the mosque is where the head of Hussain, a Shiia leader from early Islamic times, is kept.  Finally, just outside the Ummayad Mosque, is the tomb of Salah-Ad-Din, known in english as Saladin.  Saladin, a Kurd, led the Mamaluks against the Crusaders.  So essentially, the Druze have a shrine to a Christian messenger who is burried in a Mosque, betweeen a Shiia leader’s head and a Mujjahadin tomb.  You can’t make this stuff up.

 

It is hard to encapsulate the intensity of being a guest to Arabs.  No opportunity to give abundantly is left unexploited, as I am overfed, rested, and they took care of me as my health turned and my sore throat became a flu, complete with coughing, sneezing, running nose, and the works.  Also, they brought me to their holy sites, as Druze, that were in their area.  It was such a great learning experience, both about their culture and religion, as well as how to be a guest that accepts hospitality (those of you who know me well know I get uncomfortable in these type of situations, as I usually do things for myself).  Today we drove together from their hometown to Amman, where we parted ways.  Whether informed by their faith, culture, or intuation, their hospitality will always be remember.  This gave me a chance to see a different side of Syria.  More to come as my travels progress.

 

With Love from Beirut 4 July , 2008

Greetings from Beirut!

On this Fourth of July I will be celebrating with some friends here Beirut, most of which don’t know what the holiday is or what it represents, but are joining me for supposed “moral support.”

After graduating, I have decided to push World Faith full-time as a volunteer. While I am still sending our organizational plan to foundations and other contacts in search of funding that permits me to sustainably continue this pertinent work, I am also traveling to make it more “fundable.” Essentially, if there was something holding back a potential funder from supporting World Faith, I want to remove it.

So I am in Beirut now, working to help the local chapter here, 2gether, regroup after some of their key members left the country after the last bout of violence. The issue raises a more general trend, that the social entrepreneurs and promising leaders of the future leave, draining Lebanon of some of its greatest talent for the future.

Next week I will go to Amman, through Damascus, for a few days, finishing the week in Cairo. I’ll meet up with Mustafa Abdullah, the leader of Winston-Salem for World Faith chapter, to start cultivating our contacts there to see if a chapter can be started there as well. I look forward to returning to Cairo and seeing some good friends of mine, like Michael Esso, a fun-loving but dependable friend, and Angie Balata, a humbling and inspiring friend who is as quick-witted as she is sharp-tongued. Other friends await and I know it will be a good trip. I’m awaiting details, but it still looks I will continue on to Khartoum, Sudan to do the same.

While working here, at the moment from the United Lebanon Foundation’s office, I have been inspired at the value of human contact. For instance, when I flew into Beirut I had no reservation for a hotel, so I returned to the hotel we stayed at when we did the first trip of The Lebanon Project back in January. Not only did the manager, and most the staff, remember me, but he refused to charge more than half the listed price a night. Le Marly Hotel is a friend of World Faith.

Also, the frustrated state of the Lebanese population has never been more apparent. Upon passing a photo of Rafik Hariri, and digitized numbers next to him: 1 2 3 4. I asked my taxi driver what the numbers were… It has been 1,234 days since the (likely Syrian) assassination of Hariri. Yet in these few years, the Lebanese have survived more political stability than the US has since the US Civil War. Some have lost hope, resorting to accepting the status quo, or leaving Lebanon. Others retain hope, but wait for the blood-stained political leaders, virtually all guilty of crimes against humanity during the Lebanese Civil War, with non-regional and non-religious leaders who seek to unify Lebanon. However, I have found very few that are inspired enough to take action. One in particular sticks out to me.

If there were an interfaith project happening anywhere in greater Beirut, Nader Houella would be there, and there is a likely chance he had something to do with the planning. In a country of memories, Nader dreams. I don’t think I have talked to Nader on one occasion without him telling me of an idea he has had. Beyond this, he actually works to carry them out, a trait hard to come by in Lebanon. We are talking about putting together a unity concert for August, and I do believe it will happen. More to come as details progress.

 

In Closing… 3 June , 2008

Filed under: Blog Post — Frank Fredericks @ 5:59 pm
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this is my official write-up for the end of my Fellowship with the Interfaith Youth Core:

Reflecting on the past year as a part of IFYC Fellows Alliance is a difficult undertaking. Though the intent initially was likely based on trainings and campus work, I feel like the best parts of it were by-products of this intent, such as the great opportunities I was granted from the IFYC, and the potentially life-lasting friendships that started out of the fellowship.
On campus here at New York University I can definitely say that being a part of the IFYC Fellows Alliance assisted in my work, and that of our group World Faith. Starting out, we had great trouble getting recognized from the existing faith-oriented groups on campus, who simply did not take our mission seriously. That was acerbated by the fact that what interfaith events did take place on campus were usually dialogue-based, and faith-specific. However, between the connecting with the IFYC, other breakthroughs we had at World Faith, and the result of some of the great opportunities during the Fellowship, I was able to generate enough credibility to expand our programs, including co-programming with most of the larger faith-oriented groups on campus.
Our focus on bringing the discourse of religion back into the university also had institutional effects. After partnering with different groups on campus, we successfully lobbied the university to adopt chaplaincy, starting with four paid chaplains and several volunteers, giving religious guidance for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus on campus. Furthermore, the president of New York University announced the creation of an Interfaith Center, while the administration works to purchase space for such a center, which will likely cost some $20-50 million dollars upon completion. Though I was not alone in this, nor World Faith the only force, but we were an integral part of the student mobilization for these changes.
Our programs also have grown in participation, while our first events were often attended by only a hand-full of participants, World Faith has grown to holding our Week of Interfaith Youth Service, in which 120 participants got involved in one of our four interfaith community service programs, including one day where over 60 participants volunteered city-wide in hospitals, parks, and homeless shelters. Furthermore, we teamed up with an initiative started by NYU students (who I was put in contact with their IFYC) to send ten religiously-diverse students to Lebanon to do service work with local students. Altogether, with the help of the Fellows Alliance, World Faith, under my leadership, has had a pivotal role in reshaping the role faith plays both in campus life and in service at New York University. With my passing the leadership on to younger students for next year, I expect that the impact will continue to develop.
For my personal development, I definitely feel that one aspect of the training given to Fellows by IFYC did help me greatly. Language, whether speaking to students, or speaking to the media, is imperative to effectively deliver your message, while catering to your audience. I feel the staff greatly influenced my tightening of language describing the mission of interfaith service throughout the year, including great advice given to me by Cassie Meyers and April Kunze during the Q Conference this April.
Also, being that I have chosen to take one the interfaith world professionally, IFYC has given me many great opportunities to exercise the advice and training that they gave. During the year I was interviewed on two radio shows, and Good Morning America with the Fellowship, with prepared me for other interview. Whether with IFYC’s help, suggestion, or mandate, I also attended six conferences during the year, during which at some I spoke, presented, or was publicly recognized for the my interfaith work during this year. Being in New York, they recommended for many great opportunities, including meeting with a Saudi Dean traveling as a visitor with the US State Department’s International Leadership program. These are just a few of the great opportunities the IFYC gave me during my year with the Fellow’s Alliance. Not only did they encourage further personal and professional development, they gave credibility to the work I have devoted so much time and effort to during the year.
The contact network I have developed with IFYC’s staff’s help is global and powerful, and I am sure that I will continue to utilize it as a develop World Faith further as an organization, but I do not believe that even the contacts are the most valuable aspect of the year. I believe the most lasting impact of the Fellow’s Alliance on my life with be that of personal connections.
The fellowship will most likely remind me of the mixture of parsing Bob Marley lyrics, discussing theological friction-points, and theorizing program ideas with Soofia Ahmed, Farah Qureshi, and Hafsa Kanjal. Or perhaps having some of the most blunt discourses possible with Jessica Kent and Anne Bouthilette. Even possibly being completely and obnoxiously unproductive and crazy with Joshua Stanton and Nadeem Modan, or holding jovial yet inspiring conversations with Austin Maness. Every Fellow represents more than a contact to me, but a memory and a friend. The staff of IFYC represents more than just human resource, but mentors and family. As a Christian, I believe that God is Love, and where Love is, God has blessed. This rubric elucidates the value of our work, as we are able to live as examples of what interfaith cooperative can look like, in a world of compassion and understanding.
As I conclude this paragraph, I am completely my year-long commitment to the Fellow’s Alliance. However, with the end of the Fellowship, I see the beginning of a career in making the interfaith movement, a long journey in personal growth in faith, and life-long friendships that will remind us why we even bothered to try to make a difference in the first place.

In Peace and Love,

Frank Fredericks
Former IFYC Fellow

 

The Lunge: The Conviction becomes a Life Sentence 29 February , 2008

So the big question everyone is asking me:

“Frank, What’s next?”

Other than praying that I don’t fail my final two classes and working hard at the Italian culture organization, I have reached an epiphany. I will work full-time on World Faith after I graduate. I will take the Lunge

If finding a job isn’t intimidating, most people think it is crazy to attempt to be self-employed. However I am going a step further and doing so with a non-profit. I also run a record label, but I very well may close it during the summer if it does not progress profitably. So I will begin working to secure funding for the project between now and graduation. If by graduation we have not raised sufficient funds for full-time support, I will continue with my summer plans of developing and building our projects in India, Lebanon, and Egypt.

In the meantime we are considering adding a new program to the World Faith network which will essentially be a music camp for Palestinian and Israeli children in Israel. We are exploring logistically how that association would take form. Our programming team at NYU has grown to over 10 as begin planning for our WEEK of Interfaith Service, coming this April. This will be my last event as Chapter President of World Faith NYU, and begin my journey of realizing the worthy ideal of World Faith.

That’s all for now. I wish I had more to write, but as the opportunities abound, ambiguity resides. In the next 6 weeks I will be in conferences in Boston, the CGI in New Orleans, Chicago, and on a panel at the Q Conference in NYC. I see that my past two posts, over a month old each, are still on the top list, so its nice to know someone else out there is reading. As long as that’s the case I will try to keep writing… 🙂

 

The Lebanon Project: The Beginning and the Next Step 30 January , 2008

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A vision is something that is extremely personal, hard to express, and harder to manifest. I know this as I have spent most my time and effort on building my own vision of World Faith. The Lebanon Project was not my vision, but the vision of some inspired and quick-to-mobilize NYU students who wanted to lead a service-learning project to Lebanon with the backing of World Faith. Organizationally this is ideal as each World Faith project should not require micromanagement, and decentralization is a key term I use frequently when describing the evolution of World Faith. However, on The Lebanon Project’s first service-learning trip, I had the blessing of joining them as a participant.

I arrived in Beirut as tired as the rest of us after two days of travel (and many unsuccessful attempts at solving a rubic’s cube I bought for the journey); a group of 10 students, diverse in many ways. From Muslims to Christians, Jews and Agnostics, We as a group had to have at least 17 passports among us, as we were such an ethnically diverse group. We immediately all expressed a touch of shock to find the irony of Lebanon: The nation which represents so many headlines of political instability and religious friction is not only clean and modern, but cosmopolitan and relatively calm.

The service-learning projects were varied but revealing. After touring the destruction in the south of Lebanon, we brought art supplies to an UNRWA refugee school for Palestinian children. As we encouraged the each student to draw their idea of peace, we were quickly shown the varied ideologies of peace: a map of Palestine with a fence around, a flaming building with rockets flying at it, and a field with what appeared to be children running in it. I inquired about the latter. The child said to me that he understood peace to be when, “children can play together; Christian and Muslim children, and even Jewish Children.” Amazing. What Martin Luther King spoke at age 34, this refugee child unknowingly reflected at age eight.

From the varied service-learning projects and dialogue events we had, one theme was definitely revealed to me, which completed some unfinished thoughts from previous travels in the region. After this trip (in which I also went to Syria), I have now personally been in Palestine/Israel, and every country that borders it. I have the heard the same stories from many perspectives; more than one per country. This trip, especially with our time spent in the south, particularly in the Beqa’a Valley, had a tendency to come back to the wars and occupations with Israel, being in 1975, 1982, or 2006. I realized that as Americans, we have a tendency to only see the headlines and the numbers at best, if we are even informed of that much. After meeting our volunteer guide through the south Mohammad, I learnt that his home had been leveled in 2006, “collateral damage.” Now I can no longer think of the situation of 2006 in sheer numbers and headlines. I suffered from this disconnect before this trip, even though in 2006 I was only 100 miles away, working on the US State Department’s evacuation, but I still had missed this great lesson that was revealed to me: When you go and meet people on their terms in their homeland, and you hear their story, regardless of your political opinions, you must put a human face to the headlines and statistics. The humanization of all parties makes you see conflict in new light. THIS IS A MODERATING FORCE.

When the service-learning trip ended, and my fellow participants returned to New York, and I began my next journey (after a slight detour to Damascus, in which I was ridiculously ill). I met with several leaders of interfaith work in Beirut to learn about the history and past failures of interfaith work in Lebanon (including some projects that ended in death threats), and I met with young minds frustrated with the current state of affairs who have the ideas but not the forum to share them. After my week of learning as much as I could about the role of religion in politics and media, I rented out a local café’s meeting room and held an open meeting for anyone interested in interfaith projects in Lebanon, about three hours before I had to be at the airport for my return flight.

Ten religiously diverse young people, from age 19 to 26, met me there. After briefly sharing my own experience, I allowed the attendees to share their own views and frustrations. I noticed a theme, so I asked a friend of mine present, Ziad, why when we met and I asked how he identified himself, he answered, “a citizen,” and not “Christian,” or “Muslim.” He answered, and the others agreed, that, “Our political parties, the structure of our society, is all built on religious lines, which is hurting the unity of Lebanon, we need to secularize!”

I responded to him with a dilemma, “But then if our generation is fixated on secularization, what is left in the discourse of religion in politics and the media? The conversation is dominated by those who use the religious language for division and disunity.” So I proposed, “Rather than secularizing, what if we pluralize, in that we respond in the public discourse with religious language applied to unity and peace-building?” The conversation stretched over two hours, and it resulted in everyone in attendance agreeing to meet a week later to design their own interfaith service team, as a World Faith chapter in Lebanon. I was ecstatic. I flew back, worn out yet inspired, and solved the rubic’s cube in the Moscow Airport. A week later, they came together and met, bringing in some new friends, and agreed on a name (“2gether”), and slated their first event for March 1. As one of them recently wrote me, “The journey begins…”

What is both inspiring and frustrating is that with all the groundbreaking work I have seen World Faith be blessed with in contributing, inciting, inspiring and facilitating, we have done it with relatively little funds. Everyone is volunteers, and we are still waiting for our non-profit status to finalize. We are a few weeks away from opening applications for our Humari Dunya project in India slated for June (led by the amazing and inspiring Soofia Ahmed), which we need to fundraise for, and since I have returned to the US less than two weeks ago, I have received messages from people interested in start local World Faith chapters in four more locations. We are also working with a local organization and the City of New York to create a pilot program of developing a protocol for houses of worship to mobilize as proselytizing-free Ready Receiving Centers in emergency situations of different sorts, which I hope to export to other World Faith chapters in the world. Even in publicity, we have been hugely blessed, as in the past four months I have personally done three TV interviews (including Good Morning America), two radio interviews and one print. I am three months away from graduating and pray that I will be blessed with the opportunity to go full-time with World Faith, and the biggest uncertainty is the financial viability of such a plan. I am working on sustainability programs as well, but even those require starting capital. So I am going to continue with what we have, but in the coming months I will be also begin reaching some of the limits of what we can do. So I work in faith that the means will become available as the scope of our projects increase, even as the speed of growth continues to amaze me week by week.

Relavant links: http://www.worldfaith.org

http://www.worldfaith.org/tlp

http://www.myspace.com/worldfaith