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World Faith: The Interfaith Service Network

World Faith NYC Day of Interfaith Youth Service 2012 8 May , 2012

Filed under: Chapter Reports,News,Pictures — Nele @ 10:00 am
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On April 21, World Faith NYC brought together enthusiastic volunteers for the Day of Interfaith Youth Service 2012. We got our hands dirty doing gardening at the Harlem Success Community Garden. Within four hours we layed out a composting site, cleaned vegetable patches, and planted a whole flowerbed. The garden is used by the schoolchildren of P.S. 175 to learn about gardening, nutrition, and the environment.

A big thanks to the members of Harlem Growth who made this event possible!

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Mustafa Abdullah on Story Line 11 April , 2012

Filed under: News,Press — Nele @ 10:00 am
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Mustafa Abdullah talks with Miranda Kingsley Kelly.  Mustafa is Egyptian-American and President of World Faith Winston-Salem, a multi-faith organization.  Mustafa reflects on his experience as a Muslim-American living in a post-9/11 world and discusses his motivations to help shape the community consciousness regarding world religion.

 

To listen to Mustafa´s story visit: http://www.storylineproject.org/stories

 

Youth Redefining Interfaith Activism Globally 16 March , 2012

Filed under: News,Press — Nele @ 10:00 am
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by Frank Fredericks

I’ve never found an easy way to explain how an evangelical Christian from rural America came to found an interfaith youth organization with chapters across the world. It began in the summer of 2006.

It was past midnight when I flew into the airport in Alexandria, Egypt, not knowing a word of Arabic. My host from Couchsurfing, an international hospitality club, whom I’d never met, was waiting beyond customs. I was having a Tower-of-Babel moment at the immigration desk. “Enta men fain?” he said.

“I don’t speak Arabic… Do you speak English?” After a few rounds of this, an Egyptian in line behind me, hearing me try out different languages, came to my rescue, translating my Italian into Arabic.

I came to Egypt to do independent research on Christian-Islamic relations. I was under-prepared. As a student at New York University, my friends were puzzled by my move. I was studying Music Business and managing an unknown singer named Stefani Germanotta (who later donned the stage-name Lady Gaga), so I was better known for booking rock acts than religion.

Those who know me better recognized the pivotal role my faith as an evangelical Christian has for me, and know of my insatiable curiosity about “the other.” What started as a month-long trip became a lifetime journey.

Birth of a Notion

That visit to Egypt, observing both interfaith collaboration and some rare instances of violence, inspired me to pursue interfaith work. A month later, I moved to Cyprus for the summer, working the night shift as a cook in a small restaurant in Larnaka, a small and calm town on the Cypriot coast. A month later the Hezbollah-IsraelI War broke out. With the Beirut Airport bombed, the U.S. evacuation of Lebanese Americans was conducted by boat to the nearest port… Larnaka.

My relaxing beach summer rapidly unraveled as I volunteered with the U.S. State Department’s efforts to evacuate more than 10,000 people in eight days. I left on the last plane of evacuees, returning to the U.S. in mid-August. If Egypt inspired me to do interfaith work, the Lebanese evacuation gave me a sense of urgency.

Back in New York, I became determined to join the interfaith world. I met with several organizations but was troubled: the “interfaith” events I attended were primarily religious leaders talking about their different points of view. Remembering the conflicts I saw in Egypt, it was primarily young people, both as victims and perpetrators of violence. I became convinced that old people talking can’t counter young people taking action. As expected, I didn’t win too many allies early on with this perspective.

That fall we had our first “World Faith” meeting at NYU. My best friend Florentina, her dorm mate Vinita, a Hindu student, a Muslim freshmen named Tanzila, who read about us on Facebook, a Bahraini student named Dalal I’d met the week before, my friend Rob, who lived next door in our dorm, and I got together. I was idealistic, but not convinced that the sixof us were enough to change the world.

Being “social entrepreneurs” means taking great risks to create positive social change. In this vein, World Faith is run by volunteers, some of whom serve fulltime. They serve without salaries, though the ultimate goal is to generate a sustainable level of support for local chapters and the global network.

The Early Years

I became an Interfaith Youth Core Fellow, meeting interfaith leaders like Eboo Patel and Joshua Stanton, graduating from New York University, and working on World Faith nearly fulltime. This entailed traveling the world to find like-minded young people to start World Faith chapters in places like India and Lebanon.

Up to this point, World Faith was largely a story about me. From here on, I suddenly became a small part of the World Faith story.

Abdul Shakeel Basha still recalls when the Babri Mosque in Mumbai was demolished, leading to widespread violence across India. He showed up at a relief camp for victims with a plan to volunteer for five days. He stayed for five years. When the similar religiously fueled violence broke out in Gujarat that left thousands dead, he moved to Gujarat to volunteer in relief efforts, at times putting his own life at risk.

Shakeel and I met for the first time in 2009. As an activist in Delhi, he was frustrated by the systemic marginalization of poor Indians, especially homeless youth. “They have rights and protections by law,” he explained, “but the very institutions that are supposed to protect and support them actually suppress and abuse them.”

Soon after, Shakeel decided to join World Faith, taking on the social entrepreneurial role of national director for World Faith India. Three years later, he has built two schools in Delhi slums that provide education for 150 children. He’s convinced the local government to hire 14 World Faith volunteers to staff and run these schools, while they work in the homeless communities of Delhi, providing emergency response, finding pro-bono legal help to end unlawful slum demolitions, and mobilizing religiously diverse volunteers to give over 6,000 volunteer hours last year. Shakeel, like all World Faith regional directors, did all this without a salary.

Interfaith Peacemaking + International Development

While Shakeel’s story is truly remarkable, it is no longer unusual. The same social entrepreneurism that inspired Shakeel to build World Faith India, drives thousands of others to build interfaith development and service projects across the world. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a handful, leaders of World Faith chapters in Bangladesh, Egypt, Lebanon, Kenya, Nigeria, and Pakistan, along with leaders in ten other countries we’re talking to. World Faith has essentially doubled in size every year, which is why we feel we are only at the beginning of building a world movement of interfaith action.

World Faith has become a cutting edge of the intersection between interfaith peacebuilding and international development. Too often global challenges intertwine these issues, but we address them separately, as if they weren’t connected.

Take Nigeria as an example. Few places need interfaith peacebuilding more than Nigeria, but peacebuilding itself will not be enough. Specifically, the British Council found that the most significant factor in avoiding a possible Nigerian civil war is providing 25 million additional jobs, primarily for the youth. Essentially, no peacebuilding efforts will end a seeming religious conflict with economic issues at its roots.

Similarly, economic development is dependent on a viable society. Nothing scares away investment and squashes opportunity like communal violence or political instability. Both of these forces, violence and economic stagnation, disproportionately affect the youth. We see this as a global trend. In places like Nigeria, as World Faith Nigeria’s national director Obi Peter attests, peacebuilding and development efforts cannot viably function separately.

Herein lies the problem and the answer. Both peacebuilding and development efforts typically see young people as the problem. It’s a tempting conclusion when you see the young unemployed and the young perpetrating violence. But youth represent the most under-utilized asset in such communities. Entrepreneurism, unused higher education, social and geographical mobility, and widely expansive social networks are just a few of the crucial characteristics that represent the key ingredients to progress. That is why World Faith chapters are each created and led by social entrepreneurs, usually young adults themselves, who mobilize their fellow youth to action. They provide solutions. Are these solutions innovative? Are they really helpful?

Meet Jared Akama Ondieki, the national director of World Faith Kenya, operating as a nonprofit called CEPACET (Center for Partnership and Civic Engagement). Jared witnessed development projects in Kenya failing because they typically only addressed one of the many stacked and intertwined issues. Take the plight of widows at Lake Victoria, near his hometown of Kisii.

Thousands of widows have resorted to the informal industry of buying the day’s catch from the all-male fisherman at the docks. Culturally women aren’t permitted to fish. Reselling the fish at the town market, they often can barely feed themselves and their children. Along with the poverty, the fishermen often require the widows to sleep with them. Most fisherman sell to more than one widow, and many widows have several fisherman they buy from. The result is an HIV rate of 10-40%, much higher than the national average of 6.3%. It’s a challenge that spans poverty, public health, culture, education, and women’s empowerment.

Jared and a group of Muslim and Christian young people in Kenya had an idea. During a closure on the lake due to overfishing, they approached 100 widows who wanted an alternative income. These women and their children moved to a community farm, were taught to farm and harvest seed, and within a year became self-sufficient. They even had loaned money out into the surrounding community. Last week we heard they are breaking ground on a second farm.

With more that 500 activists volunteering over 16,000 hours in ten countries last year, impacting the lives of over 50,000 people, we see a global trend becoming the foundation of a world movement. This is the beginning. World Faith has doubled in impact every year for the past three years. With interest bubbling right now for new chapters in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South Asia, I have no doubt about exponential growth this coming year.

It means constantly adapting to the realities on the ground. They are always unique. But it turns out that the imagination, curiosity, and generosity of young people in every religious tradition, confronting global issues in their own backyard, can create interfaith action anytime, anywhere. It is transformative and contagious and a blessing.

Originally posted on: http://theinterfaithobserver.org/journal-articles/2012/3/15/youth-redefining-interfaith-activism-globally.html

 

Kickoff of the First Woman Adult Education Center in Lahore, Pakistan 27 January , 2011

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On January 22nd 2011 at 2 pm, World Faith held a ceremony to kick off the first Women Adult Education Center in Shadbagh, Lahore, Pakistan. More than forty-five women and some religious leaders from the surrounding areas participated in this event showing their support and encouragement for the Woman Adult Education Center. By the close of the day, twenty-five women even enrolled their names for the center’s first course! World Faith would like to thank all those who attended this event and who have shown support for this initiative and its continued success.

You can find out more about Interfaith Youth in Action (IYA), the Lahore, Pakistan chapter of the World Faith International Service Network by visiting them on Facebook.

 

 

Cairo, I’ll be Back 18 August , 2008

Filed under: Blog Post — Frank Fredericks @ 3:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

So I have left Cairo for the last time on this trip, spending an additional week there after returning from Sudan.  Like Sudan, I am considering writing a short analysis of the country from my experiences, but I am still not sure if I should, and if I do, if I should post it.  The reason for my uncertainty lies both in the fact that while running a non-profit that is explicitly non-political, if there is a viable way for me to comment on these countries without making political statements.  I mean I do have political opinions personally, but I wonder if my own expression could create false assumptions about World Faith, whose leadership are as politically diverse as they are religiously.  Also, certain countries I am openly critical of, but it seems potentially problematic if I criticize a nation’s government that we as an organization are working in, especially in a place like Egypt where civil liberties are diminishing if existent.  More to come as I decide.

 

However, World Faith Cairo is born, and interesting is growing much faster there than we ever had in New York the first month.  We did we get a group of young people legitimately interesting in leading the chapter, with the awesome assistance of Catherine Manfre, an NYU alumnus, who is World Faith’s Regional Director of Egypt.  But even better is we got connected to some of the movers and shakers of Cairo.  Including that of Dr. Barbara Harrell-Bond.

 

“Dr. Harrell-Bond is an institution,” her future replacement said, referring to her clout in the international refugee aid world.  Michael Hellen-Chu, a friend of mine who works at the UN on the Darfur political solutions team, informed me of her intense behavour and her immense knowledge in the field.  Catherine set up some meetings, of which I wasn’t prepped for before. All the sudden I was sitting face to face with Dr. Harrell-Bond.  She is about to retire in two weeks, and for some reason she dug our approach, and essentially dragged me to all her meetings and introduced us to several organizations in Cairo. 

 

After meeting with her and everyone else, Catherine and those working with her decided that the best way to kick off World Faith Cairo was through a language exchange between English speaking study-abroad students and Iraqi refugees, who are over 100,000 numbers in Cairo.  So our chapter will likely not just be based on Coptic-Muslim division, but also be able to challenge West-Arab relations, and Egyptian-Iraqi relations.  I am stoked to see what comes of it.

 

 Now I am in Amman,  where I originally intended on relaxing.  However, after meeting several people in interfaith, I sort of slipped into World Faith mode and now we are exploring to see if a chapter is a possibility here.  Someone wants to introduce me to Prince Hassan, who is very active in the interfaith works here, so we will see what comes of it.  Until then, pray that we find some funding so that I can actually continue this fulltime!

 

On My Way Out 30 July , 2008

I delayed the release of this post so it wouldn’t post until I am on the plane to Sudan.  I did that as I was getting a lot of concerned people writing, calling, etc, and I needed to pray and think about this one on my own.  I appreciate everyone’s concern, but I hope that you all trust that I have planned accordingly and will put safety first in my decision making.  Furthermore, the fact that I am going is not a sign of disrespect to those of you who have dissented.  Let’s all pray that I have God’s protection throughout.

 

So now for the story of what it takes to get a Sudanese visa…  While I watched a Swedish couple get their visa in a few hours last week, I applied two weeks ago.  Starting last Thursday, I have spent anywhere from one to three hours each day at the Sudanese Consulate just to find out if my application has been approved (supposedly by the Sudanese President al-Bashir himself, though I question if that actually happens).  Finally yesterday I just stayed around for four hours harassing the consulate guy, Yassir, who has been on a first-name basis with me for nearly a week now.  After these four hours he led me to a room in the back of the consulate where a older Sudanese man in a brown tailored suit sat, staring at his computer screen.  After a minute of silence (and only a vague acknowledgement of my existence), he fumbled with his printer mumbling, “busy, what?”  Turning to me he asked if knew anything about printers.

 

Seeing that he hadn’t even touched my application, I thought I would take advantage of this moment to pick up some points.  A minute later I’m sitting at his desk going through is peripheral settings for his computer and he’s on his cell phone talking to his wife.  That’s when Yassir walks back in to find me at the Consulate General’s desk and the CG standing up beside me like nothings out of place.  Yassir burst with laughter.

 

After printing out some sheets I noticed they were blueprints for a house.  My house” he announced with a touch of both hope and pride.  Looking over the plans I saw some basic issues caused some dead space in the design (most of  you don’t know this, but before I moved to New York I worked summers and weekends/evenings for a few years in construction, saving up for NYU… that was a life-time ago).  I respectfully told him, “you know, if you move this wall and this wall, and extended these rooms and move these doors, you could get rid of this dead space and make the whole place more space-efficient.”  He bought it.  He got so excited that he brought me back over to his computer to show me the location of his house on Google Earth.  After buttering him up he began the questioning:   “What do you know about Sudan?”

 

Though I wasn’t sure what the right answer was, I was pretty sure it wasn’t, “well the same government that helps you pay for this house is also sponsoring a genocide.”  Irony plays out when for the first time that I could remember, I was trying to be the dumb American.  He continued his propagandist remarks about how Sudanese are better than Egyptians, and how Sudan is “the safest country in Africa.” Right.  But with childlike naivety I led him to believe that this was great input, and that I had no idea about the country’s history or current dilemmas.  “Don’t listen to Western media, Sudanese are the nicest people in the world.”   So I responded with, “boy I do wish to get to see that inshallah.”   

 

APPROVED

 

After that, everything fell into place within a day.  More to report from the other side.

 

The Next Chapter: Cairo 20 July , 2008

After an enjoyable weekend in Amman while basically living out of Book@Cafe, I took a bus to Aqaba and ended up waiting 10 hours for a ferry across to Noueba, which left at 4am, and unloaded at 1pm.  That was the worse experience of the trip so far, and if wasn’t for the fact that a friendly Syrian (who also happened to be a Druze from Souada, go figure) helped me out, I may have just totally gone nuts.

Cairo has been an enjoyable experience, as after spending some time here each summer I am finally mentally prepared for the insanity that is Cairo before arriving.  Cairo is essentially the same size as New York, only you take away the infrastructure and add heat.  

My host last week was the morning DJ for Nile FM, the largest english radio station in the Arab world.  After a few days, she invited me into the studio to talk about the hospitality club we are in for such hosting (www.couchsurfing.com), and I also got to talk a bit about the chapter we are working to start in Cairo for World Faith.  It was funny to do an interview on the radio that wasn’t focused on World Faith, but rather talking about someone else’s project.  The interview will be posted on the World Faith website soon.

So after getting settled here, I met with Mustafa Abdullah, the leader of the World Faith chapter in Winston-Salem, and with Catherine Manfre, who is going to be our new Regional Director for Egypt.  After some meetings we came up with our plan of attack, and are hosting an interest meeting for the chapter this Tuesday at Pottery Cafe, across from American University of Cairo (Where Catherine had studied).  We already have quite a few interested people, and I think it will be a very interesting meeting… these sort of things get me re-inspired and remind me why I even do this in the first place.  More to report as afterwards.

Finally, after going to the Sudanese Embassy, I found out that my application for Sudan has to be personally signed by President Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC the same day I applied… I have no idea if I am going to get this visa or not.  Furthermore I have spent most the money I set aside for this trip already, so I am digging a little deeper than I feel comfortable with, but c’est la vie.  STILL reaching out to funders and seeing if we can get some real funding behind World Faith, as we still have done all that we have on less than $20,000 in the past two years.  I apologize that most of my blogs right now are commentary, but I hope to expand into more exploratory discussions when I am not traveling… Right now I am using the blog to keep people updated that I haven’t been able to single out and update.  More to come, as usual… 🙂