Day 10: A Simple But Revolutionary Act
Today is Day 10 of the Thirty Days of Love. The first step in building interfaith social justice partnerships (or strengthening old ones!) is meeting and getting to know our neighbors. Today’s action is to find time before the end of the Thirty Days to go to a religious service of a different faith in your community. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.
My journey to interfaith work began when I was in high school. My closest friends were a Mormon, a South Indian Hindu, and a Cuban Jew. We talked about everything–school, sports, our futures–everything except our religions. I learned many years after high school about the important role each of their religious traditions played in their lives and wondered why that was not something we were ever able to talk about back in high school.
When I was student at the University of Illinois, I began to see the way faith was playing out on the global stage, mostly in the form of violence. I realized that if the world was going to be a safer, more peaceful place for the next generation, we needed a movement that highlighted the inspirational parts of the world’s great religions. The first step towards that was to develop a language that allowed friends of different faiths to discuss their traditions openly with one another. And the most important part of that vocabulary is a simple question: how does your faith inspire you to serve others?
Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) was founded in 2002, and our first hire was an evangelical Christian, April, who today is IFYC’s Vice President for Leadership. While our faiths had many differences, I was inspired by how April’s family had adopted several children, inspired by their evangelical faith.
The organization was built on the idea that we could bridge our differences with a conversation about what inspires us to serve, and thereby mobilize a critical mass of young interfaith leaders who know how to build relationships across religious divides. Today, IFYC has trained thousands of students, on over a hundred college campuses, helping them see religion as a bridge of cooperation, rather than a barrier of division.
“I believe every inch of America is sacred, from sea to shining sea. I believe we make it holy by who we welcome and by how we relate to each other. Call it my Muslim eyes on the American project. ‘We made you different nations and tribes that you may come to know one another,’ says the Qur’an. There is no better place on earth than America to enact that vision. It is part of the definition of our nation.”
- Eboo Patel in “Sacred Ground, Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America”
We live at a time when people of different faith backgrounds are interacting with greater frequency than ever before. We hear the stories of people who seek to make faith a barrier of division or a bomb of destruction all too often. We have the power to change that.
During this second week of the Thirty Days of Love, as we all “think interfaith,” make plans to attend a faith service in a tradition you are not familiar with. You might find this simple act quite revolutionary. Click here for more resources, including a guide to proper etiquette in different houses of worship.
To a better world together,
Eboo is the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based non-profit that seeks to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Eboo is the 2013 UUA General Assembly Ware Lecturer. His latest book is entitled “Sacred Ground, Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America.”