“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?”
Eboo Patel and Mesha Arant (Interfaith Youth Core), active proponents of young adult leadership in the interfaith movement respond:
On a crisp morning in September members of the IFYC staff in Chicago waited in expectation; would the hundreds of guests we invited to welcome the Honorable Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, show up? Mayor Khan is the first Muslim elected to lead a major western capital city. We believed his visit would serve as an opportunity to highlight the importance of interfaith cooperation on the international stage. And while we knew the significance of this visit, we were unsure if Mayor Khan’s presence was enough to entice college students to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning.
“Hello,” “good morning,” “As-Salamu Alaikum,” laughter, and conversation soon filled the synagogue’s fellowship hall and our staff breathed a sigh of relief.
We opened the doors to Temple Sholom and Muslims, Jews, Christians, Agnostics, Atheists, and those who choose to identify in a host of other ways filled the space. “Hello,” “good morning,” “As-Salamu Alaikum,” laughter, and conversation soon filled the synagogue’s fellowship hall and our staff breathed a sigh of relief. Hundreds of college students and community members were there to show their support for religious pluralism.
I’m never quite sure why we worry in these moments—maybe it is the uncertain nature of event planning or the certitude of day-of hiccups. But this moment served as an affirmation for what we already know to be true: when young people are given the opportunity to advance interfaith cooperation, they show up.
Each person who walked through the door on that September morning served as a tangible manifestation of the vision we hope to concretize for our generation.
Our work at Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) has shown us this to be true time and time again. Our organization is built on the idea that young people are the key to making interfaith cooperation a social norm in our lifetime. We have built networks, programming, and resources to bring this idea to life. Each person who walked through the door on that September morning served as a tangible manifestation of the vision we hope to concretize for our generation. Our hope is in them.
At IFYC we believe that civic interfaith leadership is a necessity for a healthy religiously diverse democracy. Our alums touch all sectors—they work in healthcare, for the government, create educational programs on the importance of religious literacy, teach children, become clergy, and host trainings. They are consistently bringing the values of interfaith cooperation into broader society. They are the Mayor Khan’s of tomorrow.
Eboo Patel is a leading voice in the movement for interfaith cooperation and the Founder and President of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a national nonprofit working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. He is the author of the books Acts of Faith, Sacred Ground, and Interfaith Leadership. He is a frequent guest speaker on college campuses, a regular contributor to the public conversation around religion in America and served on President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council. Eboo holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.
Mesha Arant is an Associate at Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). Mesha received her B.A. in Religion from Wofford College in 2012 and her Master of Divinity from Yale in 2015. Her current interests include African-American humanism, ethics, and bridging the theist/non-theist divide.
Every Tuesday, the #TangibleHope Diaries series features responses from North American grassroots peacebuilders on what gives them tangible hope in the world today. See you next week! Learn more here.