Youth camp works to end bias, bigotry and racism: “Ten years ago, I had never met a Muslim.”

Camp Anytown

This piece was written by URI North America Storytelling Intern Robyn Lebron. You can read more of her work here

URI North America is thrilled to welcome one of our newest Cooperation Circles. We know that we are stronger together!

CAMP ANYTOWN  – Las Vegas, Nevada

  • Contact Person: Rico Ocampo, Program Director,  campanytownlv@hotmail.com
  • Mission Statement: Our mission statement is “To create communities based on inclusivity, respect, and understanding through youth leadership and empowerment.”
  • Areas of Focus: Youth, youth leadership development, youth diversity education
  • Website: www.anytownlv.org

“We value youth because Anytown works from the premise that we live in a multicultural society and that young people are the nation’s future. Therefore, youth need to be sensitized to the experiences of diverse groups if- as decision makers- they are expected to make fair judgments in improving the quality of life for the entire nation regardless of ability, ethnicity, faith/religion, and gender.”

When Rico Ocampo, Camp Anytown’s Program Director, first heard about URI, it was at a conference in San Diego.

“I didn’t have a full grasp of what URI was … it kinda blew my mind!” Ocampo went onto to add that, because of that experience, he now knows he can reach out to others and learn from their programs.

Continue reading “Youth camp works to end bias, bigotry and racism: “Ten years ago, I had never met a Muslim.””

Hope in Interfaith Leaders 

tangible hope diaries eboo patel and mesha interfaith youth core

“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. 

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Interfaith Youth Core #TangibleHopeEboo Patel

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.

URI North America #TangibleHopeMesha Arant

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.

Working to Keep Tangible Hope Alive

“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?”

Vicki Garlock, founder of Faith Seeker Kids and childhood interfaith educator: 

I have the great fortune of being an interfaith educator for kids. My work is grounded in my beliefs that 1) faith development is a life-long process, 2) that each faith tradition offers a unique way of articulating and accessing the divine presence in our lives, and 3) that we should provide kids with the tools they need to walk their faith path.

We have teenagers who love Rumi, middle-schoolers who have heard passages from the Qur’an…

The real beauty of teaching kids about the world’s faith traditions is that I see examples of #TangibleHope all the time. We have teenagers who love Rumi, middle-schoolers who have heard passages from the Qur’an since they were in 3rd grade, and kindergarteners who have listened to stories from around the world. They are not entirely blank slates, but they are incredibly open-minded and open-hearted – free from the baggage so frequently seen in adults.

People often question whether or not kids can actually understand the way different religions articulate the Great Mystery. It is true that these kids are not mini-religious scholars; that is not our intent. But they clearly wonder about how the world came to be, how it works, and how they can find meaning in it from a very young age.

I am reminded of an argument that occurred one day in our Preschool-Kindergarten class. They were listening to the Biblical passage about Moses’ adventure on Mount Sinai when God gave him the first set of commandments. The Bible describes the mountain in this way, “Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord had descended upon it in fire; the smoke went up like the smoke of a kiln, while the whole mountain shook violently.” (Exodus 19:18) The question posed to the kids was this: What does God look like to you? The mild argument ensued when three different kids tried to convince the others of his/her viewpoint. One child said she already knew what God looked like. God was an old man with a white beard and he lived “right over there” as she pointed to a non-descript, but distant, corner of the room. Another child took issue with her claim and asserted that “God is everywhere.” A third child was quick to point out that both classmates were mistaken since “God lives inside you.”

The give-and-take that one might expect from adults isn’t there, but neither is all the angst. When we talk about prayer, we take a wide view. We talk about Tibetan prayer flags, Catholic rosaries, singing psalms as prayer, Muslim prayer beads, mantras as prayer, Buddhist malas, Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Pagan clouties, Islamic prayer mats, chanting as prayer, and various prayer postures. We make prayer flags to hang in the classroom, we tie clouties to trees, we show videos of people praying in various ways, and we show them strands of prayer beads from the various traditions. The older kids even make their own set of prayer beads, choosing the number and colors of beads that are meaningful to them.

They don’t even realize their knowledge is special in any way because it all makes perfect sense.

And what do the kids say in response to all that? “Cool.” They don’t even realize their knowledge is special in any way because it all makes perfect sense. They may prefer some prayer methods over others, and their preferences will almost certainly change over the course of their lifetimes, but there is no judgment when we offer these practices as different ways to touch that which is sacred. Kids get it. Our job is simply to keep that #TangibleHope alive.

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Vickvickigarlocki Michela Garlock, Ph.D., is the founder of Faith Seeker Kids and the Nurture Coordinator at Jubilee! Community Church in Asheville, NC. She has developed a Bible-based, interfaith curriculum for kids age 4 through 8th grade and is the co-founder of Asheville Interfaith. She is also a correspondent for the Interfaith Observer, writing for their on-line publication every month, where she focuses on the “kid angle.” Most of her time is spent writing, reading sacred texts/ancient stories, and attending rituals/pujas/services offered by various faith communities. When she isn’t working, she’s walking her dog, driving her son around to his extra-curricular activities, and keeping her teenage daughter focused. You can find her at faithseekerkids.com or on Facebook: Faith Seeker Kids or on Twitter: @faithseekerkids.

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. 

Scarboro Mission Releases Interfaith Curriculum Resources

Scarboro Mission Releases Interfaith Curriculum Resources

Scarboro Mission Releases Interfaith Curriculum Resources

Scarboro Mission, a URI North America Affiliate, has just re-designed their interfaith curriculum resources section to make it more user-friendly.

“While it is easy to get interfaith information, it is much more challenging to find good interfaith curriculum,” said Paul McKenna from Scarboro Missions’ Interfaith Department. “My sense is that good curriculum is the missing piece in the interfaith movement.”

The new design is very user-friendly. You can explore this rich collection in nine theme areas: schools & youth groups, peace–building, ecology & social justice, prayer & meditation, colleges & universities, interfaith toolkits, young adults, Golden Rule and bi-lateral dialogues.

There is also an extra added bonus: most of these resources can be downloaded free of charge. These resources include online courses, best practices, do-it-yourself workshops, activities, multifaith prayer services, starter kits, guidelines, games, meditations, slideshows.

Featuring resources from around the world, this compilation is one of the most comprehensive collections of interfaith curricula on the Internet. Click here to start exploring the resource library:https://www.scarboromissions.ca/Interfaith_dialogue/student_resources.php