By Eboo Patel and Becca Hartman
Do you know how your religious tradition speaks to serving others? To diversity? I posed this question to a full sanctuary on Tuesday night.
An hour before the talk, I had posed the same question to the youth of Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church, Bethesda Jewish Congregation, and Idara-e-Jaferia Mosque, who co-hosted the event in Bethesda, Md. From that fruitful conversation, we have planned to author the book “Rabbi Hillel to Malcolm X: Not Only For Myself”. (We have the title at least.) We also have half a dozen service projects dreamed up, inspired by the partnership of these three religious communities.
All of that was spurred by the simple questions posed above.
My talk was part of the Susan R. Andrews Lecture Series on Progressive Theology. In the question and answer part of the evening, someone asked the relevance, reception and prevalence of interfaith youth work outside of the United States. I was pleased to call on my friends Avi Smolen, Benjamin Bechtolsheim, Randa Kuziez and Sarah Baker for the question’s response.
These four exceptional young people are part of the Faiths Act Fellowship, coordinated by IFYC in partnership with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. For the next 10 months, 30 young leaders in three countries, inspired by service work in Africa and trained by the Interfaith Youth Core, are raising awareness in their communities about the Millennium Development Goals, particularly the eradication of deaths due to malaria. After Avi spoke of the interfaith cooperation he saw in Mali, the audience of 600 responded with moving applause.
The Faiths Act Fellows and the interfaith collaboration in Bethesda, Md. both inspire me. The young people of those communities challenge me as much as I challenge them to speak widely about why Christianity commands members to welcome the stranger; about why Judaism commands members to speak on behalf of the marginalized; about why Islam commands members to deeply respect the diverse creation around us.
I look forward to hearing about the interfaith service work this fall, from Bethesda to Bombay to Belfast. To share your story of service, please post it on IFYC’s Bridge-Builder’s Network.