Have you heard of Interfaith Youth Core?
As a first-year student at Georgia Tech, I was humbled to be selected amongst seven deserving peers to represent Georgia Tech at the Interfaith Youth Core’s annual Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI) held in Atlanta, which took place in January.
I found myself amongst delegations from all over the nation, surrounded by people of every faith/non-faith, some of which I had no knowledge of. I spoke with Spiritual Episcopalians, Jews, Humanists, Muslims, Unitarian-Universalist Pagans, Atheists, and Agnostics, to name a few.
One of my favorite segments of the conference was cleverly named “Speedfaithing;” I listened as an Atheist shared her personal experiences standing in solidarity with Muslims against Islamophobia, and emphasized that interfaith collaboration needs people who don’t identify with a faith because just like we cannot do it with only one faith, we cannot do it without secular folk. I also listened to a Unitarian-Universalist Pagan share his belief that there is inherent human dignity within everyone, and a Humanist Christian shared that “love never puts theology over a person.”
As I reflected on what these they were sharing, I was reminded of when God says in the Quran:
"O Mankind. Behold. I have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know and cherish one another.” [49:13]
So there is this reason for our diversity, to learn, understand, and grow together, and to strengthen our personal identities as Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Jews, and searchers.
We have to admit, the world that we live in is infinitely fragmented, and the duty to put the pieces back together lies with our generation. With that in mind, we have to recognize that interfaith collaboration is challenging; one of my peers described it as “taking water out of the ocean with a teaspoon, but we cannot afford to lose the boat.” Humans are not error-free; issues of inclusivity and conflict of values may arise and it’s valuable opportunities like Interfaith Youth Core that train you with the soft skills necessary to confront and navigate through these conflicts. It is through this dialogue and engagement with one another that we begin to break down barriers and build bridges across our respective communities.
As our Georgia Tech delegation returns to campus, we hope to increase interfaith collaboration across our religious and secular organizations. We are in the process of founding “IDEA” at Georgia Tech: the Interfaith Dialogue & Engagement Alliance. This will be an inclusive, nonpolitical organization for people of faith and non-faith backgrounds who desire to connect through service and dialogue over shared values of tolerance, respect, & social justice for the betterment of our community.
***I encourage everyone to check out Interfaith Youth Core and attend next year’s Interfaith Leadership Institute.