Sunday Forum

Sunday, October 19, 2008. 10:10 AM

Youth and Religion: Building a Pluralistic Future

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The Sunday Forum: Critical Issues in the Light of Faith
The Very Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III, host
 

Cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III converses with Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, about “Youth and Religion: Building a Pluralistic Future.”

The Interfaith Youth Core lies at the heart of a growing global youth movement dedicated to serving others through tutoring, building houses, and otherwise “mak[ing] war on the giant ills that afflict humankind,” Patel explains. The organization encourages participants to understand the world’s great religions by developing perspective, knowledge, and skills, with the aim of breaking down unnecessary barriers between faiths and their adherents.

Patel says that the organization respects the “private space” within each religion: its own theology and interpretation of its own sacred texts. A deeper understanding of one’s own religion and others’ will, he hopes, enable people of all faiths to work together “in the public square.”

“Religion in America is so vibrant, and religions in America are so vibrant,” Patel says. He counts Dorothy Day, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Fazlur Rahman, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., among American religious figures who inspire people beyond their own faiths.

Like Christianity and Judaism before it, Islam has changed since it came to America. Muslims within the United States represent a great variety of theological and ethnic backgrounds. Patel perceives a “big-tent Islam” developing in the unique conditions of American society. Further, he perceives a “Muslim inspiration to advancing the American project.”

Dean Lloyd asks whether Americans have moved beyond the trauma of 9/11, which caused Muslims widely to be viewed as “the other.” Patel responds that “the jury is still out,” but he expresses the hope that fear of Muslims has receded. “Hope can beat fear,” Patel summarizes, but he adds that “we have to invest in that vision…and we have to realize that we are not dealing on neutral territory.”

Eboo Patel is the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international organization building the interfaith youth movement. He is the author of Acts of Faith and writes “The Faith Divide” blog for the Washington Post. Eboo is an Ashoka Fellow, serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations and was named one of America’s top Muslim visionaries by Islamica Magazine.

About Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel is the founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international organization building the interfaith youth movement. He is the author of Acts of Faith and writes “The Faith Divide” blog for the Washington Post. Eboo is an Ashoka Fellow, serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations and was named one of America’s top Muslim visionaries by Islamica Magazine.

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