News / USA

American Muslim Builds Bridges Among Faiths

Eboo Patel brings together young people of different religions

A Rhodes Scholar, Eboo Patel established Interfaith Youth Core, a volunteer organization that brings young people from different religions together.
A Rhodes Scholar, Eboo Patel established Interfaith Youth Core, a volunteer organization that brings young people from different religions together.

Multimedia

Audio

Eboo Patel says he has always been interested in the diversity of religious experience.  

He was born in 1975 to Muslim Indian parents, and emigrated with them from Bombay to Chicago when he was an infant.  Patel grew up with friends of different religious backgrounds.  

By the time he was 13 he was asking himself, "What does it mean to be a Muslim, when your friends are a Hindu, a Jew, a Nigerian evangelical, a Mormon, a Lutheran, a Catholic?"

As he became more serious about his religion, Islam, and as his friends became more serious about their religions, Patel says they started to have a conversation about faith "in a higher-level way."

Conversation about faith

Patel recounts that experience in his 2007 memoir, "Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation."

His idea for an Interfaith Youth Core, inspired by other service organizations like the Peace Corps, began to develop at Oxford University in England, where, as a Rhodes Scholar, Patel received a doctorate in the sociology of religion.  

"The basic idea of the Interfaith Youth Core is young people from different religions should be volunteering together, cleaning rivers, tutoring children, building houses.  And they should use that as an entre into having a conversation about how their different religions inspire them to serve others," Patel says.  

The Core's first projects were conducted outside of the United States. Patel learned the methodology and theory of interfaith work by practicing it in South Africa and Kenya and Sri Lanka and India.  He studied the Sarvodaya Shramadana movement in Sri Lanka, learned about Ubuntu from African traditionalists in South Africa, and helped run an interfaith service learning project with Habitat for Humanity in Hyderabad, India.

President Barack Obama appointed Eboo Patel to the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
President Barack Obama appointed Eboo Patel to the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

A permanent home

In 2002, he returned to Chicago, and with a grant from the Ford Foundation, established a permanent home base for the Interfaith Youth Core.  

He reminds people that core is spelled as it is, "because we in Chicago see ourselves as simply the core of a growing global movement."

In 2006, the Interfaith Youth Core, which has worked with refugees and the homeless in Chicago, did go global, participating in an exchange with young interfaith leaders in Jordan. Since then, IFYC members and alumni have traveled to Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the Philippines, and elsewhere to share their experiences.  They have also conducted training workshops in the United Kingdom, Qatar, throughout Europe, and in India.

"People are realizing that this issue of interfaith cooperation, it matters in a huge way," Patel says.

Among those realize that is President Barack Obama, who appointed Patel to the White House Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. And the president is not alone.  

Patel was named one of America's Best Leaders of 2009 by the weekly news magazine "U.S. News and World Report." That year he was also chosen as one of five "future policy leaders to watch" by Harvard's Kennedy School review, and was honored with the Roosevelt Institute's Freedom of Worship Medal.

Religious totalitarians vs. pluralists

Patel believes that the most divisive issue of the 21st century will be religion, or as he puts it, "the faith line."

"But the faith line doesn't divide Christians and Muslims, Jews and Buddhists.  The faith line divides religious totalitarians and religious pluralists."

Patel defines religious totalitarians as those who condemn every religion other than their own. At their most extreme, religious totalitarians, like the suicide bombers of today, will kill anyone who doesn't share their beliefs.

On the other side, Patel says, are the religious pluralists. "The religious pluralist says, 'I deeply believe in my religious tradition, but I understand that your way of believing and belonging is right for you," he explains. "I want to cultivate a sense of understanding and cooperation. I want to figure out how you and I, Christian and Muslim, Jew and Buddhist, Baha'i and Hindu, how we can collectively serve the common good.'"

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid