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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid