Dear friends and supporters of interfaith,
I hope that the new school year has been treating you well!
Two weeks ago, I was driving up to Chicago in nervous anticipation for the fall training retreat of the Interfaith Youth Core’s Fellow Alliance. Did I really belong there with the guy who built houses in Nicaragua over the summer? The girl who did a presentation at the World Youth Congress in Istanbul? Or the countless others who spent their summers as interns at non-profit organizations? My summer of Physics 101 and making gyros for Zorba’s seemed very unimportant in comparison.
Over the course of our four day training, I got to know nineteen of the most inspiring interfaith student leaders that our country has to offer. As it turns out, I had worried needlessly. Every one of us had fears and concerns, but also areas of great strength. All of us had been chosen for a reason, and I learned so much from each of them. I can only hope that we will continue to learn from each other throughout our year as Fellows and beyond.
Though it was wonderful finally getting to meet the other Fellows, that was not the sole purpose of the retreat. The Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) is launching an exciting new project called the Better Together Campaign. This semester I will be working to put together a steering committee made up of student leaders from religious, multi-cultural and service organizations to launch an awareness campaign on campus surrounding a social justice issue of our choosing. We will be asking the University of Illinois, “What if?”
What if we let our differences stand in the way of working together for the common good? What if we never interacted with someone outside of our own faith background? What if we actively worked together to create a world of religious cooperation and peace? What could we accomplish?
The IFYC asks, “What if Martin Luther King Jr. rejected Gandhi’s value of nonviolence because he was Hindu?” How would our country be different today? In a world where religious violence is at the forefront of the evening news and splashed across the front pages of newspapers, it is time that we take action. The stories that the world needs to hear are about the non-Muslim students who participated in “Wear a Hijab Day” at Hamline University or the interfaith group at Wesleyan University, CT who raised over $14,000 last week during Fast-a-thon.
Last semester, over 5,000 people from the University of Illinois and Champaign-Urbana community came together over the period of two days to package more than one million meals to send to Haiti. I feel immensely grateful to be a part of such an amazing and supportive community. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish this year! Our story is only just beginning.