In his latest book, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, interfaith activist Eboo Patel asks us to share in his vision of a better America—a robustly pluralistic country in which our commonalities are more important than our differences. Patel posits that Americans from George Washington to Martin Luther King, Jr. have been “interfaith leaders,” and illustrates how the forces of pluralism have time and again defeated the forces of prejudice. Pluralism, Patel boldly argues, is at the heart of the American project. His prescient voice carries particular weight and wisdom for a city recently crowned America’s most diverse.
Excerpt: The son of Ismaili immigrants from Mumbai, Patel was raised on Chicago’s Far North side. During high school in the suburbs, Patel mixed with Hindus, Jews and evangelical Christians and suffered the occasional racial slur at lunch.
At the University of Illinois he fell in with a radical crowd before gravitating towards social justice and the Catholic Worker organisation, which is devoted to helping the poor. During this period, his father regularly railed against American leaders for their failure to help Muslims suffering in Bosnia and Iraq.
Patel experienced something of a religious awakening around 1998
Excerpt: Just when I was worried that my son was becoming a Catholic, we got invited to a party celebrating Diwali — the festival of lights that signifies victory of good over evil — at our secular Hindu neighbor’s house. Zayd was uncharacteristically quiet for most of it, but when the food arrived, he looked over at his friend — the neighbor’s child — and said: “Karthik, you need to say Shukrun Lillah before you eat.”
I was one proud papa witnessing that moment. “He remembers a Muslim prayer of gratitude,” I thought to myself.
My pride was interrupted by Zayd’s rising voice. He was insisting that Karthik say Shukrun Lillah. Karthik’s parents shot my wife and me a look that to me said, “We thought you weren’t those kind of Muslims.” My wife shot me a look that said, “You’re the religion guy — handle this.”
I blurted out: “Karthik doesn’t have to say Shukrun Lillah, love. We say Shukrun Lillah for Karthik. I want you to go back to your plate and close your eyes and think of your food and Karthik and everything and everybody you love and say Shukrun Lillah — you’re thanking God for all of it. How does that sound?”
Zayd, remarkably, thought it sounded good. My wife gave me a “not bad” look.
In an America often convinced of the inevitable clash of civilisations, the challenges facing the IFYC and its leader, Eboo Patel, are considerable. The influential Rhodes scholar has worked with the Obama administration on several major interfaith projects. Yet he’s under no misconception that the IFYC can achieve its goal – making religious pluralism a social norm.
“We should not and cannot judge how we’re doing now against an issue that is going to last for the rest of human history,” 36-year-old Patel says during a recent interview at the IFYC offices just west of Chicago’s Loop. “The best thing we can do right now is help college campuses take this issue seriously and become ecologies that model interfaith cooperation and help young people start to see themselves as interfaith leaders.”
After organizing interfaith movements in South Africa, India, and Sri Lanka, social entrepreneur Eboo Patel founded Interfaith Youth Core in 2002 with a mission to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. An Ashoka Fellow, Rhodes Scholar, TED Speaker, and White House policy advisor, Eboo has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, and NPR, and writes for the Huffington Post, Washington Post, and USA Today.
In the early years of Islam, when the Muslim community was small and frequently under attack, the Prophet Mohammed sent a delegation of recent converts from the city of Mecca to the kingdom of Abyssinia. The Abyssinian king was a Christian and when he asked the Muslims about the faith they followed, one of the Muslims recited the Quran:
She said, “How shall I have a son whom no mortal has touched, either have I been unchaste?”
He said: “‘Even so my Lord has said; ‘Easy is that for Me; and that We may appoint him a sign unto men and a mercy from Us, it is a thing decreed.’”
These lines are about Mary, mother of Jesus. They show how Muslims revere her and that they believe that Mary was a virgin when she bore Jesus, just as Christians do.
Patel leads the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based international nonprofit organization he founded in 2002 as a way to connect young people of all faiths through community service and, in a big way, build cooperation in a world often divided by religion.
“There are a lot of people who believe we are better apart, whether that’s Muslims and Christians or blacks and whites or Americans and Arabs,” he said. “I believe we are better together. In a variety of ways, I make that idea reality.”
That idea has inspired the Rhodes Scholar and former COD student to take many bold steps in a career even he admits can be hard to wrap your head around.
Mr. Patel started the Youth Core in 2002 with a Jewish friend, a $35,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and one full-time paid staff member, April Mendez, an evangelical Christian who still works with the organization as vice president for leadership.
Mr. Patel’s parents were Indian immigrants from the Ismaili Shiite sect (led by the imam Aga Khan IV), which is known for its philanthropic work. But Mr. Patel spent his days at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and afterward running away from his own roots, searching for spiritual identity and purpose.
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN – Published: June 13, 2011
CHICAGO — For a guy who is only 35 and lives in a walk-up apartment, Eboo Patel has already racked up some impressive accomplishments.
Read at the source: http://www.nytimes.com
Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and peace activist Eboo Patel to present keynote addresses
Luther College is hosting the 23rd annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum Friday and Saturday, March 4-5, a conference featuring presentations by Nobel Peace Prize laureates and other national and international leaders.
The forum is the Norwegian Nobel Institute’s only such program or academic affiliation outside Norway.
The theme of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum is “Striving for Peace: Courage to Act,” and will focus on the importance of courageous action in the work of peacemaking.
Founder & President, Interfaith Youth Core – Eboo Patel shares an experience of failure from his high school days, explaining how it motivates him to promote interfaith cooperation today. Named by US News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Eboo is the Founder & President of Interfaith Youth Core.
Luther College will host the 23rd annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum—a conference featuring presentations by Nobel Peace Prize laureates and other national and international leaders—March 4-5. The forum is the Norwegian Nobel Institute’s only such program or academic affiliation outside Norway.
The theme of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Forum is “Striving for Peace: Courage to Act”; the forum will focus on the importance of courageous action in the work of peacemaking.
TheIsmaili: Tell us why you established the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) and what your vision is for it over the next 5 to 10 years.
EP: We are creating a global interfaith youth movement by building understanding among people from different faith traditions and inspiring them to serve together for the common good. One day, I hope this leads to a world characterised by religious pluralism, where relations between individuals and groups are based on equal dignity and mutual respect. In the next 5 to 10 years, we hope to train scores of young leaders to promote religious cooperation on their campuses and in their communities, and make interfaith cooperation a public issue that inspires people to action.
For example, service is a common value among the world’s faith traditions. Whether you are Jewish, Catholic or Hindu, you are taught certain values. These values can be a starting point for religiously diverse communities to come together and create common action for the common good. Serving together builds bridges between different faiths, leading to greater understanding and respect.
Eboo Patel is the Founder and Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core, an organisation that promotes mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions. The 34-year-old Rhodes scholar also advises United States President Barack Obama, who appointed him a member of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in February 2009.
TheIsmaili.org spoke with Patel to gain a better understanding of the work that he does and the vision that he espouses.
In the first of this two-part series, Eboo Patel explains his motivations for working towards religious pluralism. Video excerpts of a talk that he delivered at The Institute of Ismaili Studies in December 2009 accompany the interview.
Interview with video at the source: The Ismaili: The shared value of religious pluralism — A conversation with Eboo Patel (Part 1).
A groundbreaking moment in the global interfaith movement, 2010 Interfaith Understanding Conference combines the experience and wisdom of one generation with the vitality and hope of the next.
December 12, 2009 from WBEZ
It’s likely that Eboo Patel is a name you haven’t heard before. He teaches young people to appreciate religious diversity and pass it on. He’s the founder of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core and one of President Obama’s advisers on faith. His work just landed him the prestigious Louisville Grawemeyer Award.
TheIsmaili.org, in conjunction with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, will host a live webcast by Eboo Patel, founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based institution building the global interfaith youth movement. The event will take place on Monday, 14 December 2009 at 15:30 GMT (London time), and will be broadcast at www.theismaili.org/live.
Efforts to bridge religious divide among youths earns him Grawemeyer award
– excerpts –
For his efforts to shift that balance — by building an international organization that enables young people to work together across religious lines — Patel has received the 2010 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.
“I am a testament to that dynamic (showing that) encounters with people from other religions serve in large part to strengthen one’s own faith,” Patel said. So too did the quiet example of the humanitarian work of his father, grandmother and the leader of his Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam.
“I view the Grawemeyer Award as a recognition of the work the movement has done thus far, but really about the promise of the future of building a world where interfaith cooperation is the norm,” he said.
Title: Interfaith Leadership in a Religiously Diverse World
By Eboo Patel
14 December 2009 – 6pm – 7:30pm
Friends House, Large Hall
173 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BJ
Eboo Patel is the founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based institution building the global interfaith youth movement. He was recently appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where he is working to realize the President’s priority of interfaith cooperation. He is the author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation. Eboo holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.