Noted interfaith scholar and author, and founder of Interfaith Youth Core, Eboo Patel, was well received at ADL’s June 12 Coalition for Mutual Respect Religious Leaders Institute program at Christ the King Lutheran Church. More than 80 clergy and spiritual leaders, including Rev. Mike Cole, Presbyter, Presbytery of New Covenant, and Bishop Mike Rinehart, Gulf Coast Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, heard Patel speak about religious diversity and its importance to our country.
Patel, a Muslim who created Interfaith Youth Core with the help of his best friend, a Jew, said he first learned about ADL in the late 1990’s, when he was working in Chicago for an organization that helped student dropouts. He said ADL invited his students to participate in a program at one point, and one of the kids in his program told him “Wow, the ADL cares about everybody.” He said most of his students’ experiences revolved around nobody caring about them, and he added, “the most American thing you can do is stand up for someone who is not like you,” Patel said that was what he admired most about ADL.
His Interfaith Youth Core promotes interfaith cooperation and learning through special projects that young people from a diverse variety of religions participate in together. The projects create relationships and friendships that cross religious lines and last.
Patel used musical analogies to describe why he thought interfaith understanding was so important, and how the clergy at the Religious Leaders Institute could promote such understanding. “How else do movements start, except for the people who show up in the room and want to learn the song,” he asked? “We help to raise the volume on the song of pluralism,” Patel said, and added, “My task is to offer a few things for fellow preachers that will help us do our jobs better.” He proceeded to do just that.
“We need to see to it that people who orient around religion differently live in equal dignity and mutual loyalty,” Patel said. He said “religion is a dramatic, inspiring force,” and said it can have great power in helping to build bridges. “It is a civic project to build these bridges for me,” he said. “It is sacred.”
Special thanks to Jerry Axelrod, Mark Kaufman and Sylvia Mayer for attending the event. This event was sponsored by ADL’s Coalition for Mutual Respect Religious Leaders Institute chaired by Rabbi David Rosen, Dr. James Bankston, Dr. Basheer Khumawala and Pastor Steve Quill.