Interfaith Studies & Racial Equity: A Conversation
Every summer, IFYC and the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) host a week-long seminar on Teaching Interfaith Understanding. Taught by IFYC founder and President, Eboo Patel and Middlebury President, Laurie Patton, this seminar convenes 25 faculty from around the country to examine the substantial theoretical questions inherent in teaching interfaith understanding and explore the practical work of translating these ideas into courses. Though the June 2020 seminar was postponed due to Covid-19, Laurie and Eboo decided to host a series of webinars on Interfaith Studies as a way to support faculty as they negotiate rapid changes in higher education and shifting campus environments. As we prepared for the first webinar, the tragic death of George Floyd at the hands of the police and the growing movement for racial justice in America compelled us to focus the conversation on the intersection of interfaith engagement and racial equity. Offering three different reflections, the webinar begins with a presentation by Eboo on the role of interfaith cooperation in historical movements for racial justice. IFYC manager and scholar of religion and African American studies, Calvin Taylor, next discusses interfaith perspectives on dismantling white supremacy. To conclude, Laurie walks through a case study from her newest book Who Owns Religion that illustrates the complex way that religious and racial identity plays out in various publics. This webinar is the first of three that Laurie and Eboo will lead this summer. Please look out for announcements regarding the other two.
Eboo Patel is a leading voice in the movement for interfaith cooperation and the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a national nonprofit organization working to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. He is the author of Acts of Faith, Sacred Ground, Interfaith Leadership, and the newly released Out of Many Faiths. Named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders of 2009, Patel served on President Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council. He is a regular contributor to the public conversation about religion in America and a frequent speaker on religious pluralism. He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship. For over 15 years, Eboo has worked with governments, social sector organizations, and colleges and universities to help realize a future where religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division.
Laurie Patton is the 17th president of Middlebury, and the first woman to lead the institution in its 217-year history. She joined Middlebury in 2015, after serving as Duke University’s dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences and Robert F. Durden Professor of Religion. From 1996 to 2011, Patton served on the faculty and administration at Emory University, where she was the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Religions and the inaugural director of Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in the Office of the Provost. She began her career at Bard College, where she was an assistant professor of Asian religions from 1991 to 1996. Patton is the author or editor of nine books on South Asian history, culture, and religion. In addition, she has translated the classical Sanskrit text, The Bhagavad Gita, and has published two books of poetry. Patton has lectured widely on interfaith issues and religion and public life, and she has consulted with the White House offices on faith-based initiatives and civic engagement. In May 2014, she was named Alumna of the Year at the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Chicago.
As Program Manager, Calvin Taylor manages IFYC’s academic programs and works with faculty as they incorporate innovative interfaith themes into their pedagogy and curricula. Prior to joining IFYC, Calvin was a Senior Creative Consultant at Fearless Dialogues, and an adjunct professor of religion and African-American studies at public and private institutions. Calvin is a graduate of Trinity International University and Emory University’s Candler School of Theology.
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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.