Best of Interfaith America: Some of our Favorite Stories of 2021

An Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre, which has been converted into a temporary vaccination centre in Birmingham, central England on January 21, 2021. (AFP)

We build Interfaith America together, and in 2021 we published hundreds of original articles on American civic life, racial equity, public health, higher education and more from a broad array of contributors. As our team looked back on this year, we want to thank the powerful storytellers from within IFYC and across the nation who contributed to the site in 2021, our first full year as a storytelling site. We compiled this list of some of our favorite pieces of the year, stories that show Americans engaging religious diversity in ways that make our nation stronger. We encourage you to read them all and linger to check out the many wonderful stories throughout our site. From the Interfaith America team: thank you. We wish you a happy, healthy new year, and we look forward to all we'll build together in 2022.

Researcher and pediatric infectious disease physician Dr. Nour Akhras of Chicago wrote the most-read article on Interfaith America in 2021. Akhras had been following the spread of COVID-19 before it even had a name, and in December 2020 was one of the first Americans invited to receive the Pfizer vaccine.  "Our religion teaches us to rely on the opinion of experts," she writes, citing a passage in the Qur'an about turning to those endowed with knowledge. "All the experts in this arena, scientists, infectious diseases physicians and epidemiologists, are saying the same thing: please get vaccinated and do it now."  

Throughout the pandemic, our platform told the story of faith-based efforts that helped share accurate information and encouraged vaccination against COVID-19. 

Highlighting the growing religious diversity in college chaplains’ offices, Mary Ellen Giess of IFYC writes about Greg Epstein, Humanist chaplain at Harvard University, and Silma Suba interviews Amar Shah about his new role of the first Hindu Chaplain at Northwestern University.

In this powerful piece, IFYC reached out to 14 diverse interfaith leaders on campuses across the nation for prayers, reflections, and words of hope.

Tony Banout, Senior Vice President of IFYC, talks with the Rev. Fred Davie, the Senior Advisor for Racial Equity, about the meaning of Juneteenth and the importance of Black interfaith work in America’s history and future.

Silma Suba interviews Harpreet Singh, who reflects on co-founding The Sikh Coalition in the days following the 9/11 attacks, and highlights the stories of Valarie Kaur and others who helped the coalition expand its advocacy work in the two decades since.

The 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks opened up moments of profound interfaith reflection on the past and future potential of interfaith relationships in our increasingly diverse nation. 

In early 2021, researchers uncovered unmarked mass graves of more than 1,000 Indigenous children in Canada. Following that, two Indigenous leaders from the Ojibwe Nation and the Cherokee Nation held a public conversation on the history of Indian Boarding Schools in the U.S. and how churches might play a role in the journey toward justice and healing.

As technology and virtual reality continue to develop at an increased speed, Interfaith America editor Paul Brandeis Raushenbush, Senior Advisor for Public Affairs and Innovation at IFYC, considers what the religious metaverse might entail in the not-so-distant future.

Joining a growing field of leaders pushing back against polarization, author David French and IFYC founder and president Eboo Patel speak about the importance of building an America that values positive conversations with those who have different political or religious views.

Writer Aaron Talley, a middle school teacher in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood, is an expert tarot reader. His essay, one of the most popular on our site this year, speaks to the power of Black spirituality as an agent of liberation: "It is powerful for Black people, a people with whom so much of our past and present is still rife with oppression, to sit with the tarot and ask questions of the future. It is an exercise in our own humanity."

In this profile, two couples speak about their interfaith relationships and how they find connection to each other and their faiths.

David Allen, a Chicago tattoo artist who became famous for his tattoos for cancer patients and survivors, speaks with IFYC’s Silma Suba about finding healing and empathy in tattooing.

In this USA Today Opinion piece, IFYC’s founder and president, Eboo Patel, writes about how companies like Starbucks and Nike are creating more respectful work environments and products that value religious diversity.

On National Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, IFYC’s Rev. Fred Davie and Rev. Don Abram reflect on how the Black Church and Black faith-based institutions have acted as beacons of hope in challenging times, and how these institutions can act as resources to end the HIV/AIDS crisis.

LaTanya Lane, director of the IFYC Interfaith Leadership Institute, shares her profound appreciation for the author bell hooks, who died this year at age 69. "I still knuckle up sometimes when I read her,"  Lane writes. "She is offering her ideas about what it takes to heal and grow, especially for Black, Southern women like myself."

IFYC's Jane Ulring wrote this essay on Winter Solstice and encouraged readers to try reframing the meaning of winter’s long, dark nights.

Following the presidential transition in January, how can interfaith engagement move the divided American nation into a new year? In The State of the Interfaith Nation series, 15 individuals from diverse viewpoints shed light on this new era.






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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.