The Future of Interfaith Leadership

A gallery view of ILI participants on Zoom having a conversation at the Virtual ILI 2020.

Rarely can sitting on your butt all day contribute to a greater good. But when I clicked to exit the final Zoom session of the first-ever virtual Interfaith Leadership Institute, I felt like something remarkable had just happenedNearly 800 students, faculty, university staff, alumni, and IFYC colleagues had created an online space that met the moment we are living in. In a year that has forced us to reflect, participants brought not just a willingness to learn but a fierce desire to act. 2020 has been a lot of things. Every day can feel exhausting right now. Leaving the ILI though, I felt more energized than I had in months. Here are some thoughts I took away from the day: 

The Future of Interfaith Cooperation Lies in Addressing the Real Problems of Today. I led a training session with students at the ILI and joked that I could tell their personality just by how their room looked. In this Zoomed-in world, the divisions between your school, work, and personal lives are more like perforated lines in a notebook than solid borders. That certainly has downsides, but there are also some constructive things to take out of it. At the ILI, I saw students, educators, and our panelists making it clear that personal and societal are intimately connected now in a way that no one can deny. One of our panelists in our closing session, Olivia Elder, who works on criminal justice reform for FWD.us, spoke about the shame she felt in the past about her family’s past entanglements with the criminal justice system. She wouldn’t want to mention it to others, even close friends. But, over time as she became more open about them, those experiences are now what fuels her policy work with families impacted by incarceration. As Olivia put it, the values of justice, redemption, and family” serve to connect all of us, across religious and philosophical differences, in forthrightly facing issues of race and inequality today.  

Subscribe now

Interfaith Leaders Will Shape the Change – A turning point. A reckoning. A left turn. A right turn. Whatever description or metaphor you want to use, all Americans recognize that 2020 is a year like no other and that what comes next has a chance to change American life. I shared in my training session with students that pluralism is the positive engagement of diversity. Students started sharing about how, in the past, discussing diversity seemed like entering a battle on their campus or community. Nothing seemed to come of it but exhaustion and ill-will. But they also shared that this year seemed different.

 This moment offers a chance to go beyond bromides; the young leaders in my training space wanted to fundamentally create a new culture on campus and their community. They were looking towards interfaith skills to do just that. 

Being Apart Gives Us New Ways to Come Together – I can’t lie: it was difficult not being able to see friends, colleagues, and supporters in-person. But there are some silver linings. Being virtual forced us to be creative and accessible. Since we couldn’t readily “copy and paste” an in-person event to an online forum, we had to think deeply about what made the ILI special and how do we re-create that between blinking Zoom boxes? I encourage every one of you to also think creatively about events or actions you’re doing: how can you recreate the spirit, if not the literal activity, of your work? Being online allowed us to attract more participants than ever before. This could be a chance to expand your work, not contract it. When people can access interfaith opportunities from their own dorm/apartment/phone/anywhere-with-good-Wi-Fi you get the chance to reach a lot more folks.  

From a practical point of view, there are still lots of immediate ways for you to get involved. We have a number of webinars this fall addressing issues of interfaith leadership and engagement. As well, our online communities for specific types of universities are perfect opportunities to meet peers and discuss interfaith work in a campus context. Our new virtual We Are Each Other’s curriculum also offers a chance to start learning about interfaith leadership by completing a set of activities and assignments, all completely online. 

The ILI gave me the chance to see that the reimaging of what interfaith work can do has begun. So, however you can engage, I say: let’s get started. 

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

It is certainly within the rights of philanthropic and political institutions to 'not do religion,' but such an approach undermines any meaningful, holistic commitment to community or place-based humanitarian efforts in much of this country.
Last month, Kevin Singer, co-director of Neighborly Faith, brought two interfaith leaders together to discuss their respective publications and the consequences of the Equality Act on religious organizations, institutions, and places of worship.
It is in this spirit respeaking memory and finding time to etch it into the future that I offer the following exercise. It is designed to do with your friends or folks – preferably three or more. Take some time with it. Use it as a catalyst to...
Imagine my surprise upon coming to USA and celebrating my first Easter, but didn’t people realize it was Easter? Why are all the egg die and chocolates already sold out and none left for us celebrating a few weeks later?
They will, in other words, be learning the skills of mindfulness meditation — the secular version of the Buddhist practice that has skyrocketed in popularity to become America's go-to antidote for stress.
This is a sampling of sacred texts and statements, listed in alphabetical order by religion, that religious communities have used to engage in the work of public health amidst this global pandemic.
Chaplain Fuller’s leadership and guidance has left a lasting, rippling effect on and off campus which will guide communities and individuals into multifaith work and engagement long after her tenure at Elon.
In the grip of a deadly second wave of COVID-19, religious charities and faith-based organizations are among the many civil society groups that have stepped up to mobilize relief efforts.
Una nueva encuesta conducida por el Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) e Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) encontró que los enfoques basados en la fe pueden mover a más comunidades indecisas sobre la vacuna hacia la aceptación.
Highlighting the role of faith and community in providing relief to communities during the pandemic, the project documents how diverse religious communities in the Charlotte area are responding to the pandemic.
Rabbi Sandra Lawson offers religious literacy education in this piece focused on Lag BaOmer, the day of celebration during the otherwise solemn period of the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot.
While vaccination rates and warmer weather are currently lending us ample opportunity for optimism and joy, we are not nearly out of the woods regarding the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our nation’s mental health.
Cargle is not alone in her spiritual discovery. Generation Z has been the driving force behind the renewed popularity and mainstreaming of the age-old esoteric system.
Clergy from 20 New York congregations, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and Christians, met as the Interfaith Security Council held its first meeting to talk about how to share expertise and improve relations with law enforcement.
The past four years have devastated communities across the United States with issues including police violence, climate change and environmental degradation, racism, anti-Semitism  anti-Muslim bigotry, and political upheaval.
"No matter the memory, the ability to grow older and look back on life is a privilege. And it’s heartbreaking and disturbing that as a nation we’ve witnessed so many children robbed of that privilege because they were killed by the state."
Musa explores and analyzes data related to the growing irreligiosity and declining religious affiliation in America.
The report, co-sponsored by IFYC and the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), revealed higher rates of vaccin hesitancy among certain religious groups, including Hispanic Protestants, white evangelicals, and Black Protestants.
I noticed this year the Christian holiday Easter or Resurrection Sunday fell on the same day Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th. What people outside of the black community don’t realize is when an innocent life is lost it connects us...
Collaboration between religious officials and health care professionals — from both nonprofit and for-profit companies — has aided efforts to increase access to vaccinations.
As various communities consider the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and navigate the physiological and psychological toll of the virus, town halls can be a space wherein community members can be presented with resources and accurate information.

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.