What Do 650 Interfaith Leaders Talk About?

Zoom gridview of multiple ILI participants

At IFYC’s first virtual Interfaith Leadership Institute 650+ students, administrators, staff and faculty gathered to connect with one another, learn from promising practices and research, and be inspired by peers doing incredible work on campus and beyond. We didn’t know how it would ‘feel’ to be entirely online but the energy was palpable through the faces on the screen, the outpouring of gratitude in the chat, and the genuine connections in small groups.

Leading up to the conference we asked participants what they wanted to discuss in small groups with a brain trust of colleagues and peers. The response was stunning, the list of topics that intersect with interfaith learning reached over 125. So what did these interfaith leaders want to talk about? Here is a partial list:

  • 2020 Election and Navigating the Political Divide (3 rooms)
  • Black/African American Participants Affinity Space
  • Disability Issues
  • Environment and Sustainability
  • Gender and Gender Identity Issues
  • Immigration LGBTQIA Issues
  • Interfaith Dialogue (2 rooms)
  • Interfaith Organizing Best Practices
  • Interfaith Work at Public Institutions
  • Interfaith/Multifaith Chaplaincy
  • Mental Health Issues and Support
  • Middle East Conflict
  • Racial Justice Work (2 rooms)

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The list reveals that interfaith cooperation connects with all facets of campus life and American civic life. As Carr Harkrader, IFYC’s Director of the Interfaith Leadership Institute reflected on these conversations, “I’m struck that these interfaith leaders are focused very much on the present (the election, racial justice issues, cultivating community space for Black students/educators) while also trying to cultivate skills and knowledge that will help them shape the future.

With everyday seeming critical (in terms of literal health, but also in regards to racial/social/political issues) I think our participants want to bring the full force of their interfaith leadership to this very heightened moment in American life. It actually gives me a sense of optimism to see that."


Eboo Patel, IFYC’s founder and president, has given a keynote address at every ILI since they began a decade ago. The conversations and the passion conveying the importance of this work in this moment was palpable this year. As Eboo reflected on what matters most to interfaith leaders on campus right now, he shared,

“There is no part of campus life, American civic life, even one’s personal life, that isn’t strengthened by interfaith leadership skills. These interfaith leaders are both honing their craft and preparing to lead in all of the complexity and beauty that this moment presents.”


The learning here is that Interfaith Conversations are robust and dynamic and should not be pigeon-holed under ‘faith’ exactly, but more broadly understood as part of one way of understanding what give people purpose and meaning and inspiration for living their lives well. Interfaith leaders care about the dignity, accommodation and thriving of everyone on our diverse campuses. Interfaith leaders need time to connect, and recharge.  Interfaith leaders are eager to learn from one another, to share their experiential wisdom, to innovate, and to be effective in their particular contexts. Interfaith leaders see the world as it is and as they imagine it could be and they know how to come together to achieve that vision.

Register your early interest for the 2021 ILI today and receive a discount!

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

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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.