We are better together. Four seemingly ordinary words that, when arranged into a phrase, embody the true essence of the interfaith movement as a whole. I had read the phrase many times prior to attending the Interfaith Youth Core’s Leadership Institute in Washington, DC. However, it was a notion that I felt was highly ostensible.
I debated with myself as to how we could possibly be better together? I would look at the world as I saw it through current and past events; endless wars, injustice everywhere, and a severe lack of compassion or care for those who deserved it most. This was what we had done together, I contested. Forces joined together in perpetrating violence, suppressing basic human rights, and parading their undeserved triumphs in the face of the innocent and downtrodden. True, it was an undeniably bleak outlook on the state of the world, but it was one that did not manifest itself without a veritable basis.
Upon arriving to the Institute, we were thrust into an environment marked by the presence of multiple faiths, ethnicities, cultures, and personalities. We may not have known each other, but we did know what we wanted. We wanted to influence and improve the way that people in our respective communities saw one another, regardless of what faith they followed. We wanted to work together. Above all, we wanted to prove to ourselves that this concept of interfaith cooperation was capable of working for us.
Over the course of the next four days I had the remarkable pleasure of meeting individuals of all different walks of life. I met people of certain faith backgrounds that, up until that moment, I believed would not have any interest in working with me. I met others whose respective faiths I had always held grave misconceptions about. In the end, I knew that I could not blame the media’s deceptive portrayal of different faiths or even the negative experiences surrounding faith that I had growing up as one of the few Muslims in my home town. I could only blame myself for not realizing how powerful interfaith work on any and all platforms could be.
IFYC’s Leadership Institute allowed me the opportunity to openly discuss my faith, Islam, with those of other faiths. I was given the chance to speak to Evangelicals, Buddhists, Atheists and so many others that I had never had a dialogue with before.
The inner resistance that I had built up to protect myself from the grips of intolerance and prejudice had eased itself dramatically. Feeding off of the openness and forbearance of my fellow students, faculty and organizers, I found that I had learned so much in such a short period of time. Transfixed by each story that I heard, I was immediately inspired to come up with ways in which I, myself, could make a difference. With the help of everyone who attended IFYC’s Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C I left knowing and accepting that we absolutely are better together.
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