Interfaith AmericaJune 6, 2023 2023-06-26 1:23
Faith is a bridge
Interfaith America (previously known as Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)) was founded in 2002 based on the idea that religious difference should serve as a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. Since that time, Interfaith America has evolved from a small Chicago-based nonprofit to the nation’s premier interfaith organization.
Led by Founder and President Eboo Patel, Interfaith America inspires, equips, and connects leaders and institutions to unlock the potential of America’s religious diversity. Utilizing a research-backed approach, IA works across higher education, racial equity, health, workplace, bridgebuilding, democracy, and technology.
Interfaith America provides expert consultation, training, curricula, and resources to positively engage religious diversity. It values collaboration, developing robust institutional partnerships to leverage interfaith cooperation as a proven approach in solving challenges.
Interfaith America have made college and university campuses the center of their strategy; working where the minds and values of emerging leaders are shaped and conversations take place that steer broad cultural change. Campus is where students and educators engage the complex ideas that will shape our country’s future. It’s where young people learn to be citizens and leaders. It’s where issues of diversity and difference are explored intellectually and experienced personally and up-close. It’s an environment that can model the highest ideals of civil society alongside some of the most divisive conflicts that we’re grappling with as a nation.
Over the years they have expanded the programs to engage leaders across the campus environment – students, faculty, administrators – building a network of over 100,000 aspiring interfaith leaders on more than 600 U.S. college and university campuses. These partners come from wildly different faiths, worldviews, and institutions, but share Interfaith America’s vision.
Today, Interfaith America and its partners continue writing the story of American interfaith cooperation, finding new ways to help people build bridges above dangerous currents of incivility and polarization.
The big idea for Interfaith America came to the founder, Eboo Patel, as the last millennium drew to a close. At a 1998 conference on interreligious engagement hosted by Stanford University, he and a small group of his peers looked around and suddenly realized that they were the only young people in the room.
They built an interfaith youth movement using service to bring together people who might disagree on ultimate truths, but share a commitment to improve their world.
Between 2003 and 2011 Interfaith America tripled its staff and launched programs ranging from interfaith service around Chicago to dialogue initiatives in the Middle East, South Africa, and India. Interfaith America partnered with the Clinton Global Initiative and Queen Rania of Jordan to create an international exchange program. They collaborated with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to develop a fellows program that brought together young leaders to serve as interfaith ambassadors to the United Nations, focusing on malaria. Eboo was asked to speak at the 16th Nobel Peace Prize Forum and he and Interfaith America were profiled by major media outlets like the New York Times. During this time, Interfaith America also began to see unique breakthroughs on college and university campuses. This led to a breakthrough: campuses are laboratories for diverse civil society, and the perfect place for rising leaders to tackle the hardest questions of diversity and difference in the 21st century.