From fear of Islam to outreach: how 9/11 prompted interfaith efforts
In the decade since 9/11, the percentage of US congregations that participate in interfaith worship has doubled, a study says, and more mosques are engaging in outreach and dialogue.
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“It’s not a Kumbaya dialogue,” says Mr. Razvi. “We’re working on serious issues, concrete issues, [so] that we can actually have accomplishments.”Skip to next paragraph
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In 2002, Eboo Patel, a Muslim then in his mid-20s, founded the Interfaith Youth Core with a Jewish friend. They hired one full-time staff member: an evangelical Christian. Today, the nonprofit employs 31 staffers and operates on a $4 million annual budget.
The group trains college-aged leaders – “interfaith fellows” – who then return to their campuses to organize interfaith events and community service projects. This year, the organization trained leaders on 97 campuses who enlisted around 10,000 participants of various faiths to tackle issues such as homelessness, hunger, and sustainable living.
“We’ve seen an outpouring of interest in our programs,” says Mr. Patel. “There’s a lot of people watching blatant bigotry and saying, ‘We cannot let our country go in that direction.’ ”
Patel and his staff helped the White House develop an initiative that it launched this year, called the “Interfaith and Community Service Challenge.” So far 278 colleges have promised to sponsor interfaith programming and community service projects next year.
9/11’s interfaith casualty list
People often treat interfaith as a tool – religious coalitions that are built to achieve some shared goal, such as education or social justice. But sometimes, interfaith can be an end in itself.
On the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, Ms. Bellan-Boyer stood near the Jersey City harbor and scanned the Manhattan skyline for the Twin Towers, only to find rising curls of coal-black smoke. When she turned and saw a young Muslim woman, her head fully covered, Bellan-Boyer had the sudden urge to scream at her.
Instead, she headed to the city, where she volunteered to serve as a Red Cross chaplain. As it turned out, the first person she counseled was a Muslim woman, whose daughter died in the World Trade Center.
“So I learned my lesson right then and there how much of a world disaster and how interfaith the casualty list really was,” she says.
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