Khalid Latif has a suggestion for how to overcome everything from racial to religious differences: Walk in someone else's shoes for awhile. "A major issue we have in society today is one of indifference," says Mr. Latif, executive director and chaplain of the Islamic Center at New York University. "There's an absence of individual motivation to go out and learn about the experience of someone else."
In the interfaith world where Latif devotes his time, people are more likely to unite in times of hardship. "People don't often come together in celebratory ways," he says. "It takes tragedy to bring us together."
Yet Latif looks for ways to promote unions in positive ways, including in his personal life. When he got married last fall, a rabbi, Protestant minister, and Roman Catholic priest all attended. "You bring normalcy to these relationships by bringing them to a more personal and private sphere," he says.
In the faith world, Latif is known as an advocate for a pluralistic and inclusive American Muslim community and a leader with an unusual ability to bridge religious and cultural differences. In 2007, Mayor Michael Bloomberg nominated Latif, then 24, to become the youngest chaplain in the history of the New York City Police Department.
Latif finds that compassion goes a long way in empowering people to understand and support one another – the foundations of a healthy community.
"Start to engage those who you are least likely to engage with," he says. "When I know your name, I'm not going to sit by and watch something happen to you."
– Husna Haq
Next in the series: The Environmentalists