After the visit to Kansas City on Tuesday of Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, I am more convinced than ever that one of the great tasks of Americans in this century is to be models for interfaith cooperation and understanding.
The United States is the most religiously diverse nation in world history, Patel noted. We thus have the chance to show the rest of the world that sectarian violence is unnecessary. We can -- and we must -- live in harmony. But that will not happen without strong and educated leadership.
The good news is that in Kansas City young people have begun to catch Patel's vision and are becoming engaged through the Interfaith Youth Alliance, which is working in partnership with the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council.
The top picture here today shows Patel speaking to a gymnasium full of students at Notre Dame de Sion High School, with several of the leaders of the Interfaith Youth Alliance on the stage with him. By the way, the girls seated there are, from left to right, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Presbyterian and Hindu.
(The other photo here shows Patel with some guy he got stuck eating dinner with Tuesday night at Beth Shalom, where he spoke and where I moderated the Q&A after that. That's shown in the bottom photo.)
To hear Patel's half-hour talk to the Sion students, click on this link (the recording begins a few seconds into his talk when he's speaking about Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi):
In the next audio clip, Patel takes about two minutes to describe his hopes for what happens in Kansas City to further interfaith understanding and cooperation. He spoke at a luncheon at the home of Gayle and Bruce Krigel:
Finally, I want to share with you an audio clip from Patel's Festival of Faiths keynote address. It runs about 48 minutes (and begins a few seconds into his description of a violent incident a few years ago in Jersey City, N.J.:
Let me summarize a few of Patel's main points from his three appearances:
* Everyone, especially young people, should be able to cite the sacred writings and the human heroes who inspire you to become engaged in services to others and to interfaith cooperation.
* "The most important ethic of the 21st Century is the ethic of pluralism, the ethic of cooperation." Don't categorize radicals by their alleged religious identity. Rather, decide whether people are in favor of pluralism or extremism, regardless of the religion they claim.
* Every religion makes exclusive claims. That's not the problem. Neither is the problem seeking to convert others. The problem is when that's the only conversation people want to have.
* "The extremists of all traditions belong to one tradition, the tradition of extremism."
* Helpful interfaith leaders know their own tradition and they know the religion of others well enough to talk intelligently about it.
* "Deep in our history, our Founding Fathers had a sense of religious diversity and understood the power of interfaith cooperation."
I hope you'll listen to at least some of what I've given you today of Patel. More, I hope you'll engage in interfaith work yourself, whether you're a person of faith or a nobeliever. It almost certainly will deepen your commitment to your own tradition.
And for other still-to-come events in this year's KC Festival of Faiths, click here.
ABIQUIU, N.M. -- When I taught a class here at Ghost Ranch last summer in which I tried to introduce people of faith to social networking tools, I should have had with me the French bishop quoted in this story. He is telling the Vatican to get out of its cloister and start communicating more in cyberspace. Exactly.
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P.S.: Until Monday, my Internet access may be unreliable. Thanks for your patience in getting your comments published. In fact, any comments left here on Saturday night or Sunday won't get posted until Monday. Bill.
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ANOTHER P.S.: Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/BillTammeus.