Youth conversing with each other at the Interfaith Youth Day of Service event.
By Randi Ilyse Roth, Executive Director
A few weeks ago a diverse group of clergy and religious leaders met at our office as part of their effort to forge an interfaith response to hate activity. They worked to help formulate a faith community response to the August 5 bombing of the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington. They also discussed the recent vandalism at the Al Maghfirah cemetery in rural Dakota county, which included spray-painted profanities and swastikas, and damaged walls, furniture and other property. One spray-painted message apparently says: “Leave, you R dead.”
Then came the hate speech, violence, and death in Charlottesville.
How can we understand what is happening in America now? What should we do?
We asked Fardosa Hassan, the director of Interfaith Action’s Interfaith Youth Connection (IYC) program to ask recent IYC graduates how they understand these events. The graduates are young people who spent their high school years in a leadership group with youth of different faiths. They studied together. They got to know each other. They grew to care about each other. And they worked side-by-side to plan and implement an Interfaith Youth Day of Service, attended by nearly 200 youth each President’s Day.
We have much to learn from the IYC graduates’ answer:
Each person is born unique and innocent. Hate has to be taught and learned, ultimately hate is a choice and people should understand that they have another choice. You can also choose to love people, to be curious and open to people who look and think in ways that are different from you. This is how you learn to love, and to become your best self. This too can be your life if you choose it. Whom do you choose to be in this world?
How do we, as adults, learn what the youth know?
One way is to replicate the youths’ experience. We need to put ourselves in situations in which we get to know people from backgrounds and faiths and races different from our own. As the youth tell us, we need to be curious and open, and learn to love and become our best selves.
Several Interfaith Action programs give our community the chance to build broad, diverse community with each other. Give us a call at 651-646-8805 or visit our website at interfaithaction.org if you’d like to learn more.
Randi Ilyse Roth