Interfaith Leaders Turn Conflict Into Trust

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Photo: Daniel Acker / The New York Times

By David Bornstein / The New York Times
November 29, 2016


Democracy is not just a place where you elect representatives; it’s a society where you can make personal convictions public. And diversity isn’t just the things we like. Diversity is also the things you don’t like. . . . What are ways in which I can understand my fellow citizens? What qualities do they possess that I would admire? And what are fundamental things that we can work on together?


This month, the F.B.I. reported that hate crimes against Muslims in 2015 reached their highest level since 2001. In New York City this year, hate crimes are tracking one-third higher than last year; against Muslims they have more than doubled.

The election of Donald J. Trump has highlighted religious tensions in America, particularly with Trump’s proposals to bar Muslims from entering the country and to create a registry of Muslims living in the United States. But these tensions did not begin with Trump. In America, virtually every form of faith or belief has at some point suffered unfavorable reception by others; the victims include Roman Catholics, Mormons, evangelical Christians, Jews and atheists, alongside Muslims.

Four years ago, I reported on the Interfaith Youth Core, which trains leaders to build relationships and respect between diverse faith communities. The work has expanded considerably. The organization now has more than 350 active campuses in its network, and more than 1,000 colleges have used its resources. This year its founder, Eboo Patel, explained in a book, Interfaith Leadership, what this type of leadership entails and why he considers it vital in today’s world. Patel, who is Muslim, recently spoke with me about democracy, the responsibilities of citizens, and his fears and hopes after this year’s election.

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