Friends, Faith, and Understanding at the Interfaith Youth Core Leadership Institute
By: Adrian Prado
February 7, 2012
On January 12, 2012, myself and three other delegates from Georgetown University left campus in the wee hours of the morning to catch a flight down to Atlanta for the Interfaith Youth Core's Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI). Sponsored by the University, we were on a mission to further our understanding of President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, and learn how to raise awareness on our campus.
On our journey, we did that and so much more. We learned a lot, and made some fantastic friends. I’d like to give a special shout out to Capital University, Transylvania University, and Concordia University, whose delegations will always have a place in my heart. Together, we became part of a global community that seeks justice, and understands the importance of interfaith cooperation and service in our world today.
I think that the ILI succeeded on three different levels. First, it gave us a chance to learn how we could elevate the influence interfaith dialogue plays in our campus. For the majority of the conference, we were split into small groups named after various interfaith leaders. In our case, we were in the Badshah Khan group with about ten other delegations from such schools as SLU, Santa Clara, George Washington, TCU, and East Stroudsburg. Within the “cohort,” we were coached by three of the coordinators, who walked us through the various aspects of the “Better Together” campaign. Drawing from their own experience, they helped us learn how we could efficiently implement and sustain such a campaign on our campus. They even gave us time to work within our delegation to come up with a concrete plan of action for when we returned home to the Hilltop. More importantly, however, they gave us a chance to interact with the other delegations. Some had more advanced campaigns, while others were just beginning. Either way, they all had important input into helping us discover what was best for Georgetown.
While the time spent discussing our campaigns was important, I was also impressed with the way the conference brought so many people together. I can safely say that when I returned to Georgetown, I gained at least 50 new Facebook friends. Maybe it was the impromptu late-night swing dancing lessons, or the inter-religious “Steal the Peach” tournament, or even the shared commiseration of waiting in the cold for the bus, but whatever the case, I cannot say I have ever felt as close to people as felt as close to people as I did during that amazing weekend.
Now some people may be wondering why this is so important. Meeting new people wasn’t the purpose of the whole thing, was it? Well, I think that creating a diverse community with similar aspirations is the first step towards creating something amazing. We here at Georgetown now have friends all over the country who share our goal, and who are willing to support us at a moment’s notice.
I think the final aspect of the conference that truly succeeded was the emphasis placed on each person building his or her own interfaith story. When I was first approached to apply for the conference, I accepted without hesitation, but looking back, I’m not really sure why I did. Fortunately, that answer was found at the conference. Throughout the weekend we were given several opportunities to look within ourselves and discover why this issue is so important to us, which I thought was fantastic. Because of the conference I have gained a better understanding of myself, and I have learned that interfaith dialogue truly does hold a very important place in my life.
Overall, I have to say that the Interfaith Youth Core’s Leadership Institute was honestly the best weekend of my life. I will never forget the skills I learned, or the amazing friends I made. In four short days, I became part of a community of love, peace, and understanding that I believe will help change this world for the better, and that’s something I will never forget.