Interfaith Work is a Social Movement

By: James Lorello

February 7, 2012

During the month of January I was fortunate enough to attend the Interfaith Youth Core Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI) with three fantastic Georgetown students in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference empowered us to approach interfaith work as a true social movement. By drawing comparisons between the power of the civil rights movement and the need for a large interfaith movement, students and staff began brainstorming how they can make an impact at each of their universities.

We spent time exploring Martin Luther King Jr. as an interfaith leader, since we were of course in his home town. A man, who is always remembered and celebrated for his work in the civil rights movement, but was also a pioneer in interfaith work. At the end of January I was able to lead the White House Challenge reflection roundtable along with the students who accompanied me to the conference earlier in the month. We decided to incorporate many of the activities we explored at the conference, but most of all to examine the power of our own interfaith stories, and of MLK Jr’s own story.

Today many of us become bogged down in our day to day lives, passing from minute to minute or email to email. We must remember to take time to reflect upon and examine our own personal story. A practice as simple as that should seem common place at a Jesuit institution like us! Why have I chosen my career path? Why do I do the work that I do? Why have a chosen to follow my religious tradition? Why interfaith work? These are all questions that fuel our constantly recording personal story. Questions that can only be answered by examining our own stories.

Our stories can be long and difficult to read or interpret at times, but it must be done. We must challenge ourselves to not only reflect on our stories but tell them to each other and truly listen to one another’s. Without retelling or listening we may forget pieces of the story and one day may lose the meaning.

Martin Luther King Jr. had an interfaith story people often leave untouched. When he was a young man studying in seminary he became inspired by the use of the Christian gospels by a non-Christian Mahatma Ghandi to promote non- violent action. During the civil rights movement King, a Christian leader, collaborated with leaders like Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Buddhist Thicht Nhat Han to aid in the civil rights movement.

How can your story inspire others?
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Interfaith Work is a Social Movement