With the recent vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia and threats made against Jewish organizations across the country as well as President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominately Muslim countries, interfaith dialogue and understanding is now a timely topic.
St. Joseph’s University hosted Eboo Patel, director of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) for a keynote address on interfaith leadership March 7, part of the Interfaith Campus Leadership Conference.
Patel, a Muslim American residing in Chicago with his family, founded IFYC based on “the idea that religion should be a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division,” according to its website.
More than 200 students, faculty and staff from St. Joseph’s and area colleges attended Patel’s presentation in the Cardinal Foley Campus Center. Breakout sessions for students, faculty, staff and administrators followed in the Haub Executive Center in McShain Hall.
“As a Jesuit university, St. Joseph’s is committed to providing educational and experiential learning opportunities for students regarding interfaith study, dialogue and encounter,” said Beth Ford-McNamee, assistant director of campus ministry and organizer of the event.
She added that learning about different religions is part of the General Education Program at St. Joseph’s, and students are required to take a religious difference course as an elective.
Jesuit Father Daniel Joyce, executive director of mission programs at the university, noted that Patel’s message has the potential to inspire students to action that is aligned with SJU’s mission.
“Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core is an effective way to build a healthy religious pluralism in our society,” Father Joyce said. “The conference certainly complements and enhances our mission as a Jesuit, Catholic university.”
The goal of the conference was to inspire college students and campus communities in Philadelphia to embrace diversity of faith, as well as to offer specific strategies that attendees could take back to their own schools.
“This conference, in collaboration with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, allows SJU to act on this challenge to establish a religious pluralism that contributes effectively to the common good and a more just society,” Father Joyce said.
Sponsors included the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education, Interfaith Youth Core, SJU Campus Ministry, College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, Faith-Justice Institute, Haub School of Business, Office of Mission, Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Interfaith Task Force, Office of Inclusion and Diversity, and the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations.
After the event at St. Joseph’s, Patel was honored with the Dare to Understand Award from the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia and gave a keynote address at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.
The award honors community leaders who, through their actions, reflect a commitment to diversity and challenge barriers to understanding.