Wednesday, November 25, 2009


I went to a luncheon yesterday hosted by the Niagara Foundation (a fantastic group of Turkish Muslims) downtown. The President of Elmhurst College spoke about the importance of interfaith in higher education. He wondered out loud why interfaith cooperation, and sometimes just religion in general, is remaining marginal in academic enterprise and discourse when it has taken on such a conspicuous role in society. I thought that was really interesting. So many times people of any sort of faith are written of as irrelevant by academia. President Alan Ray was arguing that religion is a public phenomenon and that fact needs to be accepted as the new reality in America. He said that all faiths, including secularism, are living realities influenced by living people and concrete communities; and they should thus be incorporated into the conversation more than they currently are. Basically he was arguing that marginalizing religion in fact hinders liberal learning, and then he discussed the steps his university has taken to embrace different faiths and ensure his students can openly discuss issues of religious diversity. Not an opinion I hear often from leaders in higher education. And the crowd loved what he had to say. Also not something I expected. Most of us in the audience were all interfaith leaders from diverse backgrounds, but still. In the large scheme of things, interfaith is not a very popular idea in a lot of the circles I run in. I was glad to be there, and he mentioned Eboo Patel a lot (the Executive Director at Interfaith Youth Core) as an inspiration.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for a lot of different things than I have been in previous years. I am thankful that what I am doing is difficult for me, and I feel uncomfortable on a daily basis wrestling with issues of faith and diversity and global engagement. I am thankful that in the last year I have learned so much about other faiths, and grown to respect and admire many people who follow other various traditions. I am thankful I work with a fantastic Muslim organization, and that my roommate is the coolest Jewish girl (just one of the coolest girls in general) I have ever met. I am thankful that I live in a diverse community, and get to talk/think about tough issues of racial/ethnic/socioeconomic reconciliation with people who are actually living it out every day. I am thankful for people who are optimistic that we can end deaths from malaria, and that there are thirty of us in this program (along with the hundreds of other people in other organizations) that are working tirelessly to make it happen.

And I am thankful that I finally got a good coat, because it is supposed to snow tomorrow. The first time of the season.

No comments: