Where Do We Go From Here?

Dear Interfaith Review Readers,

Well, it’s that time again. The end of the year, finals crunch time, the last IFR. I find it funny to be writing once more in this periodical at this time because at the end of last year (the start of my time as an interfaith scholar) I wrote an article entitled “The Feeling of a Comfortable Shoe” to show why I find interfaith dialogue to be so engaging and fruitful. I reflected on my enjoyment of why I love dialogue – the opportunity and challenges of asking hard questions, the appeal of the frank and honest discussion, and the company – and how the website soulpancake.com manages to capture all of that on its website.

Now another opportunity for reflection is presented and this time I will not bog you down with talk of interfaith dialogue and hearty food metaphors, though interfaith dialogue will always be an important component of what we do here at DePaul. Knowing that, where do we go next?

If this year has taught me anything, I have learned that what we do in an interfaith setting is to engage in discussion and dialogue in order to begin building relationships. We slowly pull back the curtain of uncertainty when we encounter each other by learning about one another through talk around our religious and spiritual identities. So, there’s a lot of talking. Good! But why talk? We talk in order to communicate our ideas, share stories, and tell the occasional tangential comment about how interfaith dialogue relates to Battlestar Galactica. Now we have to figure out what we are going to do.

Interfaith work is a bridge – building exercise: the mobilization of people of faith working together to contribute to and improve their communities and the marginalized in the world. That is what we are ultimately aiming for. Now it is time to begin that latter phase of interfaith cooperation here at DePaul.

This past year I had the chance to be a part of this worldwide interfaith community by working to combat malaria. On the day of April 28th, I went up to DePaul Hillel, wiggled into a giant black leotard, and put on a massive mosquito costume that made me nearly unrecognizable. I then proceeded to run around campus selling donuts and collecting donations to send to bed net distributors in Africa. This joint effort was put together by numerous people of faith: members of DePaul Hillel; support from the Interfaith Scholars; and the donuts, costume, and added (wo)man power came from Rebecca Oyen and Amy McNair, two of thirty fellows from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. Working together we made $197.85, which was doubled into $397.70 towards malaria eradication! That translates into 39 bed nets coupled with proper instruction on their use, saving up to 158 people. All of that put together by people of faith and action.

Now we go back to the question of what to do for next year. I want to focus on that word “do”. For the past few years that the scholars have been in action they have been laying down the groundwork for relationship building. Now is the time when we move into the next phase of interfaith work, building better communities together. Personally, I will be joining the Chicago volunteer hub for the Faiths Act Campaign to fulfill the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. I will be working with fellow interfaith activists to promote awareness for the eight MDGs around Chicago. I personally invite each of you to join if you choose.

As individuals we can only do so much. As a community of people working together, we can achieve great progress. If you are ready to discover what’s next, please join me.

– Michael Evers

Interfaith Scholar 2009-2011

Published in the May 2010 Issue of the Interfaith Review

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