I have become increasingly involved in interfaith work and during that progression I have found myself asking: Where is this work leading? When I was younger, I was under the impression that interfaith only meant dialogue between religious groups, and usually between Christians, Muslims, and Jews at that. I thought it to be important, but never really understood its purpose. Now with my work as a DePaul Interfaith Scholar and my increased involvement in the interfaith movement, I have come to a greater understanding of why such work is necessary. I learned that dialogue is not the only form of interfaith, that interfaith is not just found in the US, and that this movement can and will be crucial in constructing the framework for which the world will resolve its conflicts.
Across the globe, the news is plagued with stories of conflicts between people of different religions. For many in the US, Muslims appear as terrorists. For many in the Muslim world, the US appears as a hegemonic Christian power of the West. Countless other countries can be named with prejudices against certain religious groups. A major source of the problem is the complete misunderstanding of the different faiths and what they teach. Religious extremists control the attention of the media and place those following the same religion in the same box. Their religion is thus painted in an evil light and conflicts follow because of these misunderstandings.
I now realize that the future of the interfaith movement is not just to understand one another, but to share a mindset with the rest of the world on how to coexist peacefully with people of different faiths. Political conflicts will never end, but the involvement of religion in these conflicts elevates them to a level of destruction that is virtually unstoppable. The interfaith movement is here to pull the world out from the depths of religious intolerance and ethnic cleansing. So, when I ask myself where this work is leading, I realize that the end is a world filled with compassion, understanding, and peace.
Interfaith Scholar 2008-2009
Published in the June 2008 Issue of the Interfaith Review