Interfaith and Higher Education (Part 2): Socially Responsible Leadership

Michael Evers (Left) and Nic Cable (Right) on the 2011 Interfaith Retreat

This is the second article in a several part series throughout this quarter, written by Nic Cable, focusing on the complexities of interfaith work in higher education. These articles are in conjunction with an academic independent study project on the same themes.

Last Thursday, students gathered in room 220 of the Lincoln Park Student Center for very important occasion. They came as they are: Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, Unitarian Universalists, and more; there were people who fit snug into a religious tradition and others who were exploring the borders of several. But, we all came for one reason. This reason was to celebrate the interfaith movement that is growing across this world and blossoming greatly at DePaul University.

This event was a celebration of not just the hard we have been doing to make interfaith cooperation a social norm at DePaul, but also a moment for recognizing the legacy of interfaith work that has existed throughout the world for millennia and continuing to this day. We began with food and conversation, enjoying each others’ company, and proceeded into a more formal program of speakers that ranged from discussions of socially responsible leadership and ways to get involved on campus with interfaith social action to testimonies by interfaith leaders about why this work has been fulfilling in their spiritual development.

And then it hit me. During Michael Evers’ discussion about what it means to be a socially responsible leader. An interfaith leader is a socially responsible leader and the social responsibility movement needs to include interfaith leadership more centrally, especially in this country, for the movement to remain legitimate. This is not to say the social responsibility does not value religious diversity and those who work to build sustainable infrastructures for interfaith engagement; but, I do believe there could be a closer connection between the two, which would be quite mutually beneficial.

I have been reflecting for two years about the dilemma of the interfaith movement: in a world as diverse in culture and life as this one and a world with as many injustices and social inequities, why isn’t the interfaith movement both more popular and universal. The interfaith movement is a global movement and it is increasing in size, but I believe it lacks the social interest that it deserves, similar to the struggle the environmental movement is facing. Over these years, I have seen that, oftentimes, it is the smaller things that can get an individual interested in the interfaith movement. Perhaps it is a personal story shared with them about an individual’s experience in an interfaith setting, or an encounter with someone in a different country or culture from one’s own. In all of these transformations, there is a moment where we begin to see where we are today and who we could be tomorrow or the next day or the next.

We need to capitalize on this in a thoughtful and reflective way. Social responsibility is a similar type of realization. We begin to reflect on what the world would be like when all are responsible for not only themselves, but for those around them. Taking care of the earth and one another is at the heart of both of these movements and the union of the two in certain regards would be a wonderful symbol of their shared commitments to justice, equality, and peace.

Religious diversity will continue to grow and shape the public discourse in the United States. Likewise, the need for training socially responsible leaders to combat the growing disparities of the economic, social, and political haves and have-nots in the world has never been higher. The interfaith movement and socially responsible leadership movement are working to build a sustainable and just world for all, by bringing people together from diverse backgrounds to do common action for the common good. In my mind and in my heart, the work that is rapidly growing at DePaul University is a testament to both of these movements, to their inherent interconnectedness, and to the faith we all share in the world of tomorrow, which will soon dawn.

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