This article was written by Peter Dziedzic, a junior at DePaul, who is pursuing a double major in Religious Studies and English. Peter is an Interfaith Scholar and a former co-president of DePaul Interfaith.
I had grown disillusioned. All past achievements seemed but a confused flurry. I had barely stepped off the plane in Chicago, returning from three weeks in Israel and Palestine, when I headed to a week-long training with the Interfaith Youth Core. After spending nearly a month in a region of the world marked by years of deep conflict and stark trauma, I had embraced the call of many skeptics. While interfaith cooperation is great, it does not mend the deep fissures in our world. The burning passion I once had for interfaith work was slowly dying.
I have been involved in interfaith work for several years, beginning in high school and most recently as an interfaith leader at DePaul University in Chicago and a student organizer of DePaul’s 2010-2011 Better Together Campaign. Now, I was on my way to be a mentor to hundreds of college students embracing interfaith action on their campuses. I felt as though my ability to be an honest mentor had been crushed by my pessimism. My thoughts drew me far away from the IFYC offices, but the Blue Line drew me ever closer.
Stepping into the hostel that would serve as our home for the week, I was drained by jetlag and doubt, but was soon refreshed when, on our first night as strangers in cramped hostel dorms, my peers and I shared those elements of our lives that constantly drew us to love, faith and cooperation. The flame stayed strong another night.
During our opening training session, the Coaches shared their personal stories of what brought them to the dream of making interfaith action a social norm.
Then it hit me.
I was in the midst of the true energy and face of this movement. This was the voice of a generation weary of our various histories of ignorance and intolerance. This was the voice of a generation ready to embrace the call to changing our world through respect, cooperation and courage. I recalled what drew me to interfaith work as a student, and why, as a spiritual individual, I was called to embrace a vision for the Kingdom of God on Earth. The flame was rekindled.
As a college student and concerned citizen of the world, I see interfaith cooperation – a respect for the diversity of worldviews and foundational belief systems – as not only an integral facet of what is needed for social action and change, but as a necessary aspect of our evolving world. As a Better Together organizer, I felt an energy that had been missing during my involvement in high school. It was a sense of unity, of pertinence, and of acceptance of a blazing call to action. I found this energy fully embodied once more in my fellow Coaches.
By the end of the week, we became not only well-versed in the methodology of mentorship and our roles as Coaches, but grew confident in our place in the movement. The flame that I had personally rekindled was nurtured communally by my peers. We accepted the call to pass this flame on to the organizers that we will mentor throughout the year.
I am excited and proud to serve as one of the ten Better Together Coaches for this year, and I look forward to spreading the call to interfaith cooperation and action. Our minds will be drawn elsewhere over the course of the year, and our hearts will beat to different rhythms as we continue along our path as students of the university and world, but we can be certain that our mutually inspiring presence and support will nurture and sustain the flame of interfaith service that burns in all of us.