On October 9th, 2008, the author of the book Acts of Faith, Eboo Patel came to talk about pluralism and the interfaith cooperation movement. Parallel to this are a few of the readings and their somewhat common theme of diversity and peoples ability to overcome any obstacle . During his lecture, Patel discusses the importance that interfaith connection should have in our lives and what we can do to continue it, especially since we are a part of a Jesuit school.
In regards to Eboo’s founding of the Interfaith Youth Core, he told us we were the ones who would have to get involved in the interfaith cooperation movement. It is a very important idea that needs to take place, especially with the war terror, who some may confuse this with a war against all Muslims. . In the poem “Queens, 1963” where the family moves into the neighborhood in Queens with all the diversity living so close to each other but with no connection. This is what Eboo preaches for; reaching out to those that may feel disconnected and connect them through the interfaith movement. With the United States being the most religiously diverse nation, Patel discussed this generation’s need for interfaith bridge builders. These are those that are to help connect people of all religions for the common goal of serving others. This goal is taught to us everyday as being a part of a Jesuit institution that it does not matter what type of religion that one follows just how we serve others that may be different from ourselves. An interfaith bridge builder is the person that helps bring about a “world house” as Patel puts it instead of a clash of civilizations or “collective murder.”
Patel explained that in order for us to become these interfaith bridge builders we must acquire a few things. First, he said, we need to have a certain perspective. We should not judge those of other religions and races or make any assumptions when we think of any certain one. He said we cannot look at all Muslims and assume that they are terrorists or look at all Christians like those from Jesus Camp. This is only a small minority of people and is giving the real people of that religion a much different reputation then they would want. The second is a strong knowledge base regarding pluralism. In order to understand people of other religions, we must be in line with our own traditions and also our fellow religions as well. He made an excellent point of how for example in the Bible story of “The Good Samaritan” we see how people of different backgrounds can be of serve to one another. Through this can we only be able to understand and accept people of other faiths and work with them and not against them. Finally, the last thing is a skill set as he put it. He explained that nothing really matters what you say or feel unless you can do something about it and bring about a change. This is similar to the poem “Fork” by Jeffery Harrison where even though the main character was told they could not be a writer and overcame that with the writing of the letter to the professor to prove their point. As Eboo said, we personally have to go out and bring about the change ourselves and not wait for someone else to do it for us. With these three necessary things, we are able to venture out and become the interfaith bridge builders needed in our society.
As Patel closed his lecture, he gave a story involving Marco Polo and Kublai Khan with the main point being “without bricks there is no arch” and we, the interfaith bridge builders, are the bricks that are build these arches, or bridges. We have to be strong to be able to overcome the things in society that may prevent us from accomplishing what we want. This is shown in both “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes and in “a morning (for the girls of eastern high school)” by Lucille Clifton. Hughes’ brings in the student who overcomes her race to a paper for a white teacher, like Patel explains how we need to overcome all the obstacles in the path in the cooperation of the interfaith movement. As said at the end of Clifton’s poem,” i survive, survive, survive” just like how the bridge builders and all people need to look at life and examine how they are going to spend their lives.