March 16, 2011
Watch video from Eboo Patel's visit
Eboo Patel spoke at the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values on March 15, adding that he was energized to be in a place that was helping to pilot the interfaith movement.
College can be a transformative time.
Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth
Core, a Chicago-based nonprofit fueling the interfaith youth movement,
his time at the University of Illinois changed his life. He found his
passion went beyond multicultural diversity to fostering religious
diversity — a source of tension in countries across the globe.
dream is for interfaith leadership and interfaith literacy to be
hallmarks of a college education. He told a University of Tampa crowd
gathered in the Sykes Chapel and Center for Faith and Values on March 15
that he was energized to be in a place that was piloting the movement.
can tell you that I can’t think of another campus in the country that
has the combination of your dedication to an aspirational vision and a
beautiful, powerful, physical building in which you are the proof that
we are better together,” Patel said.
“I hope this is a place that
provides a space for people to enter into new conversations with each
other and to leave as leaders of those conversations so that pieces of
the Sykes Center, pieces of this light, spread and scatter all across
Tampa and the nation,” Patel said.
Universities are the perfect
place for spreading the interfaith movement because they set priorities
for our culture, advance knowledge, train our nation’s leaders and model
what good looks like, Patel said.
“College students helped
secure free speech and civil rights in 20th century America. Right now
they’re helping free nations across North Africa,” Patel said. “College
students will lead us to the dream of interfaith cooperation.”
Ahmad ’14, a biology major, who was born in Boston to an Indian father
and Pakistani mother and raised in Saudi Arabia, asked Patel how to open
the door to interfaith conversations among people with a dominant
Muslim culture known for keeping conversations about faith closed.
job is to go to the front lines and translate this vocabulary to the
community where you’re from,” Patel said. “That’s what it means to be a
He suggested using technology to spread messages and to
start small, beginning conversations with a group of five people who
might be open to this dialogue. From there it will grow.
people hadn’t shown up for the protests in Egypt in 2005, 2 million
wouldn’t have shown up in 2011,” Patel said of the country’s recent
The conversation isn’t limited to people who ascribe
to a religious faith, Patel responded to another student’s question
about his place at the table as a secularist. Patel, whose Interfaith
Youth Core staff is 20 percent nonreligious, encouraged the student to
be a leader in the movement.
For those concerned that interfaith
work could compromise their own faith, Patel asked them to look to their
religious or philosophical traditions that inspire, or even require,
“It is one of the great questions of
every time and place, of every nation and generation. Who will win? The
forces who say we are better apart? Or those that insist we are better
together?” Patel asked. “It goes by different names — a clash of
civilizations, culture wars — but the heart of the question remains the
same. Will our identities be barriers of division, bombs of destruction
or bridges of cooperation?”
Kaitlin Congo ’13, an advertising and
public relations major with a leadership minor, said she believes UT
students will carry out Patel’s message and hopes they find a foundation
in the process.
“I just hope students find a spark in themselves,” said Congo, a member of Diversity Fellowship.
So does Patel.
work of interfaith leaders is to acquire the knowledge of possibility,
change conversations from conflict to cooperation, launch concrete
campaigns that show a hopeful alternative and invite the world to join,”
“You show at The University of Tampa that Hindus and
Humanists, Buddhists and Baha’is, Pentecostals and Presbyterians, gay
folks and straight folks, that what you do is work together. You work
together to improve your campus and improve your community.”
Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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