After last week’s #DCfaith twitter chat, I began thinking more about my experiences with interfaith in my small town. Although at least one interfaith group exists where I live, I never seem to hear about events until after they’ve already happened, and as far as I know, none of them have been specifically for youth. I’m sure many other teenagers in rural or remote areas, and even just smaller towns like mine, have had this same problem. Luckily, I’ve been able to find a wonderful interfaith community online.
From educational organizations, to individuals blogging and tweeting about interfaith issues, to other youth activists around the world, the web is teeming with resources for teens to get involved in interfaith work and dialogue, if only you look hard enough. Here are some of my favorites:
- Interfaith Youth Core – IFYC, founded in 2002 by Eboo Patel, works to promote interfaith dialogue and engagement by working with young interfaith leaders on college campuses. The organization’s website provides tons of cool literature, curricula, and talking points that delve deeply in to the values and framework behind interfaith work while expertly engaging and appealing to young people. One of my favorites is IFYC’s interfaith literacy quiz; personally, I learned a lot just from realizing how much I didn’t know when I first took the quiz a few months ago. The website also hosts countless personal stories of interfaith understanding and encounters on their blog. Later this spring, I’ll be leading a sort of “Interfaith 101” workshop at a regional conference for Unitarian Universalist teens, and as I’ve started planning the workshop’s content, I’ve been on the Interfaith Youth Core site constantly; I can’t wait to get more involved with IFYC when I start college this fall.
- Twitter – Despite its limitations, I’ve found many awesome interfaith organizations and activists through their twitter feeds. The #interfaith tag is always a good place to find interfaith news and commentary; I’ve also made an interfaith list on twitter of all the organizations, news sources, and individuals that I follow who tweet interfaith content. Although it isn’t so great for lengthy discussions, I’ve connected with other UUs, activists, youth, writers, and others who are involved in interfaith work, whether online or in their local communities.
- KidSpirit Interfaith Connections – I’m older than their target demographic – children and young teens – but I’m still totally impressed by KidSpirit’s Interfaith Connections column. Produced for and by young people, the online magazine tackles “the big ideas” of life, religion, and philosophy. The site’s diverse group of young writers share both personal stories and tips for getting involved, catered to their peers. Definitely a must-read for younger teens interested in interfaith perspectives, and worth checking out for people of any age.
- NonProphet Status – A blog founded by atheist interfaith activist Chris Stedman, NonProphet Status focuses on interfaith cooperation by secular and nonreligious people. Two of the biggest questions I’ve seen discussed by the interfaith movement in recent months are how to more effectively engage youth, and how to include atheists and non-religious folks in interfaith outreach. This blog is excellently self-aware in evaluating both the atheist and interfaith movements, and can, I think, provide a lot of insight for non-religious youth who might be just beginning to explore interfaith.
- Interfaith Alliance – The Interfaith Alliance is an excellent resource both for finding local interfaith groups, and getting involved in interfaith activism from home. The organization works to promote legislation that protects religious freedom, as well as sponsoring local groups that work to promote interfaith engagement in their communities. From the IA website, you can contact your legislators about interfaith and social justice issues, find an interfaith group close to you, read about interfaith-related news, and much more. Interfaith Alliance also sponsors LEADD, a leadership program for high school youth to learn about American democracy and pluralism, as well as policy issues related to religious diversity and freedom.
- The Interfaith Observer – The Interfaith Observer is an online journal exploring interfaith relations and movements. I’m pretty sure the plethora of articles under their website’s “The Interfaith World” tab can tell you everything you could ever possibly want to know about the history and current state of interfaith as a movement. I’ve found the interfaith culture section particularly helpful in learning about how interfaith relates to other movements and issues I’m already involved with. Although there isn’t a specific place on the site for youth, the journal often publishes on youth involvement in interfaith.
- Your religious organization’s webpage – If you’re wondering what other people from your religious (or secular) tradition are doing in terms of interfaith engagement, a good place to start is your organization’s webpage. For example, the Unitarian Universalist Association has a page on its website detailing the interfaith organizations of which it is a member. The Presbyterian Church, the American Humanist Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the United Church of Christ, and many other groups all have a similar page. Talking with adults in your congregation may also lead you to local interfaith opportunities you might not otherwise hear about.
- Interfaith Youth Activist – I think it’s safe to say that all of us here at IYA are excited about involving youth in interfaith activism; aside from Sana, the blog’s founder, we’re all teenagers ourselves. I love talking with other youth interested in interfaith, and we all appreciate dialogue in the blog comments 🙂
I think the best way to truly achieve interfaith understanding on a personal level will always be direct encounters and dialogue with people of religious backgrounds different from your own. While, unfortunately, formal interfaith discussion groups don’t exist everywhere, every teen likely has at least one friend who doesn’t have the same religious background as their own. So after you’ve checked out all the online world of interfaith has to offer, find that person and start a conversation.