Interfaith Leader Eboo Patel Speaks at Meredith College

Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Founder Eboo Patel pulled stories from current headlines and history to demonstrate why knowledge of religious diversity is vital, during his September 30 convocation speech at Meredith College.

“If you are going to be a leader and an educated person in the 21st century, you need to have knowledge about religious diversity,” said Patel, who noted that the United States is the most religiously diverse nation in history.

Patel recommended that people develop an appreciative knowledge of other faiths. He asked the audience to identify admirable qualities of their faith traditions that they would want others to know. He also suggested considering how they had been inspired by people of other faiths.

“What is the relationship between what [you] believe, and the people around you who believe different things?,” Patel asked. “Asking this is part of owning your own faith tradition.”

IFYC is an organization that works primarily with college campuses to build a movement of interfaith cooperation. By giving voice to religious and non-religious identities, fostering mutually inspiring relationships with people of different backgrounds, and taking action together for the common good, IFYC believes religion can become a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier.

“While it’s not easy, disagreement on fundamental beliefs does not mean we can’t work together on other important issues,” Patel said.

Patel made an impact at Meredith College in advance of his visit to campus. Students in Associate Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies Shannon Grimes’ class were inspired to form an Interfaith Council after reading one of Patel’s books. The Interfaith Council led an effort to create an on-campus Interfaith Meditation and Prayer Room, which was dedicated on September 30.

About Eboo Patel
Eboo Patel is the author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, which won the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, and the forthcoming book Interfaith Leadership: A Primer. He served on President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.

Patel’s visit to Meredith was made possible by the Kenan Fund, the Mary Stowe Gullick Fund, the Office of Enrollment Management, the Office of the Chaplain, and the Meredith College Convocation Committee. 

Melyssa Allen

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