“Voice, Engage, Act“, – the model that the Interfaith Youth Corps teaches to students and mentors around the country and that I became familiar with during an Interfaith Leadership Institute with two other students from Syracuse, Azhar Ali and Ismail Pathan, and the Dean of Hendricks, Dean Tiffany Steinwert. During the four-day Institute at Georgetown University, we learned about IFYC’s model for interfaith work on college campuses and what events we could bring back to Syracuse.
Voice One of the things that I found really interesting and helpful about the Institute was that it did not just teach us what to do when we got back to our own campuses. Instead, the interfaith action started there. We were able to begin voicing our own beliefs and listening to those of others while we were there. One night, we all gathered in the ballroom of the hotel and formed two large, nested circles. With the person across from us, we were prompted to share five-minute conversations. While they started slow, it quickly shifted to a more in depth opportunity to think about our own beliefs and share them with the person across from us.
A lot of times, I don’t think so specifically about what in my faith motivates me to do something, but in those short five minute conversations, I was asked not only to come up with specific answers but then to share them with the person across from me, someone who I may not have met before. It was not only challenging at times to come up with my own answer in just five minutes, but it was also interesting to listen to the answer from the other person. If only we had had more time. At times, they would start their story and I would immediately want to ask a question, about their faith, about their experience, about their story.
Sometimes, there just wasn’t enough time for all of that. I guess we have only started the voice part of the motto. I found I also didn’t have all the answers about my own faith, experiences, and story. Voicing became an opportunity to continue to learn and to continue to share, while maybe not with these same people, with other people I encounter in the future.
Engage In the four-day Institute, we were able to engage with the Institute leaders from around the country to learn their outline for the Better Together Campaign. While learning from them, we were also able to learn from the other students and allies that were at the Institute from other schools in the country. We were able to share our ideas and stories from our individual campuses, whether there was already an interfaith group on campus or whether they too were just starting one. The event was an opportunity to bring together students from different states, religious and non-religious traditions, and campuses, but bring them together with the same goal of inspiring interfaith work on their campuses.
Act This part of the IFYC motto really has a lot of parts. It has a past and a present. It has a service and an interfaith part. While at the Institute, we all had the opportunity to act and participate in the service project the leaders had undertaken. We all sat together and addressed letters to local organizations to help advertise their ongoing projects. While we helped during those few days, we are also looking to the future to start a similar project on our own campus. We have already started to act, working with UU to make Juice Jam a service event that will donate money to help people suffering from the famine in Somalia and collect canned goods to donate to food pantries in the Syracuse community. Act was also divided into service and interfaith parts.
We are already working closely with UU to bring the service portion of the Better Together campaign to Syracuse. At the same time, we have plans to bring interfaith learning opportunities and conversations, like the ones modeled at the Institute, to the Syracuse campus this year.
Voice, Engage, Act. We started the conversations and actions at the Institute but they are conversations and movements that will continue on the Syracuse campus this year, starting with the Juice Jam concert and September 11th Memorial Service.
Photo Credit: Syracuse University