A few day ago my college hosted Eboo Patel as a speaker on religious pluralism. I was lucky enough to be invited to a special reception for Mr. Patel at the house of our college president, and a dinner and discussion after the talk. After spending about five hours of my day around Eboo, I am extremely grateful for many of the ideas he shared.
Between quoting Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Rumi and many others, he spoke of his own personal experiences growing up Muslim, and engaging in interfaith work. What stands out to me most is a story of how after failing to stand up for a Jewish high school friend who was facing antisemitic bullies, his father told him he had not only failed his friend, but also his own faith. What a powerful notion: when we fail to love and protect those of other faiths, we fail our own faith. Inherent in all religions is a sense of love, and compassion towards others.
Love doesn't have to be agreement, but it does have to be acceptance. A common misconception with interfaith work is that we have to establish that all our religions are true. I think we can have mutual respect for each other's believes while still holding our own faiths dear. I do believe there is one universal truth, but small pieces of that truth can be found in different cultures, traditions and faiths around the world. My life has sincerely been enriched by the multi-faith dialogues and experiences I have had. My own faith has been strengthened by learning about others, and I do right by my faith by loving those who have different views.
Above all, Eboo Patel called our campus to action. He called us to put aside our differences to make the world a better place. In a world facing a lot of religious turmoil, persecution and prejudice we need to use our common ground to build a more peaceful world.
“To see the other side, to defend another people, not despite your tradition but because of it, is the heart of pluralism.” ~ Eboo Patel