Our person of the day is Eboo Patel. Eboo Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core as a way for young people to better understand and defend religious diversity. I decided to begin some articles about people changing the world for the better and Mr. Patel struck a cord as I frequently write about religious issues. While I personally do not beleive in a God, I also strongly believe that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. What makes Mr. Patel so special is that he is showing how one can still have their own beliefs but still come together as one.
Mr. Patel's story comes to us from the Christian Science Monitor. (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/0322/Helping-young-people-champion-religious-tolerance). From the CSM:
But rather than being a story about the power of diversity, the anecdote is one about missed opportunities: Patel and his friends never broached the subject of their different faiths with one another, and when his Jewish friend became the target of school bullies, Patel remained silent. "I aided and abetted by my silence," he tells several hundred students at Chicago's prestigious Francis Parker School.
His message is clear: It's not enough to be tolerant and accepting. Religious pluralism – which Patel sees as the key diversity issue of the 21st century, the equivalent of the racial questions that shaped the 20th century – demands that people push back against intolerance and stand up as leaders.
That's the philosophy of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), the group that Patel founded a decade ago in an effort to increase awareness of interfaith issues and to empower young people in particular to be leaders in the field. (The name uses "core" not "corps" to indicate it's at the center of a larger movement.)
The alternative, he believes, is to cede the pulpit – and the influence – to extremists.
"My theory is that 99 percent of the world inclines toward tolerance and cooperation," Patel says. "The problem is that 99 percent of that 99 percent aren't leading in that direction. And too many of the 1 percent who are opposed to pluralism are leaders…. We're happy to be accused of preaching to the choir, if part of what we do is get the choir to sing."