Interfaith Youth Group Meets, Eats and Talks About Racism

On January 13, 2019 an interfaith program of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other interested youth, called Faith as Resistance, began with a breakfast at St. Martin’s Church.  Sunday’s discussion was peer-led by second and third year youth from Youth In Action (YIA). These youth have committed to this work, not only at YIA, but, as active participants on their own religious journeys.  As religious settings have been one of the oldest forms of organizing and community building, the spaces all lend themselves to the work around social justice and responsibility.

The “subject of the series is around youth utilization of their faith, regardless of the specifics, to bolster and integrate their desires to impact social justice.  This series will also introduce and build upon the five I’s of Oppression  (internalized, interpersonal, institutional, ideological and intersectional) and how they are mirrored in faith works.” in the words of Court King, Program Director of Youth In Action.

Youth were able to do community building through activity and conversations that challenged the way that they see themselves as engaged citizens. The group agreed that the ties that tether all faiths and their interests is the desire to be good and want goodness for the world around us.

“In this time of increasing division and polarization, we are thrilled that our students have an opportunity to get to know other young people, whose world views may be radically different from their own.  We hope these conversations will lead to friendship, understanding, and perhaps working together for justice.”  said Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman, Senior Rabbi of Temple Beth-el.

Father Mark Sutherland, Rector of St. Martin’s Church, added  “I am very excited that we have this opportunity to bring young folk together from our different faith communities.  One aspect that is very important for us, at St. Martin’s, is for our young people to come together with other young people,  not only from different faith traditions, but also from different parts of our very stratified city.  Youth In Action provides the context and experience that we so badly need to expand our young persons’ perspectives on the important and burning issues facing us as a society.”

“We have the ability to change today’s negative narrative by practicing interfaith understanding, which increases empathetic learning. Learning creates a place for debate and dialogue, both of which are important means of cooperation.  Contrary to popular belief, most faiths have more in common than not.   Nearly every major religion incorporates a section about loving others. In the Jewish Torah, it’s ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’  In the Muslim Quran, it’s ‘None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother that he wishes for himself.’   In the Christian Bible, it’s ‘So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them’.”    said Aisha Manzoor, one of the board members of Rhode Island Council for Muslim Advancement.

The next discussion will be on Sunday, February 24th, at Temple Beth-el.  In March, a discussion will be held at Youth In Action and the final one, in April, at a mosque.