Usra (left) and Katie (right) discuss how interreligious cooperation and conversation on campus can impact and inspire social justice movements.
On February 8 and 9, the MSC and Institute for Justice Education and Transformation hosted a two-day interfaith leadership training with the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). Campus community members were invited to participate in an interfaith literacy and strategic visioning session on the first day. The second day, students learned about storytelling as a tool for interfaith cooperation. We interviewed IFYC trainers, Usra Ghazi and Katie Baxter, about what it means to make a social impact across lines of difference.
Why do you personally feel that interfaith campus cooperation is important and relevant to social justice work?
Katie: Students come to campus with many different beliefs that society has taught them to keep private because we think of religion as a personal matter. But these beliefs often run deep, and to really respect someone else as a whole person, this includes respecting that person’s beliefs, even if you don’t agree with them. To me, that’s justice: allowing someone else to be who they are, and knowing that, by doing so, you can be who you are, too. I also feel strongly about the civic and social purpose of interfaith cooperation. We need to bridge the divides that can run deep between religious communities so that we can promote a culture of pluralism both on campuses and beyond.
Usra: There are great examples from historical movements in the United States when college students have been the driving force behind social change. I think back to the Civil Rights movement, Environmentalism, and Multiculturalism as groundbreaking, youth-led initiatives. Many of the leaders behind these movements are my faith heroes-individuals inspired by religious and non-religious values to fight for social justice. Likewise, young people today are harnessing the potency of interreligious cooperation to address social issues such as domestic poverty and environmental sustainability. Student leaders of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge and the national Better Together campaign are strong examples of this.