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Learning the Tactics for Interfaith Activism
Sophomore Tanushree Mondkar was one of only 200 or so students across the U.S. recently chosen to join a conference of college students working on promoting multi-faith alliances and dialogues on campus.
The conference was the seventh annual leadership gathering of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). It was held partly in the Eisenhower Building of the White House, and partly at Georgetown Intercultural Center.
The weekend featured guest speakers from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and was kicked off by IFYC’s well-known founder, Eboo Patel.
SCU Junior Ashley Ciglar was also accepted to join the leadership event, but was unable to make it because of her school obligations.
The conference theme was “Better Together,” and discussed ways of empowering students not to be passive observers of objectionable acts, such as the planned Koran-burning by a Florida pastor. Workshops covered topics such as how to mobilize your campus around shared, faith-based values; how to recruit students who don’t have a religious affiliation to social action, and how to build a team for mobilization and activism.
“They always say students are the future,” said Mondkar. “They were telling us we’re not the future, we’re the now.”
Mondkar says she became interested in IFYC through SCU’s own interfaith council, which she joined while trying to build membership in the flagging Hindu Student Union.
“When I first came to SCU, I knew, yes, this is a Jesuit school, yes, they accept everyone of different faiths.” But other than a passing mention of the meditation room, adds Mondkar, she hadn’t heard about many events of interest, until she got in touch with Aimee Moiso of Campus Ministry. Since then, she’s attended dinners with Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic students, and felt very drawn to what she has learned.
"I love traveling, going around and learning about different cultures and faiths. It expands your own mind and relationships beyond yourself,” she said, adding that she hopes that interfaith dialogue will be part of her career path in some way.
Another former SCU student, Rebecca Hirsch is also spending time with IFYC. She is currently an intern for IFYC in Chicago, working with fellows who are spreading the IFYC message on dozens of campuses nationwide. Hirsch was formerly active in the Jewish Student Union at SCU and was the representative of the local Hillel on campus.
For her part, Mondkar said her next steps are going to be identifying a campus issue that she suspects will have widespread meaning, and start building her team and working with others to rejuvenate SCU’s InterFaith Youth Council.
“The U.S. is a pluralistic society,” said Mondkar. “There’s definitely potential for us to come together, not each do our own thing, but to find our shared values and compassion for one another.”
Ciglar, who also continues to be active in interfaith issues on campus, agrees. “The direct result of this is students becoming a means for peace. We become less ignorant and less likely to persecute others.”