How college campuses are proving we’re “better together”

This originally appeared as an Interfaith Insight in the Grand Rapids Press on April 10, 2014. 
For the past few weeks, we have been celebrating the leaders who helped start this incredible interfaith community in West Michigan. Today, I’d like to explore how the next generation of interfaith leaders is being mobilized across the country – and what the interfaith movement looks like on college campuses.

This interfaith youth movement is culminating this week, on Thursday, April 10, with thousands of university students and staff celebrating interfaith cooperation by pledging to be “Better Together” in their communities.

When I attended Alma College, I went to conferences hosted by the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), an organization founded by Eboo Patel, and was taught and inspired by their mission. IFYC says we can all use our faith traditions, as well as our non-faith traditions, to inspire us to unite under common values to promote a greater good.

What really sold me on this model of interfaith work was the unique approach IFYC takes in bringing people together over differences that easily could divide us. It’s a simple philosophy:  “Voice. Engage. Act.” Here’s what it means:

  • Voice your values: Use where you come from to inspire you to action and share that inspiration with others.
  • Engage with others: Share your distinct traditions and religious or philosophical beliefs in order to motivate you under common values.
  • Finally, act together: Use your values alongside others in order to make a difference in something important.

This model can be applied to any issue of social justice or peace; it simply suggests that if we are going to try to accomplish something, we might as well do it together. Not only because we are better together, but when we unite in a community, we are stronger together. If we are able to embrace each tradition’s values, the impact will reach farther, dig deeper, and ultimately make a bigger splash in these seemingly challenging issues.

This Thursday, on Better Together Day, one specific problem is being tackled by this growing youth movement – religious intolerance. Today, campuses across the country are using this model to stand up against discrimination in order to advocate for interfaith cooperation. Some are wearing blue in solidarity with the movement, others are engaging in community service projects, while a Grand Valley State University class is hosting a Diversity & Dialogue roundtable discussion. Whatever the means, people are using their voices and presences to be louder than those who counter interfaith progress.

Better Together Day is about recognizing that religion should be used as force for good and a tool for peace. Further, it is about how all faith and non-faith communities can come together to promote that value. These emerging interfaith leaders recognize this potential, and will continue to promote it on their campuses and in their communities.

To become a part of this — even if you are not associated with a university or campus — visit IFYC.org/BeBlue, sign the pledge and add your voice to the movement.