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NRI promoting religious tolerance

Eboo Patel, an Indian American, organizes youths from all over the world to promote religious harmony.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2007 13:25 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

From building houses for the homeless to tutoring children, young people of different faiths have been working together under a group run by an Indian American. The Chicago-based Inter-Faith Youth Core (IFYC), started by Eboo Patel, brings together youths from various parts of the world with the aim of promoting inter-religious understanding.

Patel, a Muslim, had migrated with his parents from Mumbai to Chicago in 1975. During his formative years in the city, he had serious discussions regarding religion with his friends who belonged to various religions.

But the idea of a youth group didn't take seed until he was a graduate student at Oxford University in Britain where Patel, as a Rhodes scholar, received a doctorate in the sociology of religion.

"The basic idea of IFYC is that young people from different religions should be volunteering together, cleaning rivers, tutoring children, building houses," Patel told the Voice of America (VOA).

"They should use that as an entrée into having a conversation about how their different religions inspire them to serve others."

First envisioned in 1998 by Patel and a few of his committed college friends, IFYC has since reached 36,000 people across the world with its message of strengthening religious identities, fostering inter-religious understanding and cooperating to serve the common good.

Every April, thousands of religiously diverse young people who are members of IFYC come together in hometowns and college campuses around the world to serve their communities and engage in dialogue.

"People are realising that this issue of inter-faith cooperation, it matters in a huge way," Patel, who believes that the most divisive issue in the 21st century will be religion, or as he puts it, "the faith line", was quoted as saying.

IFYC has partnered with such leaders and organisations as the Office of Queen Rania of Jordan, Bill Clinton, the Religious Advisory Council of the Council on Foreign Relations, the East-West Institute, the US State Department and the US Institute of Peace.

First Published: Jan 17, 2007 13:25 IST