In an era of global religious conflict, the United State is the most religiously diverse nation in human history and the most religiously devout nation in the West.
Will faith be a barrier of division or a bridge of cooperation?
Eboo Patel, author of “Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation” and “Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America” will address this complex question at NIU during his one-day visit with students, faculty, staff, and community members next week.
He will speak at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 27, in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center. His remarks will also emphasize how members of the NIU and DeKalb communities can come together on the common ground of service to make a difference.
Patel is founder and executive director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core, which aims to “catalyze, resource and network this generation of interfaith leaders, and watch them change the world.”
Accordingly, he is expected to speak on the value of Ubuntu (human kindness) and the power of individuals from all background in service together.
Patel’s presentation is free and open to the public. Nonperishable food items and paper goods will be accepted at the door; donations will benefit the Huskies Student Food Pantry, located at Grace Place, 401 Normal Road.
A book-signing will follow at 7:30 p.m. in the Gallery Lounge of the student center. Also offered then are a service fair featuring campus and community agencies such as Communiversity Gardens and Barb Food Mart, where volunteers can obtain information on service options. An opportunity for a civic reflection conversation will also take place at that time.
“Acts of Faith,” the text for NIU’s 2014-2015 Common Reading Experience, follows Patel’s path from adolescent apathy to his urgency to be a part of something during his college years. Through his serendipitous journey, Patel reflects on his own beliefs, his interactions with non-believers and believers of many different faiths, and his call to act on his own passion to develop the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).
His work predominantly focuses on college and university campuses.
During his visit to the NIU campus, Patel also will participate in a dialogue with UNIV 101/201 students and student religious leaders. He also will meet administrators, directors of cultural centers, members of religious organizations and DeKalb area civic and religious leaders.
An adviser on President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships, Patel has spoken about his vision for interfaith cooperation at places such as the TED conference, the Clinton Global Initiative and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum.
“Patel really wants to create a campus community where people understand one another, put aside differences, respect the differences and come together to work for a larger civic good,” Vice Provost Anne Birberick says.
The book emphasizes the power that youth can have when engaging in their surroundings in a positive way, highlighting service as common ground for young individuals to explore their beliefs.
Patel writes: “W.E.B. Du Bois famously said, ‘The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.’ I believe that the 21st century will be shaped by the question of the faith line.”
- appeal to students who want to diversify their college experience;
- challenge them to explore the beliefs and faith traditions they’ve experienced or are curious about, and
- require that they think critically about a diversity component that is not typically addressed in college.
“This is what a university is all about,” says Denise Rode, who initiated the Common Reading Experience in 2008. “NIU is a place for considering ideas and beliefs we’ve never thought of before. It’s a place for developing critical thinking skills, and building community across the rich diversity of our campus and community.”
“I believe that today’s society has put up a wall that limits discussion on religion and interfaith cooperation,” says Corey Meredith, student staff member of First-and Second-Year Experience and a sophomore accountancy major. “ ‘Acts of Faith’ breaks through that wall and brings the issue to the forefront. Never before have I seen students and faculty from a variety of backgrounds getting together to discuss their beliefs, learn about new cultures, and come together to serve the community. Now is the time to make a change.”
For more information, call (815) 753-0028 or e-mail [email protected].