Many immigrants were drawn to America and Canada specifically because of the religious freedom and pluralism that characterize these societies. But that pluralism has only worked to a point. Our societies are being fragmented as never before, and sadly, religion is playing a significant role in dividing us.
Eboo Patel, an Indo-American Muslim bridgebuilder, is the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, America’s largest interfaith organization. A member of President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-based Neighborhood Partnerships, Patel is also the founder and president of Interfaith America, a Chicago-based international non-profit promoting interfaith cooperation.
Speaking of America’s pluralism, Patel says:
“We need opportunities to articulate our identities in ways that are a bridge of cooperation with people of other identities, not a bunker of isolation, not a barrier of division. That’s a healthy pluralism: the ability to be who I am in positive relationship with who you are.
“We have to get this right in the United States of America. We are no longer a Judaeo-Christian nation. There are as many Muslims in America as there are Lutherans, and the median age of Muslims is 20 years younger.
“We are the most religiously diverse nation in human history, the most religiously devout nation in the Western Hemisphere at a time of global religious conflict. We are interfaith America. We have to get this right… For us to be fully faithful members of a diverse democracy,” says Patel, “we have to connect our particular path to God with the flourishing of all people.”
Watch Patel’s inspiring TED Talk here.