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Center for Action and Contemplation
Interfaith Friendships
Interfaith Friendships

Our Shared Values

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Interfaith leader Eboo Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), which brings together youth of different faiths through cooperation and shared service. When a skeptical questioner asks, “What’s the IFYC approach?” Patel explains:

“We call it shared values—service learning,” I said. “We begin by identifying the values that different religious communities hold in common—hospitality, cooperation, compassion, mercy. We bring a group of religiously diverse young people together and ask them, ‘How does your religion speak to this value?’ One kid will say, ‘Well, I really admire how the pope [John Paul II] embodied mercy when he forgave the man who tried to assassinate him.’ A kid from a different religion will say, ‘There is a story like that in my religion: when the Prophet Muhammad returned to Mecca, he extended mercy by forgiving many of the people who had waged war against him.’” . . .

“Are you trying to teach the kids that all religions are the same?” he asked, again growing suspicious.

“Not at all,” I responded. “We are showing young people that religions have powerful things in common, but they come to those shared values through their own paths. . . .”

 “The IFYC always gives young people the chance to actually act on the religious value they are talking about through a service project. It’s amazing how many faith stories of compassion kids remember when they are building a house together for a poor family, or what their insights into hospitality are when they are tutoring refugee children.” [1]

CAC teacher Brian McLaren writes about the sense of “with-ness” that arises when people of different faiths join in service, justice, and solidarity:

Another friend . . . went to a Muslim-majority country specifically to convert Muslims to Christianity. After some time there, he got a sick feeling: he felt he was serving neither God nor the best interests of the people around him, but was instead serving the colonizing agenda of the religious clan that sent him. So he changed the direction of his work. He started mobilizing Christians and Muslims to work side by side in helping the poor. “Something happens,” he told me, “when we work together for the poor. We all change. I know that both the Christians and the Muslims feel they are encountering God in one another, and together we are encountering God as we join God in serving the poor.” He discovered that witness led him to with-ness. . . .

Talking together is important—but that interfaith dialogue becomes much deeper in the context of multi-faith collaboration. Words are good, but actions are better—especially actions that bring us together solving problems that affect everybody. . . . [What] so many other people are doing is a lot like what Jesus did: bringing together unlikely people to serve and heal together, to liberate the oppressed and their oppressors together, and to model, in their collaboration, the kind of harmony and human-kindness the world so desperately needs. [2]


[1] Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2007), 166–167.

[2] Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (New York: Jericho Books, 2012), 245–246, 246–247.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jeremy Yap, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Dann Zepeda, Untitled (detail), 2017, photograph, Unsplash. Austin Kehmeier, Untitled (detail), 2020, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.

Image inspiration: Opening the door to difference—to include, rather than exclude—we see a beautiful beyond and receive the life water of new ways to see.

Story from Our Community:

Over the years, I have enjoyed the friendship of both Greek and Russian Orthodox Christians. Through our friendship, I was introduced an ikon that I have come to see as an ingenious way to describe the nature of God and the Trinity. The ikon shows the Holy Trinity as three simple people seated around a small common table and enjoying each other’s company! Thank you to the Daily Meditations, which have reminded me of the sacredness and importance of this image in my spiritual journey. Alleluia! —John L.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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