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The Joys of Interfaith in Hard Times

Speaking to the Theme of the Month

As we take stock of 2014, it can be difficult locating the joys of interfaith peacebuilding. The state of interreligious relations and social justice work in the U.S. is at a crucial turning point. It seems that our social fabric is increasingly being cut away by decaying trust in democratic social and civic institutions. It is up to leaders of faith and good will to take the helm, proclaim a way forward together and provide for alternative visions of life together in the U.S.

Dr. Susan Kopp, Secretary of Religions for Peace USA, shares a thought during the Executive Council Retreat in August.Religions for Peace USA has been in the midst of this work for a long time. Our leadership and programs seek not only to build relationships and community but also to destabilize entrenched stereotypes about the religious “other” and in their place build understanding between people of all faiths and good will. To truly reach a prophetic vision of the beloved community or the welcome table, religious voices of faith are a vital part of the process.

I am regularly asked what it means to be a person of faith in the public square in 21st century United States. The challenges that we face this coming year relate to fundamental shifts in the deep fault lines of the American religious landscape. We all know the statistics: increased mistrust in traditional religious institutions, declining religious affiliation – especially among people under 30 – and increasing tensions (and isolation) among communities of all faiths and cultures.

Hope on a Bleak Landscape

A group gathers during the Community and Religious Leaders Conference of Middle Tennessee, a project of the Our Muslim Neighbor Initiative.But I believe our work shines a light of hope on this bleak landscape.

RfP is bringing hundreds of people together in Middle Tennessee to help counter Islamophobia and religious prejudice. We are working with interreligious councils in states across the country and organizations across the world to launch a global multi-faith campaign to pass a strong climate treaty in December 2015. Each month we feature articles and broadcast conversations with the best and the brightest in the field. Yearly we gather senior religious leaders to provide them with a critical opportunity to build relationships with their counterparts and to foster a more coordinated and harmonious voice of faith and goodwill advocating for actions for peace in the U.S.

When the going gets tough, and it is extremely tough at the current moment, we are called to see that this work is itself a joy, that each of us contribute a crucial and necessary viewpoint to this work. You are the joy of interfaith – your commitment, your passion and your vision for this work makes it what it is today.

So, thank you for being a joy of interfaith work!