On May 9th, 2017, nine YES alumni and one YES Abroad alumna came together in Washington, D.C. from nine different countries and multiple faith backgrounds under the shared belief of the importance of interfaith and peacebuilding work in their local communities.
These ten alumni were selected out of forty participants of the Interfaith Harmony Online Workshop conducted by AMIDEAST in February 2017 where they learned the foundational skills for interfaith dialogue and engaged in a virtual panel of faith leaders and interfaith workers. Each alumnus arrived to the in-person workshop hosted at the AMIDEAST office with their unique interfaith project proposals and a bright, optimistic energy. During the three-day workshop, participants became equipped with the skills needed to implement their projects and provided opportunities to experience and gain direct knowledge of interfaith work.
Priya Parkash (YES 2014-2015, Pakistan, hosted by AFS in Camarillo, CA) often referenced her favorite quote by Mohammed Neguib to share her thoughts on interfaith harmony. “Religion is a candle inside a multi-colored lantern. Everyone looks through a particular color but the candle is always there.”
The first day launched with several foundational sessions on interfaith dialogue and basic project management. In the evening, students had a chance to speak about their projects and interfaith ideas with guests from the State Department and American Councils.
The next day was packed with more session focusing on project management skills such as communication and facilitation. However, the highlights of the day was a lunch with religious community leaders and interfaith workers followed by a visit to Sixth and I synagogue. During the lunch, students shared ideas with and ask questions to Imam Sayed Hassan Hussaini Akhlaq from the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East in Washington, D.C., Amanda Poppei from the Washington Ethical Society, and Reverend Grayland Hagler from the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ. The alumni's meaningful conversations with the community leaders were enhanced by their afternoon visit to Sixth and I synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the city and a safe space for interfaith community activity.
On the final day, the alumni used the knowledge and skills they had honed over the past few days to further develop and finetune the details of their interfaith project plans. Their final presentations were proof of the newfound confidence and ability they had gained from the workshop and gave a look into the incredible interfaith work they would be doing once they returned to their communities. Furthermore, they found new support networks amongst each other as they saw and understood how their peers from different backgrounds were united by the same interfaith goals.
The Interfaith Reach Out workshop felt too short but all hearts and minds were filled in preparation for the next steps of YES alumni-led peacemaking all around the world.
Watch the quick video below to learn more about the participants and their thoughts!