Dr. Eboo Patel Comes to Wooster!

February 18th, 2010

Wow.  I can’t even begin to tell you how excellent my day has been!  So today, I had to go to a seminar about Interfaith dialogue with my Judaism class.  The Religious Studies department at Wooster sponsors a Spring Academy of Religion every “spring” and today they brought in Dr. Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core.

Dr. Patel opened his speech with a story about Martin Luther King Jr.  In 1950, when King was in seminary, he went to a lecture about Christian Love, and was surprised to find that when he got there, the lecturer was talking about a Hindu, Mahatma Ghandi!  Dr. Patel emphasized that King was able to take what he admired about Hinduism, and apply it to the strengthening of his own personal faith.  He goes on to say that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is probably one of the greatest interfaith leaders of the time, for he was also good friends with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and a Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.  I think that you can see how much Dr. Patel admires MLK for admiring Ghandi.  I will admit, anyone who is inspired by Ghandi to the extent that MLK is and Dr. Patel seems to be is all right.  I too, have been inspired and influenced by Ghandi’s and MLK’s words.  Now I have also become inspired by Dr. Patel.

The key to interfaith dialogue, Patel says, is to lay out a frame work.  Ask yourself these two questions:  What do I admire about my own religion? and What do I admire about another religion?  I will admit, I am not really committed right now to any particular faith tradition, but I’ll give you some examples of things I  admire a lot of things about other faith traditions.  I greatly admire the Muslim emphasis on charity, I admire that in Judaism, study is considered an act of religious worship, and I admire Jesus’ emphasis on loving everybody, I love the Buddhist emphasis on finding peace within yourself.  We should be focused on what we admire about each other, not what is different, because the truth is, that some religions have fundamentally different beliefs.  For example, Christians believe that Jesus is the Savior of Mankind, Muslims and Jews don’t.  And that’s okay.  What people need to do is find out what part of their faith tradition encourages, even demands interfaith cooperation.  After you’ve found it, you need to make it a priority in your own faith, that’s interfaith cooperation, according to Dr. Patel.

I just found his talk so inspiring and uplifting.  I am the TA for the Peace Studies class here at Wooster, and since I’m not only an International Relations major, but also a Religious Studies major, Dr. Kille suggested I do my guest TA lecture on religion as a peace tool.  I began to realize that my April 2nd lecture date was approaching quickly, and I needed to figure out what I was going to say.  Yes, obviously religion has been used to justify lots of violence throughout history, it’s a true fact.  Dr. Patel’s talk gave me some of the tools I need to show how religion can be used in a positive way to create peace.  I don’t think anyone can deny that what he has done, what he is doing now, is an excellent example of how one can use religion as a way to generate peace.

If you want to read more about Dr. Eboo Patel, his autobiography is called Acts of Faith:  The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.  He has also written, with Adam Davis, Hearing the Call Across Traditions:  Readings on Faith and Service. I highly encourage you to check them out!!  Also, the Wooster radio station WOO91 is supposed to have a stream of his talk, but I don’t think it’s up yet.  When it is, I’ll post a link, cause it’s just that good.

So, I’m going to ask you to do something for me.  I want to ask yourself four questions:  (1) What is my personal story of interfaith cooperation? (2) What is an historical example of interfaith cooperation? (3) What do I admire about my faith and what part of my faith compels me to engage in interfaith cooperation? and (4) What do I admire about another faith?  Just ask yourself these questions.  I hope you’ll find them inspiring.  I hope this encourages you to think about what you can do to encourage interfaith, intercultural, interracial, inter-whatever in your community.

4 Responses to “Dr. Eboo Patel Comes to Wooster!”

  1. johnon 19 Feb 2010 at 9:43 pm

    cool blog Kristen!! Also very interesting. My grandfather as a Presbyterian minister was very much a man who respected and studied other religions. While he was committed to his Christian faith, he had a great respect for other faiths and the theologians who spread that word. During his service in World War II, he befriended a rabbi who was criticized and disrespected by other Christian chaplains. This rabbi couldn’t find the proper food for his men to celebrate Passover and Pop found a way for the supplies to be delivered. Rabbi Gittleson became a life long friend because of this. I think many men of faith during the WWII and post-war period were very much students of other faiths, as the examples and stories you have told.
    Very Cool!
    Love Uncle John

  2. Kristenon 20 Feb 2010 at 1:21 am

    Thanks so much! I really appreciate that. 🙂

  3. Lauraon 20 Feb 2010 at 8:31 am

    Well said Kristen. I expect I’ll find myself contemplating your questions; actually, I find myself thinking about those ideas often–but I think you actually know that! I also look forward to reading Dr. Patel’s book, too. Love, Mom

  4. Pope John Paul II fanon 20 Feb 2010 at 7:38 pm

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