Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Student Teachers: Adults Could Learn a Thing or Two If Only They Listened More When Young People of Different Faiths Get Together to Talk

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Student Teachers: Adults Could Learn a Thing or Two If Only They Listened More When Young People of Different Faiths Get Together to Talk

Article excerpt

ONE RECENT MONDAY MORNING A CATHOLIC youth minister called to tell me about the teen from his parish who had just attended an interfaith youth event. The girl's family life had been tragic. Her father was in prison for killing her brother, and she was experimenting with drugs. She said she wasn't interested in talking about a God she didn't believe in anymore. But her mother insisted that she go.

At the event she met two Muslim girls, and they stayed together all afternoon. She watched them at the mosque during community prayer. She was impressed with their devotion to God and how their faith influenced their lives.

That night the three of them went to the movies together. The next day she showed up at Sunday Mass without being cajoled by her mother. She told her youth minister about the two Muslim girls and that she wanted to have that kind of close relationship with God. So she came back to church and decided to pay more attention--to see if she could get in touch with the God she used to believe in.

For the past four years I've been involved with the Milwaukee Area Interfaith Youth Forum, which began when 18 youth--six each from the Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish faith traditions--came together with their adult leaders to respond to the events of September 11. We launched the forum with the goal to increase understanding between the different faiths, reduce misinformation, and promote peaceful relationships.

Follow-up events have included a Shabbat service, a potluck supper, a picnic, and "Midnight Muslim Bowling." One youth's suggestion led to the creation of the Interfaith Peace Wall Retreat, a day of learning about eight different religions. Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Unitarian, and Baha'i communities joined our original three. We decorated both sides of a hinged wall with hand-painted symbols, photos, and attached objects. This wall is now the centerpiece for communal prayer at every interfaith youth event.

When Isaac, a Jewish teenager, introduced our interfaith dialogue day called "Sons and Daughters of Abraham," he pointed out that at such events it's easy to take it for granted that Jews, Christians, and Muslims can get together without hostility. …

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