It didn’t take the horrors of September 11, 2001, to convince Eboo Patel of the importance of working toward interfaith understanding, cooperation and service. As an American Muslim committed to peace and respect for all religions, he’d already been about that task for years. The tragedies of 9/11 only deepened his resolve to build bridges of understanding between and among peoples in order to overcome the hatred that reigned that day.
Spurred by the belief that religion is a force for good, Eboo had founded the Interfaith Youth Core in 1998 at age 22. Its goal: to harness the positive energy of young people of all faiths—including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus; to replace religious conflict with interfaith cooperation; to inspire college students from diverse backgrounds to work side by side in service projects.
Today the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) is a thriving organization active on close to 100 campuses across the United States—many of them Catholic—and in several foreign countries. (For more information on the IFYC, see Youth + Faith + Service.)
“Can religion play a positive role in society? It can and it has to!” Eboo tells St. Anthony Messenger during an hourlong interview in the fourth-floor offices of the IFYC in Chicago’s West Loop. No group is better prepared to play a key role in transforming the world, he believes, than young people whose faith inspires them to service. (IFYC also welcomes students of no particular faith.)