In a blogosphere filled with far too much rant, hate, and ill-informed opinion, I would like from time to time to emphasize the positive in my little corner of the blogosphere at “Your Voices.” I’ll start with this question: In a world driven by fear and prejudice, confusion and misinformation, segregation and violence, how do we learn to co-exist with those of different religious, cultural, and political beliefs? The Twin Cities Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition (“IYLC”), a collaborative program of the Saint Paul Area Council of Churches and Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, is working to answer just that. Building bridges across cultural, religious, ethnic, geographic differences to break down those barriers that may divide.
The IYLC represents many cultural backgrounds, including Somali, Kenyan, Russian, Central Asian, and Indian; and many religious backgrounds, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Unitarian Universalist, and unaffiliated – all youth in 8th-12th grade who seek a better world are welcome. Youth meet twice a month at various houses of worship, working to respond to current issues with hope, acting on our common call to service and justice. In 2009 the IYLC was recognized as a recipient of the Best Practices Award from Governor Pawlenty’s Council on Faith-Based and Community Service Initiatives. In August, the IYLC was featured on President Obama’s United We Serve campaign website.
The IYLC was chosen as the winner of the 2009 Interfaith Youth Core Bridge-Builders Award in the Community category, which will be presented at the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Conference on Monday, October 26. The IFYC received over 100 nominations from across the country and our Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition was nominated multiple times. The Award reception will be keynoted by Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center.
IYLC members are responsible for planning and facilitating the 5th annual Interfaith Day of Service, this year to be held Monday, February 15, 2010. Over 200 participants are expected to join together to participate in service projects at various locations around the Twin Cities. Last year’s service sites included Books for Africa, Bridging, Inc., Families Moving Forward, Family Place, Neighborhood House, People Serving People, PLUS Time/Liberty Plaza, and Tubman Family Alliance. This year the youth have chosen to focus the projects of the IYLC on health, nutrition, and hunger. New to the program this year, youth leaders will be trained to be part of an interfaith youth “Speakers Bureau” and will be available to create and facilitate presentations throughout the community. Youth will put their leadership and critical thinking skills to the test by responding to current events and issues as they arise locally and globally.
I am excited to share the wonderful work of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Coalition. IYLC gives young people the opportunity to build new relationships, work together, learn from one another, while exploring their own personal faith. Youth are finding more commonalities that unite, rather than differences that divide. I look forward to continued growth of IYLC as we build on the wonderful successes of the past.
For more information about this program, please visit www.spacc.org/interfaith