this is my official write-up for the end of my Fellowship with the Interfaith Youth Core:
Reflecting on the past year as a part of IFYC Fellows Alliance is a difficult undertaking. Though the intent initially was likely based on trainings and campus work, I feel like the best parts of it were by-products of this intent, such as the great opportunities I was granted from the IFYC, and the potentially life-lasting friendships that started out of the fellowship.
On campus here at New York University I can definitely say that being a part of the IFYC Fellows Alliance assisted in my work, and that of our group World Faith. Starting out, we had great trouble getting recognized from the existing faith-oriented groups on campus, who simply did not take our mission seriously. That was acerbated by the fact that what interfaith events did take place on campus were usually dialogue-based, and faith-specific. However, between the connecting with the IFYC, other breakthroughs we had at World Faith, and the result of some of the great opportunities during the Fellowship, I was able to generate enough credibility to expand our programs, including co-programming with most of the larger faith-oriented groups on campus.
Our focus on bringing the discourse of religion back into the university also had institutional effects. After partnering with different groups on campus, we successfully lobbied the university to adopt chaplaincy, starting with four paid chaplains and several volunteers, giving religious guidance for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus on campus. Furthermore, the president of New York University announced the creation of an Interfaith Center, while the administration works to purchase space for such a center, which will likely cost some $20-50 million dollars upon completion. Though I was not alone in this, nor World Faith the only force, but we were an integral part of the student mobilization for these changes.
Our programs also have grown in participation, while our first events were often attended by only a hand-full of participants, World Faith has grown to holding our Week of Interfaith Youth Service, in which 120 participants got involved in one of our four interfaith community service programs, including one day where over 60 participants volunteered city-wide in hospitals, parks, and homeless shelters. Furthermore, we teamed up with an initiative started by NYU students (who I was put in contact with their IFYC) to send ten religiously-diverse students to Lebanon to do service work with local students. Altogether, with the help of the Fellows Alliance, World Faith, under my leadership, has had a pivotal role in reshaping the role faith plays both in campus life and in service at New York University. With my passing the leadership on to younger students for next year, I expect that the impact will continue to develop.
For my personal development, I definitely feel that one aspect of the training given to Fellows by IFYC did help me greatly. Language, whether speaking to students, or speaking to the media, is imperative to effectively deliver your message, while catering to your audience. I feel the staff greatly influenced my tightening of language describing the mission of interfaith service throughout the year, including great advice given to me by Cassie Meyers and April Kunze during the Q Conference this April.
Also, being that I have chosen to take one the interfaith world professionally, IFYC has given me many great opportunities to exercise the advice and training that they gave. During the year I was interviewed on two radio shows, and Good Morning America with the Fellowship, with prepared me for other interview. Whether with IFYC’s help, suggestion, or mandate, I also attended six conferences during the year, during which at some I spoke, presented, or was publicly recognized for the my interfaith work during this year. Being in New York, they recommended for many great opportunities, including meeting with a Saudi Dean traveling as a visitor with the US State Department’s International Leadership program. These are just a few of the great opportunities the IFYC gave me during my year with the Fellow’s Alliance. Not only did they encourage further personal and professional development, they gave credibility to the work I have devoted so much time and effort to during the year.
The contact network I have developed with IFYC’s staff’s help is global and powerful, and I am sure that I will continue to utilize it as a develop World Faith further as an organization, but I do not believe that even the contacts are the most valuable aspect of the year. I believe the most lasting impact of the Fellow’s Alliance on my life with be that of personal connections.
The fellowship will most likely remind me of the mixture of parsing Bob Marley lyrics, discussing theological friction-points, and theorizing program ideas with Soofia Ahmed, Farah Qureshi, and Hafsa Kanjal. Or perhaps having some of the most blunt discourses possible with Jessica Kent and Anne Bouthilette. Even possibly being completely and obnoxiously unproductive and crazy with Joshua Stanton and Nadeem Modan, or holding jovial yet inspiring conversations with Austin Maness. Every Fellow represents more than a contact to me, but a memory and a friend. The staff of IFYC represents more than just human resource, but mentors and family. As a Christian, I believe that God is Love, and where Love is, God has blessed. This rubric elucidates the value of our work, as we are able to live as examples of what interfaith cooperative can look like, in a world of compassion and understanding.
As I conclude this paragraph, I am completely my year-long commitment to the Fellow’s Alliance. However, with the end of the Fellowship, I see the beginning of a career in making the interfaith movement, a long journey in personal growth in faith, and life-long friendships that will remind us why we even bothered to try to make a difference in the first place.
In Peace and Love,
Former IFYC Fellow