Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, delivered Tuesday’s university forum. He spoke on the importance of an interfaith effort to achieve unity.
Patel recalled an experience he had listening to Nelson Mandela speak while in South Africa in 1999. Mandela said he would still be a prisoner if it had not been for the efforts of many different faiths coming together against Apartheid.
“Systems that keep people apart and that keep some groups down are evil precisely because God loves unity and desires for us, His children, to be unified,” Patel said.
One of the reasons Apartheid ended is because people from different communities and convictions came together to fight for their shared values of unity and liberty.
Patel pondered on how he hadn’t known of the interfaith effort to end the oppressive system. He realized that he was lacking in this area of his education.
“This major moment in human history was brought about by an interfaith movement, and it changed my eyes,” Patel said. “Education is the development of new eyes, and that moment with Mandela shaped my eyes about history.”
From that point forward, Patel paid closer attention to the role that interfaith work had played in historical movements.
In a time of social unrest, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was backed by a strong interfaith effort attempting to help fight for the rights of an oppressed minority. Mahatma Gandhi, a leader in India’s independence movement, likewise learned and studied from the texts and leaders of other faiths and took inspiration from other leaders.
Patel said to consider inspiring moments in history and ask the question, Were there people from different faiths helping each other in this moment? Did they take inspiration from each other?
“I actually think one of the most profound questions we can ask on our way to being an educated people is the question, ‘Did I get inspired by somebody who believes things that are very different than what I believe?’”
Patel pointed to the importance of being a leader in today’s interfaith movement and finding shared values
“American healthcare is probably the single best example of religious diversity coming together in an interfaith cooperation for a shared value, which is healing,” he said.
There are medical professionals, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and custodians of many different faiths in every hospital in the country. Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Latter-day Saints, and members of many other groups all work together toward a common goal.
Each individual religious conviction can inspire the healthcare worker to become a healer. This is shared unity.
Patel shared a photo of a moment in Jerusalem of a Muslim and a Jew doing their prayers together, pausing as they worked together to treat the sick, including those with COVID-19.
“Can you see yourself as a future doctor or nurse or driver of an ambulance who pauses to do your prayers alongside somebody who’s Hindu or Catholic or Jain or Muslim—both of you healers, both of you inspired by your faith conviction, different as it is—to come together and be a healer?”
Other examples of interfaith efforts include the work done at many orphanages, homeless shelters and disaster relief services.
“For you to be educated, to be competent—you will have to have an appreciative understanding of the inspiration of other people’s faiths in bringing them to that same cause that you’re involved in,” Patel said.
Patel admonished that to understand the inspirations of a different tradition is part of the mark of being educated.
“This is the first nation to believe that you could have people who spoke different languages,” Patel said. “Who prayed to God in different ways, including not at all. Who came from four corners of the earth, to this patch of land, and built out of it a nation, aspiring to ideals even though there have been mistakes and even sins along the way in violation of the ideals of freedom, of cooperation, of pluralism, of dignity for all. We can still achieve that, and I think you can be in the front of that movement.”
President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will deliver the devotional at 11:05 a.m. on Tuesday, October 27.
His remarks will be broadcast on BYUtv, BYUtv.org, Classical 89 FM (89.1 FM) and BYUradio (107.9 FM).