Know Your Neighbor Debate Night: Learn more about your community members through a night of dialogue

Introduction to the Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters Program

Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters (KYN-ME) is a national grassroots interfaith program that is the outgrowth of the Know Your Neighbor coalition of around 15 groups that was launched at the White House in December 2015 to work on policy concerning civil rights.

Founded on American values of religious freedom, pluralism, and inclusion, and motivated by a desire to build peaceful communities at the grassroots level through community engagement, the KYN-ME program was created by Islamic Networks Group (ING) in February 2016 to promote understanding and mutual respect among Americans of diverse religious and ethical traditions.

KYN-ME has grown into a collaborative effort of 100 partners with diverse missions and objectives who work together on campaigns that push back against bigotry and discrimination while promoting civil dialogue across differences, building relationships and peaceful communities, and advancing human rights and justice.

Purpose

Often those we surround ourselves with and the media we choose to pay attention to reflect our own view points, and we often don’t take the time to learn in-depth about different viewpoints. Our understandings of issues can become so clouded by our specific media coverage that we are rarely exposed to other viewpoints, and even then we are only exposed to the “loudest” and most upsetting stories of opposing ideologies.

The purpose of this event is to combat this, by discussing a heavy topic that impacts our community and/or nation in a well-rounded manner and outside the anonymity of the internet. By creating a safe space, free from anonymous internet sites and forums, we can question our own opinions and take the time to listen to those with different understandings of our own.

What would this event look like?

Generally we hope that this event will look like a fun-filled evening in which community members come to better get to know others across difference and listen to some intriguing points of view.

We encourage you to take this idea and implement it to best suite your community, but here are a few aspects that we think are important to include in the event.

What is required to host the event:

  • Community groups to partner with
  • Time to plan the space and organize volunteers
  • Some experience with event planning and interfaith engagement—being aware of faith and cultural sensitives
  • An advertising committee—someone to create flyers, circulate the information to groups involved and promote within the community
  • Volunteers for set up and clean up of the event
  • A facility which can hold enough people and has the proper equipment to host this kind of event (microphones, a stage, amplifiers, etc.)
  • Volunteers to help organize
  • Individuals to sign up to participate in the debate. Cap the number of attendees from various faith traditions so that the numbers aren’t unbalanced or excessive
  • This event must be not for profit—since this guide was created by a nonprofit organization we hope you’ll use it to bring communities together, not for any kind of fundraising initiative.
  • An appetite for dialogue!

Before the event:

  • Host a meeting with community groups involved to pick a date and decide on the details listed below:
    • Find a space that best suites the number of volunteers. If you expect a smaller audience, a community room would work well. If you have 100 or more attendees you may have to be more creative in the space used—an auditorium, large field, prayer space, etc.
    • Pick a theme: this can be anything controversial within your community, such as immigration, feminism, taxes, racism, etc.
    • Find community leaders of varying stances on this subject to agree to come together and hold this debate
    • Create a flyer for the event and circulate it within the faith communities involved and the larger community
    • Create a strategy for how to host this event so that everyone can participate:
      • Pick a maximum amount of time for speakers to express their point of view(We would recommend rounds of 5 minutes)
      • Pick a realistic number of speakers to share viewpoints (two speakers holding opposite views is a great place to start).
    • A photographer to capture the event (be sure to send us pictures! Email them to [email protected])

Day of the event:

  • Set up plenty of chairs for the event, if possible setting up tables or groupings of chairs for dialogue in-between debates and following the conversation
  • Faith leaders to begin this conversation in discussing the importance of getting to know others across differences, encouraging those not to react in anger but in better understanding
  • A facilitator to open the event and explain the significance, the schedule, etc.
  • Have a cleanup committee

Guidelines for debate leaders:

  • Communicate with them the topic and procedure for the evening
  • Encourage them to come prepared and warn them of the strict time limit
  • Emphasize the tone of the evening: not to win a debate or bring others to see one point of view, but rather to get to know others across differences

Questions for discussion

  • For guided questions on specific topics visit: https://livingroomconversations.org/
  • What perspective resonated the most with you?
  • What points were missing from the conversation?
  • Was there a story that is similar to something that you experienced within your own identity group?
  • Do you feel that you better understand or relate to someone of a different religious, ethnic or political background than your own?
  • What are you walking away from this evening thinking or feeling?