Interfaith Speakers Bureau Overview

Initiated in 2007, the Interfaith Speakers Bureau (IFSB), is both a natural outgrowth of the interfaith friendships and connections the organization has built in the course of its work and a recognition that the acceptance of Islam and Muslims is intimately related to the degree to which our society accepts and welcomes cultural and religious diversity and pluralism in general. The Interfaith Speakers Bureau extends ING’s outreach efforts to build bridges among religious communities and enhance religious literacy and mutual respect.

To learn more about the powerful impact IFSB has had on the Bay Area, click here. By leveraging the success of the Islamic Speakers Bureau and through partnerships with over 50 Bay Area interfaith organizations, ING can provide schools, colleges, universities, and other organizations with onsite interfaith speaker panels that represent multiple religions.The Interfaith Speakers Bureau program consists of speakers from the Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu faith traditions. Our purpose is to increase cultural and religious literacy and mutual respect while furthering religious freedom and pluralism in our communities. We achieve this through
educational dialogues.

The needs and opportunities that the Interfaith Speakers Bureau program addresses are as follows:

  1. To fulfill the goal of the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law
    respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. “ At this critical time of
    government preferences and global strife that often center on religious divisions, modeling an interfaith
    community in one’s local area that is inclusive of all major religious groups and voices is an important
    step towards living and practicing religious pluralism, a goal which has never been so important.
  2. To fulfill the growing demand for education about world religions in public institutions, particularly in:
    • Middle and high schools where religion in the context of social studies and world history is required
      curriculum.
    • Colleges and universities where teachers and resources about religion, particularly Islam, are highly
      sought after in a post-9/11 context.
    • Law enforcement agencies, corporations, and healthcare facilities that are required to teach cultural
      diversity or competency as part of corporate, state, and/or federal mandates.
    • Government, community, and faith-based institutions that are seeking to build bridges among
      people of different faiths.
  3. To fulfill the growing number of requests for grassroots activists, speakers, and educators who are
    regularly connected in their regional houses of worship and organizations to provide education about
    their faith tradition and their views and perspectives on a variety of issues.
  4. To provide accurate supplemental material for public institutions that offer in-house delivery of
    cultural diversity training and other programs.
  5. To provide needed content for interfaith dialogues and conversations in local communities.
  6. To improve interreligious dialogue among people of all faiths, especially between Muslim and Jewish
    Americans, as it improves relationships and increases peace and harmony in local and regional
    communities.
  7. To provide answers to frequently asked questions about religious communities and ongoing conflicts in
    the world that involve religion.
  8. To address prevalent stereotypes and misconceptions about Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and
    Christians, which in the case of Muslims have risen dramatically after 9/11 according to various polls.
  9. To reduce discrimination and bias in the delivery of services in public institutions by better informing
    service providers about different religious beliefs and practices.
  10. To improve the quality of life for members of faith communities by reducing incidents of prejudice and
    hate crimes against them.

The Interfaith Speakers Bureau offers two major types of panels. Requesters can select from one of the following topics:

Multi-Faith Panel: Living the Faith
How do adherents of different religions live out their beliefs, practices, and values in the busy lives they lead in the contemporary world? Representatives of major world religions in this panel discussion begin with a brief introduction of their beliefs and practices before answering the question of how they live out their faith. They specifically draw on their understanding and experiences living in the San Francisco Bay region. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Shared Values Among Faiths
Religions and cultures differ, but all the major world religions share key values. In this panel discussion, representatives of major world religions will offer a brief overview of their beliefs and practices and discuss the human and ethical values they share with one another. Through this discussion they will demonstrate that, despite profound differences of belief and practice, all their traditions promote common values that are vitally important today. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Religion and Pluralism
How do different religions view the beliefs and practices of other traditions? Is adherence to one religious tradition compatible with respect for the many other religious traditions and convictions in our world? In this panel discussion, representatives of major world religions will begin with a brief overview of their beliefs and practices before addressing these questions and explaining how each of their traditions is able to adhere to its convictions while taking a positive and respectful stance toward the diverse beliefs of others. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Religion and Extremism
Various forms of fundamentalism and extremism pose a problem in all religious traditions and communities. In this panel presentation, panelists representing major world religions will begin with a brief overview of their beliefs and practices and then discuss the forms that extremism and fundamentalism take in their traditions and how their communities meet the challenge posed by such distortions of their beliefs. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: The Abrahamic Faiths
Three religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—are considered “Abrahamic,” because they all consider themselves to be derived from the figure of Abraham, described in both the Bible and the Qur’an as the founder of monotheism. The three faiths share much in common, including belief in One God, similar ethical teachings, and origin in the Middle East. Nonetheless, their histories have been marked at least as much by conflict as by peaceful co-existence. In the panel, adherents of these three faiths discuss their similarities and differences and show how these religions are now working towards a common vision of peace and cooperation. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Women and Religion
In history, religions have sometimes promoted and sometimes limited the rights and power of women. In this panel, adherents of major world religions discuss the ways that their faith has impacted and does impact women both negatively and positively and how religion can affirm and support women as they seek equality and freedom. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Peacemaking in Religion
Religions generally declare themselves as valuing and promoting peace, but in history religion has often been enlisted to support wars. In this panel, adherents of major world religions discuss the resources for peacemaking found in the traditions and teaching of their faith and discuss how religion can contribute to peace in the world. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Religion—What Is It Good For?
The idea that religion is obsolete and incompatible with science and that society would be better off without it has now become widespread. In this panel, adherents of major world religions respond to this challenge, showing how their faith can fruitfully embrace contemporary concerns and insights and contribute to human betterment. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Religion and Environmental Concerns
Environmental degradation and climate change have become major global concerns that threaten our existence on this planet as we know it. In this panel presentation, panelists representing major world religions will begin with a brief overview of their beliefs and practices before discussing their religion’s teachings about conservation and environmental preservation. While environmental issues are a new concern in the form they present themselves today, religious traditions have long addressed the question of how humanity relates to and interacts with the environment. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Religious Holidays
Most religions observe special days to celebrate aspects of their teaching, history, or values. In this panel, adherents of major world religions discuss how some of the holy days of their tradition are celebrated and what meaning they have for the individuals and communities who take part in them. (60 – 120 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Separation of Church and State
The relations between religious institutions and state power have been a source of controversy and conflict throughout human history. In this panel discussion, representatives of five major world religions begin with a brief overview of their beliefs and practices before discussing different ways that their religious community has interacted with the state in history and today. (60 – 120 minutes)

Muslim-Jewish Relations in the U.S. – Living in the Shadow of the Middle East Conflict
This panel aims at shifting Muslim-Jewish American conversations away from the Middle East conflict towards common interests as Americans, addressing topics such as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and the challenge of maintaining a religious identity as two of the largest religious minorities in the country. (55 minutes)

Multi-Faith Panel: Bullying Prevention and Education: Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish Students
This panel for middle and high schools give students an understanding of some of their peers from minority groups who are harassed 50% more often than others. The panel provides an overview of Muslim, Sikh, and Jewish cultures, and highlights the consequences of bullying and the importance of working together to prevent bullying. This panel is available for assemblies only. (60-120 minutes)

Custom Panel
This panel allows you to pick a specific focus that is not included above. Once you select this panel, we will contact you to discuss the details of your custom panel.

To schedule an interfaith panel, click here.