Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters Overview

Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters is a national grassroots campaign of the Know Your Neighbor Coalition, created and led by Islamic Networks Group (ING). The campaign is a response to the voices of hate and division which are growing louder and more numerous, particularly against Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities, and other minorities. Together, we seek to respond to anti-minority sentiment, bigotry, and hatred by encouraging and facilitating face-to-face engagement, relationship-building, dialogue, and action between people of different religious traditions, beliefs, and cultures.

Over the coming year, with the unique opportunities and needs that an election cycle brings, congregations, places of worship, and community-based organizations will be at the forefront of efforts to build face-to-face, person-to-person relationships of trust and mutual respect with those from different religious traditions and backgrounds.

Campaign Partners

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Join this Initiative!

We know that many Americans today feel the urgency of building understanding and respect among people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, but they often don’t know where to begin. We plan to create a shared space in the interfaith world, an easy-to-access way for individuals or groups to find out how to become involved in interfaith activity locally and to show the American public the wide variety of interfaith events, programs, and organizations throughout the U.S.

Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters is inviting others to become a part of this initiative. By becoming a “Neighbor” of this movement your organization would gain:

1. Networking amongst some of the most recognized interfaith organizations in this country.

2. Publicity of events and programs through our interactive map, as well as social media outlets and newsletters of those already on board.

3. Resources being shared by interfaith groups who have already joined this movement.

4. The opportunity to be on the forefront of this growing, national movement.

For more information on what it would mean to become a Neighbor please read this document Becoming a KYN ME Neighbor and by reaching out to Interfaith Coordinator Kate Chance at Kate@ing.org.

Training for Interfaith Work

We recognize that different communities and individuals have different levels and types of knowledge, skills, and opportunities to connect with those of other religious and cultural backgrounds. We want to encourage harder-to-reach audiences who may have never intentionally engaged with others in this way to do so, and to build their capacity through training and support (level 1.0, capacity-building). Audiences who are ready to engage with individuals and communities from different backgrounds, such as through inviting clergy from another tradition to an informal coffee-hour after a service, will be supported to do so (level 2.0, engagement). Those who are ready to collaborate more intentionally or on a deeper or wider level, such as through congregation twinning, will be equipped to do so (level 3.0, collaboration).

More information is forthcoming. In the meantime, write to Kate@ing.org for training requests.

Need and Opportunity

People who regularly attend a place of worship are often more deeply rooted in their community and have greater social capital and larger, stronger in-person social networks than those who do not. At the same time, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked, Sunday morning can often be “the most segregated hour in this nation”: a number of different communities and congregations may be physically located in the same neighborhood or even on the same block, but rarely do congregants and worshippers have the opportunity, resources, or capacity to connect with each other in meaningful and authentic ways. It is human nature to mistrust the unknown. Our communities are only as strong as the connections we have, the connections we make, and the connections we build. It is not enough to engage with others in our communities only in crisis situations when there is a need to respond to an immediate threat. Instead, we need to intentionally build the strength and capacity of our communities on an institutional and organizational level – which begins when we get to know our neighbors.

The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign from ING will encourage and equip individuals, communities, and congregations to stand up to all forms of hatred and bigotry by engaging with their neighbors in simple, practical ways, and that the solution to ending bigotry and discrimination is through the simple act of face-to-face interaction, and to #KnowYourNeighbor.

Defining and Understanding the Scope of the Campaign

Terms like interfaith, multi-faith, and interreligious are often used interchangeably, and may be understood differently in different contexts or communities. The Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign believes that interfaith, multi-faith, or interreligious dialogue or action means being rooted in your own identity, tradition, and culture whilst having the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to learn from and about others in meaningful and impactful ways. Except for the campaign’s title, you are encouraged to use whichever term your own community is most comfortable or familiar with.

Similarly, the terms diversity and pluralism can have different connotations and meaning in different communities. According to Harvard scholar of religion Diana Eck: ‘Diversity is just plurality, plain and simple – splendid, colorful, perhaps threatening. Pluralism is the engagement that creates a common society from all that plurality’. Interfaith Youth Core Founder Eboo Patel expands on this and suggests that a helpful framing could be principled pluralism: ‘Principled pluralism encourages that engagement, but respects the desire of some groups to respectfully limit it, in harmony with deeply held views on matters of faith’. It is important for members of your community or congregation to understand that they are invited and encouraged to bring the fullness of their own identity to the Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters campaign. This project is not about watering-down fundamental beliefs, values, and practices of individuals and communities, but about creating platforms and opportunities for people to learn from and about themselves and each other in safe and productive ways.

IFYC has a helpful resource on Identifying a Theology or Ethic of Interfaith Cooperation which speaks to this idea: https://www.ifyc.org/sites/default/files/u4/Theology%20Resource.pdf. Depending on the nature of your own community, individuals may have heard of documents like Nostra Aetate which opened the Catholic Church to dialogue with Jewish communities in particular, and other communities more broadly (“In our time, when day by day mankind is being drawn closer together, and the ties between different peoples are becoming stronger, the Church examines more closely her relationship to non-Christian religions. In her task of promoting unity and love among men, indeed among nations, she considers above all in this declaration what men have in common and what draws them to fellowship.”); or the more recent document A Common Word Between Us and You which reaffirmed the need for positive relationships and dialogue between Muslims and Christians (“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world.”)

Freedom of speech and religion are enshrined and affirmed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The so-called Golden Rule, also called the ethic of reciprocity, is a moral principle of altruism found in almost all cultures and religious traditions. It is often expressed as ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you’.

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To explore multifaith programs and events in your area, please visit our interactive map: https://ing.org/all-events/.