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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 75 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.
“There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story. ”― Mary Lou Kownacki
One of the most powerful methods of getting to know our neighbors is through the act of sharing stories. While those around us may know a bit about us—our job, our family members, our hobbies—there is often much about peoples’ lives that is hidden below the surface. When we give those around us the opportunity to express themselves and share in a creative way, we develop empathy for them at a deeper level.
The purpose of this event is to use storytelling to get to know others across cultural differences. By picking a topic and bringing community members together, we can allow deep and lasting bonds to develop beyond a superficial level and begin to see those of different backgrounds from our own in a new light.
What would this event look like?
This event should be a fun-filled evening in which community members come to get to know others better across differences and to bond over wonderful entertainment.
We encourage you to take this idea and adapt it to best suit your community, but here are a few aspects that we think are important.
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 to create flyers, circulate the information to groups involved, and promote the event in 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. 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 suits 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: racism, what you wish to share about your faith, stories about neighbors, your first job, your family immigration story, interfaith couples, travel horror stories, etc.
- Create a flyer for the event and circulate it within the faith communities involved and the larger community
- Create a system for those wishing to share their stories and creative expressions to register for the event
- Create a strategy for how to host this event so that everyone can participate:
- Pick a maximum amount of time to spend on stage (We would recommend 5 minutes)
- Pick an order which reflects the types of performances, grouping similar acts together
- Arrange for 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 between acts
- Arrange for faith leaders to offer a prayer or meditation and to close this event with their own five-minute performance
- Designate a facilitator to open the event and explain its schedule and significance
- Have a cleanup committee
Guidelines for working with volunteer performers
- Share with them the topic and procedure for the evening
- Encourage them to come prepared and warn them of the strict time limit
- Have judges who rate the performances and award prizes
- Collaborate with a local coffee shop or The Moth (an open mic night organization)
Questions for discussion
- What story resonated the most with you?
- 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 from your own?
- What will you be thinking or feeling as you walk away from this event?