Walking Together In Faith
This editorial was written by ING intern Seher Siddiqee, who participated in an interfaith immersion trip to New Mexico. Her reflections of the journey show the importance of young people interacting positively with their own faith and the faiths of others. ING’s forthcoming Youth Program is based upon that belief.
By Seher Siddiqee, ING Intern
This summer I spent my time at ING developing their new youth program, and finding ways to present information about faith to Muslim teens so that they can learn from it and be able to have the confidence to share their experience with others. This past week, I had an opportunity to see this work in action as a chaperone on a Teen Interfaith Immersion trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Our group was a partnership of student from 3 groups: Shinnyo-en teens, Santa Clara County Teen Interfaith Leadership Council, and Interfaith Youth Council of Central Orange County. The leaders also came from diverse backgrounds, Shinnyo-en leader Jennifer, JCRC leader Diane, and, myself, an ING intern.
We represented an array of religious traditions from across the country including 4 Jews, 5 Shinnyo-en Buddhists, 2 Zoroastrians, 1 Catholic and 1 Muslim. Each of these students was a part of an interfaith council who, from their respective regions, all seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the religious diversity that makes up America.
Over the course of the trip, we participated in a number of activities that expanded our horizons and challenged us to look at the world from a different perspective. We took a meditation class rooted in the Hindu Tradition, helped harvest food on a farm, heard stories from Sikh Gurus, learned ancient warrior techniques, spent time with migrant day workers, and listened to the testimonies of Palestinian and Israeli Teenage Girls as they worked together to learn dialogue skills to take home.
Each of these experiences exposed us to different types of conflict as well as ways we can work to resolve them. Through the meditation practice we learned to unite opposing forces within ourselves to gain inner peace. When handing out breakfast to migrant day workers, we heard of the difficulties they face with immigration laws that prevent many of them from becoming citizens and unable to visit their families. While planting strawberries and peeling garlic, we connected with the sources of our food and learned about the ways that natives adapted lands that were not meant for growing food to becoming a major export of food. We spent time hiking through a nearby canyon to reflect on what our survival needs are and observing the symbiotic relationships in nature. As we listened to the stories of young Palestinian and Israeli women at Creativity for Peace Camp, we were invited to listen to what the other was saying, despite how it might have made us feel. Although there was a lot of disagreement among the women, there was even more respect. They had come to define the word “enemy” as “someone’s story you haven’t heard.”
After each of these activities, we took time to reflect on what we had experienced. I was constantly amazed with the level of conversation among our young interfaith leaders. They approached the conversations with curiosity and respect for one another. They did not back away from disagreement; rather they were honest about their feelings and allowed themselves to be vulnerable, continually deepening the conversation. It truly was an honor for me to walk with them on this journey and witness their individual and collective growth, even in just a few days. I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for each one of them. These are the people who inspire me to follow the path that I am, and who give me hope for the world in the future!
As we experienced on this trip, there is much that we learned about our own faith while interacting both with people who share our tradition as well as those who differ. This trip has enabled me to see the importance and value of ING’s youth program, which invites Muslim teens to deepen their understanding of their own tradition so that they can share their experiences with other Muslims as well as individuals from other faith traditions.
In the words of students Isabella and Sogand, “All paths might start somewhere different but they all end up at the same place, the place where faith in humanity is restored because love, compassion, and kindness are shown despite the different faiths.”