by Hana Ashchi
The January 2014 Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI) in Atlanta was my third ILI that I have attended and I must say this has been my favorite. As a Better Together Coach, I was able to train and assist my cohort in how to build a campaign on their campus. I have never seen so much passion and eagerness in these students. They were all engaged in deep discussions about topics that really mattered. Everyone within my cohort, including delegates from UNF all worked together in trying to understand what interfaith cooperation means.
On top of that, the food was simply amazing. I always look forward to coming to the ILIs because of all the interfaith-friendly food and snacks that are offered. It is customized to every single person whether you eat halal, kosher, vegetarian or vegan. The best part is that when everyone gets together to eat, you are not sitting next to people you know, but people that you don’t really know, so you have an opportunity to get to know them.
This ILI has reminded me exactly why I do interfaith work and why it is so important to be a part of this movement. We deal with people from different religious and non-religious identities every day, so it is important to understand and know where they come from. You don’t necessarily have to believe in their beliefs, but you learn to respect them. I enjoyed working with everyone in order to make this ILI memorable and it taught me a great lesson.
To be a part of a change, you have to set the example. If you want someone to understand you and know where you stand, you have to be able to speak up and speak out about what you believe hoping that you can make an impact in other people’s lives.
Dr. Eboo Patel and the whole Interfaith Youth Core staff has taught me the importance of being myself and not hiding my beliefs just because someone else might disagree with it. It is because of the disagreements that makes me want to stand up for myself and share my story with anyone who is willing to listen.
I plan to take everything I have learned working with the UNF Interfaith Center and Interfaith Youth Core wherever I go, wherever my career begins and to whoever I meet. Interfaith cooperation has become a social norm in my life and I can only imagine how other people in my position have made it a social norm in their life.