Eboo Patel

Ashoka Fellow
Glen Ellyn, IL, United States, North America
Fellow Since 2004
My work: Building an interfaith movement of youth, focused on common service to others.

Citation

This profile was prepared when Eboo Patel was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Eboo founded Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) to bring young people from different faith communities together to work in social action projects, fostering cooperation instead of conflict among youth of diverse religious beliefs. IFYC’s program involves thousands of people working on social action projects addressing problems ranging from homelessness and hunger to education. IFYC also encourages young participants to identify values they share with one another and then articulate how their religious traditions speak to those shared values. IFYC is the first organization to use a service learning methodology to engage religiously diverse teenagers and young adults in community service that teaches them to live in understanding and cooperative service to others.
The contemporary interfaith movement is dominated by people over 50. Interfaith youth projects are often talked about but rarely developed; and if they are, they are haphazard and temporary. Most interfaith work takes place in the “languages” of theology or ceremony. Outside of the interfaith world, multicultural work takes into account identity characteristics such as race, class, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation, but rarely considers religion. Yet religion is central to the identities of many young Americans.
Many interfaith organizations focus on theological dialogue, which often leads to mutually exclusive claims around, for example, the nature of Jesus. IFYC encourages their youth participants to engage in cooperative service projects and then share how their different religions inspire service. This approach allows them to recognize what they have in common with each other while maintaining their uniqueness, building community and shared understanding at a time in American history when both are especially strained.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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