Laurie Goodstein, religion reporter for the New York Times, has written a fascinating piece on a relatively new effort to increase religious tolerance in the United States. In “An Effort to Foster Tolerance in Religion,” Goodstein tells the story of Eboo Patel, a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in sociology from Oxford, a Muslim man who is also a valued adviser to President Obama.
Noting with concern the rise of intolerance among religious people, Patel decided to do something positive:
He figured that if Muslim radicals and extremists of other religions were recruiting young people, then those who believe in religious tolerance should also enlist the youth.
Interfaith activism could be a cause on college campuses, he argued, as much “a norm” as the environmental or women’s rights movements, as ambitious as Teach for America. The crucial ingredient was to gather students of different religions together not just to talk, he said, but to work together to feed the hungry, tutor children or build housing.
“Interfaith cooperation should be more than five people in a book club,” Mr. Patel said, navigating his compact car to a panel discussion at Elmhurst College just west of downtown Chicago, while answering questions and dictating e-mails to an aide. “You need a critical mass of interfaith leaders who know how to build relationships across religious divides, and see it as a lifelong endeavor.”
To learn more about Eboo Patel and his interfaith effort, check out Goodstein’s fine article. It seems to me that in our increasingly pluralistic religious world, endeavors like Patel’s deserve serious attention.