A century ago, renowned scholar W.E.B. Du Bois cautioned that the 20th century would be plagued by “the problem of the color line.” Now in the 21st century, many would agree we are faced with the challenge of the faith line. On one side are the religious totalitarians who believe there is only one way to legitimately live by a particular faith. On the other side are the pluralists who believe that people belonging to different faiths and communities need to learn how to live together with a sense of mutual trust and loyalty. Eboo Patel, founder and executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core, seeks to strengthen the movement for religious pluralism in the tradition of peaceful coexistence and equal dignity for all regardless of faith.
The son of Muslim immigrants from India, Patel was raised in a suburb of Chicago. His adolescence, like that of many young Americans, involved balancing multiple identities, which at times led him to feel like an American “other” because of his Indian heritage and Muslim faith. Yet, it was the radical work of peace, equality, and love exuded by James Baldwin, Dorothy Day, Rabbi Abraham Heschel, and the Dalai Lama that set the course of Patel’s life. In 2002 he received his doctorate in sociology from OxfordUniversity on a Rhodes scholarship and has been pioneering the religious pluralism movement ever since.
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