by Liz Anderson
What happens when you bring together a dozen teenagers who don’t know each other and come from two totally different religious backgrounds, and ask them to put their phones away for the day and actually TALK to each other?
“I feel like my eyes have opened to make a lot more friends who are different than me.” —Alyson, 15
Something incredible happens, and the five Christian and seven Muslim youth who came to our “Faith and Iman” event on Saturday discovered they weren’t so different after all.
“Today was very eye-opening for me. I’ve never felt so safe to ask questions, talk about, and interact with people of my own faith and other faiths. I realized how similar we all are, even though we appear so different on the outside.” —Madison, 16
Amidst lots of food, fun games, and laughter, we agreed on some guidelines for respectful dialogue and dove straight into questions like these:
“What’s the hardest thing about being a young person and having faith?”
“Does religion make the world a better place?”
“Have you ever had a prayer answered?”
“How would you like to grow in your faith in the future?”
The thoughtfulness, respect, and honesty these teenagers shared with one another was an honor to witness. Through exploring both our similarities and our differences, these young people found common ground in their faith experiences.
“One thing I learned today is to always listen to others because it may surprise you that you guys are on the same page.” —Emaan, 16
We asked everyone to write down the first five words that came to mind about their experience of faith on post-it notes, and then we started comparing. Nearly everyone, Muslim and Christian alike, had some variation of “Love” and “Community” in their set, which was powerful.
“One thing that I learned today is how similar yet different our faiths are; for example, for a lot of us faith plays an important role in our lives and family helps shape us to be who we are today….Everyone is different and we shouldn’t have the mindset of being superior to anyone else.” —Iman
We are so grateful that these teens gave up their Saturday to meet new people, be challenged in their thinking, and practice listening and disagreeing with respect. Several of them are interested in helping us run this event again, and their leadership will help make it even better. If these are the Christian and Muslim leaders of tomorrow, then our world is in good hands.
This was such a great experience. I met new people and heard a ton of different perspectives about my religion as well as others. It was so fun and everyone was so understanding and interested about each other’s religions…. hopefully we can get this group together again =) —Taylor, 14
This pilot project was a joint effort between the Indiana chapter of The Niagara Foundation, Peace Catalyst International, and the youth programs of Geist Christian Church and Noblesville First United Methodist. We’d also like to say a huge thank you to our friends at The Feast UK for pioneering this model of youth work that explores faith, creates friendships, and changes lives. If you’d like to hear more about their resources please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.