by Liz Anderson
What do you have to do to get a bunch of teenagers out of bed at the crack of dawn during their summer vacation? Would you guess the answer is giving them a way to serve their community?
Last Saturday we gathered together in Mishawaka, Indiana for a day of interfaith community service. We started bright and early, and right on time as the doors opened we had 21 high school and college students ready to get to work. All together we had 36 Muslim, Jewish, and Christian friends and one Hindu.
We were helping out at the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which is a secondhand store for building materials and furniture where all profits support Habitat’s mission of affordable housing for everyone. We were able to help finish a number of projects, including unboxing a slew of new cabinets, organizing the floor and outdoor stock, and moving loads of furniture.
After a hard morning’s work, everyone gathered in the break room. Thanks to Islamic Relief USA and their partnership on this project, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and shared conversation. One of the Muslim high schoolers said afterwards, “Please do this again soon! It was awesome! I really liked the informal nature of the lunch discussion.” And one of the Christian teens said, “I was kindof nervous because this is a different environment, but I had fun. I didn’t even notice that we were from different religions. I liked talking to different people and making new friends.”
Most of the families who came were connected to the South Bend Women’s Interfaith Lunch, which has been meeting monthly for over sixteen years! Local Muslim, Jewish, and Christian women gather regularly for learning, conversation, food, and friendship. This has produced an incredible local network of faith-based connections and life-changing friendships for the women involved.
“Christians, Jews, and Muslims want to show that we can all work together for the good of our community. We’re giving our time this weekend to draw attention to the real need for affordable housing in our county,” said Parveen Bashar, one of the leaders of the women’s lunch.
As we finished cleaning up, we were encouraged by people saying they want to do more events like this together in the future. One of the teens said, “Seeing people from different religions make me believe larger groups can work together and make the world a better place.”
This Fall, Peace Catalyst and Islamic Relief are partnering together on more multi-faith community projects like this around the U.S. Details and new projects will be coming soon, so keep up to date at our Events page.