"Extremists of all traditions belong to one tradition," says Eboo Patel. "Extremism."
Patel, founder and director of the Chicago-based Interfaith Youth Core and a member of President Obama's Faith Advisory Council, spoke today to an audience of delegates and visitors to the UCC's General Synod 27.
"We live in a time of global religious crisis," he said. "Will we follow the world [of religious extremists] or build a bridge?" Acknowledging the UCC's tradition of diversity, Patel challenged the denomination to "build young people who are interfaith leaders" who will build bridges between religions.
"We are writing a new chapter in the interfaith movement. What does it mean to write this new chapter in the history of America?," the most religiously diverse society in the world.
Building these leaders, he says, requires building a framework, creating a knowledge base, and growing a skill set which encourages interfaith cooperation. The result will be a pluralism which respects individual religious and social identities, and works towards a common good.
"Have a knowledge base that fleshes out the framework and supports diversity," he says, and a "skill set that has something concrete to do and is something to build a conversation around."
In a quote from the Koran, Patel added "God made us different nations and tribes so we may come to know one another."