President Barack Obama has named Dr. Eboo Patel, Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), to the newly created White House Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The 25 member council is made up of religious and secular advisors who will guide decisions on both domestic and foreign policy issues.
Last week Joshua Dubois, director of faith outreach for the Obama campaign, was named Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which will house the Council. In addition to Dr. Patel, other members of the council include Jim Wallis, the founder of Sojourners, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
When informed of his selection, Dr. Patel said, "I am very honored to have been asked to serve on the President's Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. The organization I founded and lead, Interfaith Youth Core, shares President Obama's goal of using our faith traditions as a bridge to unite us all to work for the benefit of others and for what the President calls 'the betterment of our world.'"
On his blog, The Faith Divide, Dr. Patel wrote:
We had 30 minutes in the White House with the President yesterday. The Oval Office looks larger on TV than it does in person, but the President looks pretty much the same -- that striking combination of regal figure and next-door-neighbor.
He spoke happily about his daughters and somberly about the economy. "Even if we get everything right," he said, "people are going to be hurting these next few years." And then he became all business.
He talked about the front-line work that so many organizations are doing to keep people fed and clothed and sheltered in America, and how much more acute the need is during an economic crisis. He talked about how many of those front-line groups are faith-based, and how we needed to do as much as possible to support each other and our fellow Americans in need right now.
This is not the time to argue between faith-based and secular, or Muslim and Christian, he emphasized. This is the time to find the common ground of compassion in all faiths and traditions, and put it into action where it is needed most.
'Maybe some of those talented young people who can't find jobs on Wall Street will join your efforts,' the President said, with a twinkle in his eye.
And then he connected his domestic vision with his foreign policy goals -- speaking of the importance of reaching out to the Muslim world, and making sure that our faiths are bridges for service and cooperation instead barriers of separation and resentment.
There are millions of religious young people in the world interacting with greater frequency. Where so many of these interactions tend towards conflict, Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) aims to introduce a new relationship, one that is about mutual respect and religious pluralism. Instead of focusing a dialogue on political or theological differences, IFYC builds relationships on the values that we share, such as compassion, and how we can live out those values together to contribute to the betterment of our community. The IFYC is creating these relationships across the world by inspiring, networking, and resourcing young people, who are the leaders of this movement. Among other programming including international youth exchanges and trainings, IFYC coordinates the Fellows Alliance, a network of 20 college students around the country working to promote religious pluralism on their campuses and in their communities. IFYC also partners with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to run the Faiths Act Fellowship, an opportunity for religiously diverse young people to mobilize faith communities to advance the Millennium Development Goals.
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