Boston, founded in 1630, is known for The Freedom Trail, a three-mile urban hike leading visitors through the city’s rich connections to the American Revolutionary War period. As of 2000, forty-eight percent of Bostonians identified as Roman Catholic, a connection often traced back to Italian and Irish immigrants, the latter of whom came to New England to escape Ireland’s potato famine in the 1840s. Today, “Beantown,” a city of 645,000, hosts the headquarters of the Unitarian Universalism Association (UUA) and the Mother Church of the Church of Christ, Scientist. Over one hundred Jewish, thirty-five Hindu, more than twenty-five Muslim, and fifty-five interfaith organizations make their home in Greater Boston.
While 9/11 may have catalyzed interfaith work in other cities, initiatives to promote inter-religious understanding have been thriving in greater Boston for decades. Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries, the “oldest interfaith social justice network” in the Boston area, has been mobilizing congregations and communities, both urban and suburban, around issues of racial and economic injustice since the mid 1960s. YouthLEAD, formerly Interfaith Action, Inc., continues to be a pioneer in engaging young people in the interfaith movement through its youth-led leadership training programs. Greater Boston is home to dozens of colleges and universities, many with their own interfaith initiatives such as Wellesley College’s Multifaith Center.