This profile was last updated in 2011
The mission of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) is to make interfaith cooperation a social norm. Too often, religion is seen as a barrier of division. IFYC believes people of all faith and secular traditions can build a bridge of cooperation, strengthening our civil society and promoting common good for all.
Just as civil rights leaders and environmentalists built transformative movements in the 20th century, IFYC believes that interfaith leaders will build the movement for interfaith cooperation in the 21st century.
IFYC was founded on the premise that young people can both cultivate environments of respect and mutual loyalty and have a positive impact on pressing issues of local and global concern through interfaith cooperation. Interfaith cooperation leads to a society characterized by religious pluralism.
IFYC defines religious pluralism as an intentional engagement of religious diversity toward a positive end. By this definition, true religious pluralism generates: (1) respect for individual religious and non-religious identities; (2) relationships across lines of difference; and (3) common action for the common good, increasing social capital and civic engagement. It goes beyond mere tolerance for diversity and requires that we build positive relationships across difference and work with one another.
The Interfaith Youth Core was founded in 1998 by a group of young people after they attended an interfaith conference hosted by the United Religions Initiative at Stanford University. Three leading organizations – United Religions Initiative, The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, and The Interfaith Center of New York – committed themselves to support a “youth core” as well as the first IFYC conference. This conference, held in 1999, consisted of 16 people and was led by Eboo Patel, Jeff Pinzino, and Anastasia White.
IFYC relocated to Chicago in 2000 as a literal “basement operation” at the home of Pinzino, who traveled widely to organize for IFYC and marshal resources. IFYC began to host young adult gatherings citywide shortly thereafter. In 2001, it formed the Chicago Youth Council, which brought together high school students from around the city to join in multi-faith community service and dialogue initiatives. 2002 marked the acquisition of a Chicago office and IFYC’s first grant of $35,000 from the Ford Foundation, as well as the creation of a Board of Directors and the legal incorporation of the organization. IFYC’s first “National Conference of Youth Work,” which was held at the University of Chicago in 2003 and attended by 105 people, led to IFYC’s selection to coordinate a national interfaith youth service campaign. Additionally, Eboo was asked to speak at the 16th Nobel Peace Prize Forum (held the following year in 2004).IFYC has been involved in several conferences and national/international initiatives, including the 2005 Clinton Global Initiative. As a result of the Clinton Global Initiative, Eboo and Queen Rania of Jordan established an international student exchange between Jordan and the United States and made a documentary, titled EXCHANGE, which premiered at the Fifth National Conference on Interfaith Youth Work (October 28-30, 2007) in Chicago.
From 2007-2011 IFYC implemented the IFYC Fellows Alliance, an intensive year-long fellowship that equipped interfaith student leaders on college campuses to run interfaith service and dialogue events. IFYC also collaborated with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to run the Faiths Act Fellows program, which brought together exceptional future leaders inspired by faith to serve as interfaith ambassadors for the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with particular focus on malaria.
Currently, the organization runs several Interfaith Leadership Institutes (ILIs) annually. ILIs train students to run Better Together, IFYC’s model interfaith action campaign. IFYC also serves as a resource for campuses to creatively and effectively develop the core components of their strategic plans for the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which President Obama launched in spring of 2011. IFYC’s work extends internationally through its Interfaith Leaders for Social Action program.
Interfaith Youth Core has gone through several organizational restructurings. Currently it is positioned as an agenda setting organization for the interfaith cooperation movement focusing its efforts on the college sector to help make larger societal change, leverage social capital, and engage high-level public and policy audiences to make interfaith cooperation a key social issue Previously, its programs were organized geographically, with both a Chicago Action Program and a National Action Program. They are now organized around three major strategic goals. Leadership and International Partnerships nurture and network a critical mass of interfaith leaders on American colleges and internationally; Campus Partnerships collaborates with college campuses to build successful models of interfaith cooperation; and Communications works to change the public discourse about religion from one of inevitable conflict to one of cooperation.
Better Together Campaign
IFYC’s Leadership department focuses on empowering and cultivating interfaith youth leaders through the Better Together Campaign. Over the course of the school year, students participating in the campaign:
• Choose a social issue to address with their campaign (ex; hunger, environmental sustainability);
• Mobilize their peers en masse across lines of religious/non-religious difference to make a positive impact on their issue; and
• Connect to a national network of other students leading the campaign.
The campaign offers five core events that organizers can choose to implement: Talk Better Together, Watch Better Together, Play Better Together, Fast Better Together, and Do Better Together. Throughout the year, IFYC’s Leadership staff train students to run the campaign at Interfaith Leadership Institutes around the country. After ILIs, Leadership staff maintain contact with organizers, offer resources, share stories, and connect organizers across the country.
International Partnerships: Interfaith Leaders for Social Action
In partnership with Indian non-governmental organizations (NGOs), IFYC will equip a network of Interfaith Leaders committed to advancing interfaith cooperation in India. ILSA will:
- Train, mobilize, and empower 50 Interfaith Leaders in India;
- Build interfaith cooperation through social action on issues such as education, women’s health, the environment and conflict resolution.
Partner NGOs will create Interfaith Hubs in the four metropolitan Indian cities: Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad. These Interfaith Hubs will:
- Catalyze youth service projects,
- Contribute to a more robust civil society, and
- Foster models for replication across communities, specifically where interfaith cooperation is most challenged.
The 3-year program receives generous support from the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor – Office of International Religious Freedom.