Op/Ed: "Where the Youth Are?" by Martin Marty

May 8, 2006

Source: The Martin Marty Center


On May 8, 2006 Martin Marty of The Martin Marty Center wrote, "Numbers of excuses are given for the absence of the younger generations in interfaith causes. First, you have to care about faith to 'do' interfaith, and many don't care. Second, the framing of issues was done some time ago by people who are now old; that framing doesn't match what the young are thinking. Third, the young are busy shaping careers and making personal life decisions. They do not have the time that retirees or still-employed seniors have. Fourth, they do not pay much attention to world affairs, do not read newspapers, are ignorant of news, and watch reality TV, not realistic TV. Fifth, they are cynical, unready to care about positive actions since, they think, it doesn't pay.

One can provide counter evidence for some of these, but enough of the generalizations hold that serious citizens must care about how to change the situation. Here's where this week's sighting comes in. The Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) in late April sponsored community actions in thirty sites worldwide, attracting 4,000 leaders, all young but diverse; 'Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha'i, Jain, and Sikh,' at least, took part. They were involved across the lines of faiths, cultures, and nations in interfaith conversation and cooperative services of many sorts. This was the third annual National Days of Interfaith Youth Service.

I have come to know a founder, if not the founder, of IFYC � Eboo Patel of Chicago, who, with Patrice Brodeur, corralled a score of writers to treat many aspects of youth service work, and published Building the Interfaith Youth Movement. (See below for more information.) Harvard's Diana Eck, perhaps too hopefully and a bit hyperbolically � but I hope she's right � says this book 'is the first fruits of a revolution, the most important and ultimately consequential revolution of our time: the interfaith revolution.' She and others describe the Core activities and reflect on them. The IFYC leaders are not wishy-washy 'we're all the same despite the names of our faiths' sorts, but help young people draw on the great traditions."