On November 7, 2005, NPR's "This I Believe" series, which features individuals' statements of personal belief, featured Eboo Patel, an American Muslim and director of the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago. Patel discussed an incident in his childhood that has led him into interfaith work and coalition-building with members of other faiths:
"A few years after we graduated [from high school], my Jewish friend from the lunchroom reminded me of an experience we both wish had never happened. A group of thugs in our high school had taken to scrawling anti-Semitic slurs on classroom desks and shouting them in the hallway.
I did not confront them. I did not comfort my Jewish friend. Instead I averted my eyes from their bigotry, and I avoided my friend because I couldn't stand to face him.
My friend told me he feared coming to school those days, and he felt abandoned as he watched his close friends do nothing. Hearing him tell me of his suffering and my complicity is the single most humiliating experience of my life.
My friend needed more than my silent presence at the lunch table. I realize now that to believe in pluralism means I need the courage to act on it. Action is what separates a belief from an opinion. Beliefs are imprinted through actions.
In the words of the great American poet Gwendolyn Brooks: "We are each other's business; we are each other's harvest; we are each other's magnitude and bond."
I cannot go back in time and take away the suffering of my Jewish friend, but through action I can prevent it from happening to others."
You can read and listen to the entire essay on NPR's "This I Believe" website.
This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News.
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