Sunday, March 9, 2014

And the Youth Shall See Visions

It is 4:30pm on Sunday and I am sitting in my office waiting for the start of a special program.  Tonight kids from around the city will be coming to Beth-El Zedeck for an awards night.  Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and those of no faith will celebrate the work they did over the last several months to put on and promote the Kenya Carnival.  The Kenya Carnival is a fundraiser and awareness raiser for the orphans and vulnerable children in Western Kenya and part of the Global Interfaith Partnership.  Students here in Indiana attempt to raise money to help students get the tuition they need for secondary schools education which is only partly funded by the government in Kenya.  Their efforts help fund education which is the greatest gift we can give the children of Kenya to help build their communities ravaged by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and colonial destruction.  It is also meant to create an understand of the plight of these young children, many without any parents, who struggle day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour to get basic necessities that we all take for granted.  It is a remarkable undertaking and one that I think could easily be seen as highly valuable in and of itself.

But what I find remarkable is the ancillary benefit for the youth here in Indiana.  I know I have harped on this before but one of the values we hold so dear is the multi-faith  aspect of what we do.  So often these kinds of things that we do are a great deal of lip service.  We struggle to find the time to truly invest in learning about the other.  We sometimes go to a lecture, a program, a celebration.  But more often than not we are merely tourists observing someone else, often a stranger, in their own situation.  Like going to Israel and standing in the back of a church during a mass, or getting yelled at by the nuns at the Church of the Nativity for not being serious enough.  Even worse is the zoo model, where we watch others in their faith practices as if we want to see them in their "natural habitat". But these kids who work side-by-side for a good cause have made a great deal of effort to get to know the stranger in their midst.  They have learned to pray together as one group, not leaving others out.  They have balanced the notion of sacred time and sacred space, understand we don't all operate on the same clock.  They have found a way to deepen their own faith while learning from their friends of another faith.  Never explicitly teaching faith but living it and by doing so allowing others to learn about it.

Interfaith work, what I tend to call multi-faith, is a valuable effort in our ever more diverse society where faith is becoming more personal and faith traditions and religions seem to sprout more and more branches each year.  But too often we strive to learn about the faith and not the people of faith.  The Global Interfaith Partnership and the Kenya Carnival is about people.  People learning about people who motivated by faith strive to make a small corner of Kenya a better place for the youth who live there.  And in doing so get to expand their own vision of the universe that gets a little bigger with every new friend we make.

If you get a chance to help with this by visiting and making a donation, reading our story or getting on the mailing list know that you are supporting a powerful life changing program.  Not only for the people who are benefiting for the food and education we provide, but those who here in the United States get to meet someone they may never normally meet, and learning that there is more to the world than they thought.  And isn't that the greatest gift you can give.

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