“Is interfaith cooperation a means or an end?” “Is there a difference between tolerance, coexistence, cooperation, and appreciation?” and “What message would you give to young people about getting involved in interfaith work?” Those were just a few of the questions local interfaith leaders were asked recently by three French students who have been traveling around the world to explore and document interfaith cooperation.
Victor Grezes, Josselin Rieth, and Ismaël Medjdoub are part of a five-person world tour sponsored by Coexister, the Youth Interfaith Movement in France and SparkNews, an organization encouraging the sharing of inspiring stories. All students in their 20’s, an Atheist, an Agnostic, and a Muslim, they have been traveling with two others, a Christian and a Jew, on the InterFaith Tour. Since July of 2013 they have met more than 470 activists in more than 45 countries. They had a private audience with Pope Francis, met the Great Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt, the Maronite Patriarch in Lebanon, and many local activists.
The Interfaith Center at the Presidio was instrumental in setting up interviews and connecting them with events in our area, and many of the people they met were closely connected with ICP. The three (the other two were elsewhere for this stretch) spent a week in the Bay Area, their first stop on the U.S. leg of their visit, and then will be on their way to Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Washington.
Their goal is not merely to meet and talk, but to share what they have learned as they travel and to end their journey with a “Tour de France” that will take them throughout their own country to communicate the importance of interfaith cooperation and how it’s being done around the world. You can find out about them and their travels at their website (www.interfaithtour.com/en/), on Facebook , YouTube, Twitter (@InterFaithTour), and Instagram.
During their week in the Bay Area, they were able to attend the URI Circles of Light Gala on Saturday, March 22, and then on Monday to interview Bishop Bill Swing and staff at the URI headquarters at the Presidio and, at the Presidio Chapel, meet with Rev. Paul Chaffee, former Director of ICP and current editor of The Interfaith Observer. Tuesday found them in San Jose, talking with Rev. Andrew Kille, Chair of SiVIC, the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council and Editor of Bay Area Interfaith Connect; Maha ElGenaidi and Henry Millstein of ING, and Saher Sidiquee, a Muslim student in the campus ministry at Santa Clara University. Saher later took the three to the campus.
On Wednesday, they met Rev. Deborah Lee of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigrant Rights project of Clergy & Laity United, and later talked with ICP Managing Director Linda Crawford, Board member and founder Rita Semel, and Michael Pappas of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. In the evening, they were able to attend the “Building Bridges” dinner sponsored by SFIC.
Thursday found them in Berkeley, where they interviewed former ICP board member and Director of Operations for The Chaplaincy Institute Vanessa Brake and longtime ICP board member and Elder of the Covenant of the Goddess, Don Frew. Don gave them a tour of the Adenocentyn Research Library, a significant collection of works by and about Pagans. (“Our first meeting with a Wiccan!” they tweeted.) They ended their week in the East Bay, talking with Fr. Tom Bonacci at the Interfaith Peace Project and Rev. Will McGarvey, Director of the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County.
The InterFaith Tour has already stirred up interest and excitement, drawing together a world-wide network of people and organizations to inspire further cooperative work. We look forward to hearing more about them in the months ahead.
This is the archive for the Bay Area Interfaith Connect, the former newsletter for the Interfaith Center at the Presidio .