Every child in the US does 40hours community service before graduating high school! Why on Earth do they do that?
What did they do wrong?
Then I learned it’s American terminology for doing community work! A culture of providing for the community is a positive initiative that America should be proud of. It was inspiring to see young people from all walks of life, faith groups, social classes, race backgrounds and of all ages working together to benefit society. It reminded me of a verse in the Quran “O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another”
I was a part of a UK delegation to the USA. I was invited by Inter-Faith Youth Core through a visit organised and set up by the US Embassy in London. The trip was for 10 days and we visited Los Angeles and Chicago. During our stay in LA we visited the Mayor’s office and met Miriam Ali (Muhammed Ali’s daughter). We also visited the Umar Ibn Al Khattab Foundation, a truly inspiring Mosque project that covered many areas of social welfare and inter-faith engagement. Lastly, we met with a number of academics at the University of Southern California. The interesting thing was that there was a strong push to inter-faith engagement from academia to grassroots
The least interesting part of LA was Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Although it seems all bling bling on TV, it wasn’t all that when you get there. Santa Monica beach was nice…well a little nicer than Brighton beach.
Four days later, we travelled to Chicago to the home of the Inter-Faith Youth Core. There we met the whole team, learned of their vision and aims behind the visit. Again, we met some really interesting projects like CAIR-Chicago (our partners!) & Inner-City Muslim Alliance Network (IMAN). We also took part in the Shabbat service at Anshe Emit synagogue and Sunday service at Fourth Presbyterian Church (definitely recommend all Muslims to try this).
There are two things I took back with me and one thing I left in the US (MY LUGGAGE!! Thanks to US Airlines it went AWOL). I bring back the importance of engaging in storytelling and inter-faith community work. Story telling is an exercise where young people are given the chance to express themselves, their lives, their challenges and goals. From experience, you find that you share a lot more with people of different communities. With regards to inter-faith work i think it’s ok to engage in verbal dialogue but more important to discuss common values to bring about common action.
Posted by Faisal Hussein