On Saturday, April 30, Asbury United Methodist Church will host an Interfaith Works conference for area high school youth of all faiths. First Presbyterian Church, Congregation Beth Emek, and the Islamic Center of Livermore helped plan the conference. Any high school student of any religious background, including non-believers, is welcome.
"This is an amazing event, something that hasn't happened in Livermore for many years," says Adam Walker Cleaveland, Asbury's minister for youth and young adults. "We are bringing together a diverse group of Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and non-religious high school youth to talk about pluralism and mutual respect."
He was inspired to organize the conference after hearing a speech by Eboo Patel, leading founder of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC). "He was a very passionate speaker," says Cleaveland. "I began exploring the possibility of bringing together youth of different faiths in this area."
IFYC is an international movement of interfaith cooperation that works to bring together young people of all faiths and traditions to promote the common good for all. The big idea for IFYC came to Patel while at an interfaith conference at Stanford University in 1998.
He and a small group of peers realized they were the only young people at the conference and began asking each other two questions: why do so many current stories about religion feature young people fighting in the name of God? And, why isn't there a huge movement of young people from different faiths working together to apply the core value of all faiths-service to others? Those two principles, says Cleaveland, are the basis of his Interfaith Works conference.
Prerna Abbi, a humanist with Hindu roots who has been involved with IFYC since 2008, will lead the Livermore conference. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps National Director with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County as a volunteer coordinator for youth programs.
Cleaveland is expecting about 20-30 high school students to attend the conference, which will be held at the Fellowship Hall at Asbury United Methodist Church, 4743 East Avenue. The day begins at 9 am with community building games, small group discussions, and exploration of texts from different religious traditions.
"We'll look at what different faiths say about service, which ties right into our community service project," he says. "After lunch, we'll spend the afternoon working in the garden at Marylin Avenue Elementary School. I think this will be a great model for adults and others in our local community and beyond of how young people from different religious backgrounds can come together and serve with one another."