The last week of July we concluded our 4th Annual IYLI Summer Programming. This summer we completed our 4th L.A. program at USC, our 3rd Long Beach program at CSULB, and our 2nd Orange County program at Chapman University. We had the opportunity to work with 100 students from 11 different faith backgrounds across all three programs. Students spent each of the days with their mentors doing activities, conversing about their faith traditions, and finding common ground among all their faith traditions.
During our Los Angeles program we visited the LA Baha’i Center, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and the Self-Realization Hollywood Temple. We had an engaging conversation during our Interfaith Peace and Restorative Justice Panel with Estee Chandler (Jewish Voice for Peace), Soraya Deen (Muslim Women Speakers Association), and Andrew Johnson (Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC). Our LA group volunteered at Union Rescue Mission by passing out water and serving ice cream to over 500 homeless individuals. We also spent an evening at the Santa Monica Pier so our participants could have some fun together and create bonds with students of other faith traditions.
During our Long Beach program we visited the California Zoroastrian Center, CHÙA PHẬT TỔ Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, and Grant AME Church. We watched the short film “Oak Creek” about the Sikh Temple Shooting in Wisconsin and had a Q&A session with the filmmaker, Valarie Kaur, via Skype. Milia Islam-Majeed, Executive Director of South Coast Interfaith Council, spoke to our youth about “Interfaith Leadership” and her experience growing up Muslim in an all white town in the Bible Belt. Students participated in a Privilege Walk to show them how race, gender, religious affiliation, social economic status, etc. factors into the privileges they have. Our students also helped set up the LDS Center at CSULB for the arrival of the Uruguay and Turkey Special Olympics teams by preparing food for the welcoming barbecue and making signs to welcome the athletes. Two of our participants, Zehra Siddiqui and Niravroh Laha, spoke with reporter Carole Mikita about their experience being a part of such a wonderful event (see the interviews HERE). Our group also went to Sky High trampoline park for some bonding time.
During our Orange County program we visited the Jain Center of Southern California, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple, and Johnson Chapel AME Church. We had a presentation on Neo-Paganism by Christine Hernandez and spoke with Ahmed Younis (Author, Professor at Chapman University) and Shourouq Al-Fartoussi (Muslim Youth Leader) about interfaith leadership. Our group volunteered at the OC Food Bank and boxed over 600 food packages for the elderly. We also spent an evening at Sky High trampoline park to allow the kids to have some fun and get to know each other.
We enjoyed our time with the students and hearing their stories. We are already looking forward to next year’s programs!