Karishma Gokhale (left) took part in the Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative Long Beach activities that took place once a month from July to December of 2013. Karishma was one of the twelve IYLI participants that volunteered at the Long Beach Rescue Mission to serve lunch to the homeless the weekend before Thanksgiving. Read below what Ms. Gokhale has to say about the service event and our IYLI program.
I first heard about IYLI through my friend, Neha Jain. All I knew about it at first was that she had done some 3-day program in the beginning of the summer. She started telling me how interesting it was, and how she had met so many amazing people from different faiths and cultures, and got to experience things she would not have encountered otherwise. It sounded really exciting to me because of the events she had done and because it was more of a real world experience outside of the bubble I was used to. I decided to join.
The most inspiring activity I participated in was when IYLI went to serve food at the Long Beach Rescue Mission. We were in charge of preparing the food and serving it too. This was eye-opening but also really saddening when a few weeks later it made me think: “Where will that mom with the two little daughters be sleeping tonight?” It made me really want to go back and help out more. I think it was a great event by IYLI because this program is all about creating understanding between different faiths and one of the biggest things in all faiths is giving back to the community. I think the best part was when we sat down and actually had a meal with the homeless men and women we were serving. I had some pretty interesting and funny conversations with some of the people there.
Overall, I learned a lot from IYLI about different faiths and, also, more about my own faith and how I associate myself with it. I also was put into situations, such as volunteering at the homeless shelter, or met people that I would not have encountered because of this program. I think this was a really good experience overall and I am definitely going to recommend it to other high school students.
During the summer of 2013, Kayla Asemanfar took part in the Interfaith Youth Leadership Initiative Long Beach program. Since then, she has participated in New Vision Partners’ Film Competition along with her friend, Ian Liu. The theme for the competition was “Interfaith Cooperation through Service.” Kayla and Ian received 1st Place for their short film “Service through Friendship.” Read below, a short interview we conducted with Ms. Asemanfar. Watch their video HERE!
1. How did the IYLI Summer 2013 program inspire you?
After attending IYLI Summer 2013 program, I am much more interested in expanding my knowledge about different religions. I am inspired to truly get to know a religion and not judge it based on what society or the media say about it.
2. How did your IYLI experience influence your film submission?
IYLI showed me that all religions have central concepts of compassion, friendship, trust, diversity, acceptance, and love. Although different religions show these themes in different ways, these central themes and more can be found at the core of each religion. This influenced our submission because we came to realize that no matter what religion someone practices, they know that helping others is first priority. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, etc. Religious texts describe how if someone doesn’t have the same faith as you and even if they have no faith at all, they deserve the same respect and help that others do.
3. Why is interfaith work important to you and in society today?
I think interfaith work is especially important in this day and age. Religion seems to create barriers between people these days, and especially in the government, differences in religion and differences in opinion cause many problems for people, especially minorities, in America. I think that working towards understanding other religions is extremely important because you gain other people’s perspectives when you do that. Understanding and acknowledgement of other religions can help solve many of America ‘s and the world’s problems.
Name: Katie Kevorkian
Profession: Director of Children’s and Youth Ministries
Organization: Northridge United Methodist Church
Location: Northridge, CA
Why Interfaith?: It’s important that we provide opportunities for the children in our communities to learn about their neighbors. Knowledge and understanding will lead to more peaceful communities!
How you can be a Partner: Organize the members of your church or faith community to join with a community of another religious background for worship or community service. Spend time getting to know people of a different faith.
Background/How did you get to where you are today?: Master of Arts from Claremont School of Theology in Interreligious Education. I have worked with the USC Office of Religious Life, The United Methodist Urban Foundation, First UMC Los Angeles and New Vision Partners.
Name: Rev Jim Burklo
Profession: Associate Dean, Religious Life, USC
Organization: University of Southern California
Location: Los Angeles
Why Interfaith? “I grow deeper in my own faith as a progressive Christian by having intimate conversation with friends and colleagues of other faiths.”
How you can be a Partner: Collaborating on interfaith programs for college, university, and high school students
Date submitted: 5-24-12
I’ve spent much of my career engaged in interfaith service, engagement, and dialogue. I was the founder and director of the interfaith Urban Ministry of Palo Alto, CA, serving homeless and low-income people in the area south of San Francisco. I am the coordinator for the Pluralism Sunday project of ProgressiveChristianity.org, through which churches worldwide celebrate world religious diversity in worship. Now, at USC, I work for the interfaith center of the campus, where we host 90 religious clubs representing all the major and many lesser-known faiths of the world.
Name: Jem Jebbia
Profession: Student, University of Southern California
Organization: USC Interfaith Council
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Why Interfaith? Studying religion is my passion, but to me it’s not complete without interacting with those who live the religion. Not everyone on the IFC is religious or spiritual, but learning how people practice reflection and how they apply spirituality to other aspects of their lives is both fascinating and enriching.
How you can be a Partner: I think participating in interfaith is great in a council or group but can also be done simply by engaging in conversations with people about their beliefs. It seems hard sometimes because we think people don’t want to talk about it, but my experience is people overwhelmingly love talking about their faith, regardless if it’s religious, spiritual, or neither.
As an undergraduate at USC, I decided to study Religion, Business Administration, and East Asian Languages and Cultures. My Japanese and Religion classes energized me, and I looked for a way to experience religion outside the classroom and to explore my own Buddhist faith. After meeting with Dean Varun Soni, the Dean of Religious Life at USC, I joined the Interfaith Council at USC to meet other students interested in learning about faith traditions different than their own. The students on the Council were some of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and committed to serving the community that I had ever encountered. The dialogues we engaged in weekly, on topics from interfaith marriage to death and dying, stimulated my thinking about religion in an exciting new way. My week began to revolve around these conversations. I grew so passionate about Interfaith work that I even spent a year away from USC working as a multifaith ambassador for the UN Millennium Development Goals in Boston. After my year away I returned to USC and served as the Vice President and the President of the Council, and helped plan many service projects and events. Most recently, we executed the Student Multifaith Leadership Conference, which brought together students interested in multifaith leadership from around Southern California. This coming fall, I will embark on a new journey in interfaith work, studying religion at the University of Chicago.