Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education Conference


As members of the interfaith community, we often wonder: What will the interfaith movement look like a generation from now?  Will the growing secularization of our society remove voices of faith from the public square and diminish future opportunities for interfaith growth?  And where are the youth voices in the interfaith movement? As a youth coordinator for an interfaith organization, I can say that these are questions I grapple with on a daily basis.  How do we keep our youth committed and involved in interfaith work, despite a growing tendency to separate anything remotely faith-based from the public sector?  Although there is no easy answer to these questions, I believe that the high school students in Interfaith Action’s Youth Leadership Program have created a phenomenal opportunity to engage high school students in the interfaith movement and to provide a forum for their voices to be heard in a way that recognizes their potential to be agents of change and the need for their presence in order to sustain the growth of the interfaith movement.  I thus present you with Interfaith Action’s fifth annual Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education (TIDE) Conference.

The TIDE Conference is organized and led by teens who wish to spread pluralism, increase the impact of teenage voices, and have their presence felt as a positive force in the global community.  The three-day conference is planned by fifty high school students of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, and held at Northeastern University over Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29, 2011.  The goals of the conference are to train teens to communicate respectfully and use their skills in discussions about highly charged issues; develop leadership and facilitation skills; and foster bonds and lasting friendships among the youth in attendance. Conference attendees will participate in workshops, dialogues, and other activities throughout the weekend that allow them to discover more about themselves and their understanding of personal identity; learn about the beliefs and identities of others; and make their voices heard.  By the end of the weekend, teens will gain the skills needed to break down religious and ethnic barriers while becoming leaders in their communities.  Adults working with teens have the opportunity to attend a parallel but separate adult track at the conference.

Many of the conflicts that occur across the world are a result of cultural misunderstandings and a lack of tolerance and leadership. Participation in the TIDE Conference is one leap towards a more harmonious and peaceful world, led by strong individuals who have already fostered their skills in early adulthood.

The TIDE Conference has been officially designated as a Post-Parliament Event by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.  The conference is sponsored by Interfaith Action, Inc. in collaboration with the Brudnick Center for the Study of Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University.

More information about the conference and how you can register is available at www.ifaction.org.  Outside groups and individuals may submit workshop proposals to showcase their work during the Sunday track of the conference.  All proposals are due by April 1, 2011.  More information about this opportunity may also be found on Interfaith Action’s website.

This is an extraordinary occasion to engage today’s youth in interfaith work, and provide them with a forum to take the lead in guiding the movement into the future.  Please feel free to contact me at Jason@ifaction.org with any further questions or requests for additional information about this exciting annual youth event!

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About jasonwsmith

Jason Smith works as the Youth Program Director for Interfaith Action in Sharon, Massachusetts. He oversees and coordinates the local Youth Leadership Program and its annual Teenage Interfaith Diversity Education Conference, and has assisted in expanding the conference to a three-day event and increasing its reputation as the premiere high school interfaith conference in the nation. A 2009 graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, he holds degrees in religion and philosophy. He has also conducted research on Christian and Jewish traditions in Boston for The Pluralism Project at Harvard University. Currently, Jason sits on the Board of the North American Interfaith Network, and acts as co-chair of the Young Adult Committee.
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