Episode 7 // Peacemaking Within and Across Religious Traditions with Eboo Patel

Apr 23, 2024
Proclaim Peace S1E7


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In this episode of the Proclaim Peace Podcast, Jennifer and Patrick are joined by Eboo Patel to discuss how religion, despite being a source of ultimate peace, can also lead to conflict due to the world's religious diversity. They explore the inevitability of conflict around matters of faith and highlight the importance of handling it productively. Drawing insights from the Book of Mormon, they emphasize the significance of teachings that focus on God's saving work for all of humanity. Tune in to gain valuable perspectives on navigating religious conflicts and becoming better peacemakers in various aspects of life.



[00:02:38] God's diverse messages through scripture.

[00:06:56] How do you define peace?

[00:09:40] Religion enriches and inspires people.

[00:11:45] Interfaith contributions to civic peace.

[00:14:50] Embracing diversity in activism.

[00:21:02] Religion as fire analogy.

[00:24:11] Religious pluralism and refugee resettlement.

[00:27:14] Interfaith cooperation and holiness.

[00:31:04] Finding meaning in scripture.

[00:36:41] Interfaith cooperation within religions.

[00:39:19] Interfaith work opportunities.

[00:42:43] Interfaith peacemaking in society.

[00:49:21] Interfaith peacemaking within religious traditions.

[00:50:39] Finding common ground in faith.

[00:53:03] Finding Inner Peace.



(00:03-00:06) Jennifer Thomas: Welcome to the Proclaim Peace Podcast. I'm Jennifer Thomas.
(00:06-00:15) Patrick Mason: And I'm Patrick Mason. And this is the podcast where we apply principles of the gospel and read the Book of Mormon to become better peacemakers. Hi, Jen.

(00:15-01:08) Jennifer Thomas: Hi, Patrick. So as you all know, the main idea of this podcast is that the principles, teachings, and values of the gospel of Jesus Christ should help us become better peacemakers. We hope that happens within our homes, our communities, our congregations, our workplaces, and even at the national level. But if we're being honest, we have to admit that sometimes religion, this source of what we hope is ultimate peace, can also be a source of conflict in people's lives. That can happen for a lot of reasons, but one of the big ones is the fact that we live in a world of tremendous religious diversity. Precisely because religion matters so much to so many people in different ways, it can be a source of conflict. And as we've learned in a previous episode, conflict arises around things that people care the most about. So we should expect it to come in matters of faith. But what are we gonna do with that conflict and how are we gonna handle it productively?

(01:08-03:07) Patrick Mason: Yeah, I think that's such an important question to just recognize that it's going to happen. We're going to have conflict around religion. And this is where I come back to actually some of my favorite teachings in the Book of Mormon, especially around this issue, come towards the end of 2 Nephi, where he's having this big, huge vision of all of humanity and of God saving, restoring work. for all of his children. And he has a couple of verses that have always just been breathtaking to me, and have been really foundational for me. So one comes in 2 Nephi chapter 31, verse 3, where Nephi says, The sense that God talks to everybody. This kind of universal message. Not just that God speaks Arabic and Japanese and English and Portuguese, but God speaks Patrick, and God speaks Jen, and God speaks to each of our listeners in their own way, and to everybody all around the world. But I also love this verse a couple chapters earlier in chapter 29. And this is the chapter where we normally talk about, you know, the importance of the Book of Mormon, right, in addition to the Bible, that God gives us additional scripture. But the truly breathtaking thing here in Nephi's vision is he doesn't stop with the Book of Mormon. It's not like God gives us the Bible and then he gives us the Book of Mormon and then that's it, folks. He keeps going. Wherefore, because ye have a Bible, ye need not suppose that it contains all my words, neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all people, in the east, and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I shall speak unto them. And I will speak unto all nations of the earth, and they will write my words." I mean, I just love this idea of God speaking to everybody and all of this scripture coming from all of these different places.

(03:08-04:53) Jennifer Thomas: I love that too. And I think that, you know, in the context of conflict and religious conflict, what that should do is when we find ourselves bumping up against someone who is different or believes different things, I think we would all do best if we sort of really internalize that scripture you've just read and say, okay, what are maybe the ways that God has spoken to that people? And how can I learn about the ways that they have heard his voice? and the ways that they have tried to follow him. And I think if we do that, it can be an extraordinarily enlightening experience for us, both in terms of learning, we can just learn more about other ways that people have come to God, but it also can allow us to understand what has motivated people to behave well. Because I think the truth is, even though religion has been a source of significant conflict in the world, it's also been the motivating force between the world's most renowned peacemakers, certainly Jesus Christ, but also Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Malala, all of these individuals, and we could list many, many more, who have been motivated to move into conflict and bring peace simply because they had a deep reservoir of faith that they were drawing on. So I think the question we want to talk about today is how we can move beyond the place of conflict inherent in religious difference to a place where those same differences are generative, where they become productive of friendship, collaboration, and hope. People of faith are going to be some of our very, very best allies as we work to build a world that is more peaceful. So the question that Patrick and I want all of us to think about today as we go into this podcast is how can we personally, as individuals, prepare ourselves to be worth working with in that great endeavor?

(04:53-06:43) Patrick Mason: Yeah, that's such a great question. And again, all of the energy that comes around this religious diversity that we have, how do we channel that in productive ways? How do we be part of the constructive conversation? And so to have this conversation, we want to rely not only on some of these very powerful passages from the Book of Mormon, but also on the expertise of one of America's truly great interfaith bridge builders. someone who's not a Latter-day Saint himself, but actually has a lifetime of experience working alongside Latter-day Saints and people of all different religious traditions. So we're really excited to bring on our guest for today. All right, we are honored today to be joined by one of the top interfaith leaders in the country, Eboo Patel. Eboo is the founder and president of Interfaith America, which is one of the leading, if not the leading, interfaith organizations in the United States. They work with universities, governments, private companies, civic organizations, training on people how to build bridges across religious difference rather than having those religious differences be barriers and divides between us. He has a doctorate in sociology from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He's the author of five books. I won't name them all, but maybe a couple that people will be interested in is his memoir, Acts of Faith, which is a terrific read, kind of an earlier book of his, and then his most recent book, We Need to Build, Field Notes for Diverse Democracy. Eboo lives in Chicago, but he's been spending a little more time recently in the state of Utah. He's been an impact scholar at the University of Utah and has been doing some work with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So Eboo Patel, thank you so much for joining us on the Proclaimed Peace Podcast.

(06:43-06:45) Eboo Patel: Patrick, Jennifer, thank you for having me.

(06:45-06:56) Patrick Mason: Absolutely. I want to start with a general question that we ask all of our guests regardless of their background and expertise. How do you define peace?

(06:56-07:15) Eboo Patel: I think it's a great question. I define peace as the right relationship between people. I think you can include in that right relationship between people and the earth, right relationship between people and animals, right relationship between people and God. But peace is the right relationship between people. I love that.

(07:15-07:32) Jennifer Thomas: So I would like to start by asking you to kind of share your story with us. I think you probably feel like you've told it a million times in your life, but many of our listeners will not be familiar with it. So if you would be willing to share kind of how you got interested in interfaith work and why it's so important to you, I think that would be a great starting point.

(07:33-11:27) Eboo Patel: So, you know, as the Muslim poet Rumi says, there are many ways to tell my story. You can tell it as a war story or a dirty joke or a love poem. So I'll share it this way, that I grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, which is a western suburb of Chicago. I came to the United States because my dad was admitted to the MBA program at Notre Dame University in the 1970s, and both of those things are important in my life. One is, of course, coming to the United States is important for any immigrant, but also the fact that it's a Roman Catholic university that admits my Ismaili Muslim father to to an MBA program is why is it being very significant for me? Because I start to think to myself at a certain point in my life, why would a university started by a particular faith community originally for the uplift of people of its own faith, why would it admit people from other faiths? And that kind of opened my eyes to the fact that so much of our civil society in America, so many of our social service organizations, so many of our hospitals, so many of our colleges and universities are founded by faith communities and admit people of all faiths. That is actually very inspiring. I think of it as an American treasure. Growing up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, I had friends from all different religious backgrounds, but we very rarely talked about religion. So I had a friend who was a Nigerian evangelical, a friend who was a Cuban Jew, a friend who was a South Indian Hindu, and religion played a role in all of our lives, but we didn't have a public language to talk about it with. I did have a friend who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of my closest friends, actually my girlfriend for a period of time, and she talked about religion. And it was very clear to me about the positive role that religion played in her life. She was, and I assume is, we lost touch, but a wonderful person. And religion played a key role in that. And so that was a powerful realization for me that, wow, religion is not just something your mom makes you do on Sunday or Friday that, you know, prevents you from hanging out with your friends. Religion actually enriches people's lives and it lifts people up and it inspires people. It makes them better people. So it was really that relationship that taught me that. So that's kind of the role that those formative years play. When I was in college, I was an angry activist for a couple of years, actually probably a year. And I pretty soon discovered that that was not who I was by nature. I'm not an angry person by nature. And my life has frankly been too good to justify being angry at the world. But I needed an off-ramp, and that off-ramp came in the form of examples of people of faith. Dorothy Day, Jim Wallace, people who had committed their lives to, I thought, an inspiring version of justice and grounded it in faith and walked the path because God illuminated the path. And as I learned more about that, I started to ask myself the question, well, aren't these resources that connect religion to positive social change, aren't they present in all faiths? And it turns out that they are. And wouldn't it be wonderful if we created a space where people from different religions, who all had a positive, constructive vision of social change, could meet and cooperate to accomplish that social change? And in many ways, that's the beginning of interfaith Youth Corps, which becomes Interfaith America. So that's kind of my story into the story of the organization. And I've now been, I first had the idea for this organization in the summer of 1998. So that's what, 24, 26, 27 years ago. I'm 48 years old. So it's been more than half my life that I've been engaged in this work.

(11:33-12:22) Jennifer Thomas: So I just wanna stop and like point out for our listeners that there are three ways that you've talked about people of faith being able to contribute to civic peace. Like you talked about them as individuals, right? Having peace amongst themselves. You talked about leaders who can lead out in the public sphere using their faith to make change and seek justice. And then you talked about institutions that people of faith have established that build kind of civic and mutual peace. And I love that in all three of those spaces, you are setting up examples of interfaith work. You're showing how this can happen in many spaces. And one of the things that I love is that you've taken your work beyond just dialogue and you talk about interfaith leadership. So it's not just important for people of faiths to kind of chat amongst themselves, but that they need to engage in interfaith leadership. And I'm wondering if you could share with us the difference there.

(12:23-13:46) Eboo Patel: Yeah, so first of all, you know, when I say the word dialogue, I really mean multiple ways of people engaged. So I think sports are dialogue. I think jazz is dialogue. I think service is dialogue. So I think about dialogue having multiple languages, right? Just that that's how I think about, you know, Wynton Marsalis talks about the horns being in conversation with each other during jazz, right? And I also want to center the importance of dialogue in the building of a nation, right? John Courtney Murray, the great Jesuit scholar, says that civilization is living and talking together, right? It's a pretty big thing, building a civilization. So having said that, You know, people in need need more than just talk. The migrants on the streets of Chicago from South America need more than just talk. They need food, they need shelter, they need help, right? And lots of people are in that situation. So interfaith leadership is really about creating the spaces where it is easier for people who orient around religion differently to cooperate with each other. That's what interfaith leadership is, right? And sometimes that's about building a direct bridge, and sometimes that's just about shaping a space. But interfaith leaders make it easier for people to cooperate on concrete projects for common ends.

(13:47-15:00) Patrick Mason: That was one of the things that first attracted me to your work. Partly, I was attracted. I resonate a little bit with your father's story in terms of a non-Catholic going to the University of Notre Dame and it providing the doorway for me to lots of good things. It was a little bit different being a Mormon kid from Utah rather than a Muslim from Pakistan, but although maybe it's not that bad. My dad's from India, but yeah. Yeah. But one of the things I was attracted to is this idea that you were going to bring people of different faiths together, that they were going to unite around a common cause. But you've always talked about not necessarily watering down people's religious commitments. So there can be a sense of a lowest common denominator approach to these kinds of things. And instead, you've always talked about about no, you don't leave your religion at the door when you do these things. You don't leave your deepest commitments behind, actually bring them with you when you engage in these kinds of common projects. So can you talk a little bit more about that philosophy and what it means to really engage, not just diversity, the fact that we're all different, but to try to build a more robust pluralism and what you mean by that?

(15:01-17:17) Eboo Patel: Right. So, you know, so much of this actually we do quite naturally as human beings. And part of what we do at Interfaith America is simply observe how this happens in kind of the course of normal life and activity and say, oh, that's good. Let's do more of that. So I'll give you a great example of this. When the disaster relief arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints When the Disaster Relief Farm of the Catholic Church and Southern Baptists cooperate together on an earthquake, they are not engaging in lowest common denominator work, but they are also not principally engaging in Great Commission work. They're not principally looking to convert each other or the people they're helping, but they're engaged in very profound Catholic Baptist Mormon work, right? And why is that? Because they're engaged on a concrete activity that has very clear goals, help people after an earthquake. Right? And what we say is, listen, we emphasize different things in different settings. So when a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is on a mission, he is emphasizing conversion. When that individual is leading a disaster relief organization, he is emphasizing helping people. Those are both Mormon commitments, and they are not in tension with each other, they're just different for different settings. So what is good interfaith work? It is creating a setting where people can bring the part of their faith that they are proud of that is appropriate for that setting. And as everybody I talk to, I tell about this, there are lots of religions that proselytize. That is wonderful. That is wonderful. That is not appropriate for an interfaith setting. Other things are appropriate for an interfaith setting, but it is the job of the interfaith leader to create a setting that makes a different kind of activity. Disaster relief, a different kind of dialogue, etc. makes that other dimension of religion both salient and intensely important.

(17:19-18:29) Jennifer Thomas: So I just want to speak to how important this has been for our work at MWIG. And as a group of women, you know, working in a faith-based, nonpartisan organization that's dedicated to civic peace and protecting democracy, we found that initially a lot of people often have the question, because we're known as a proselytizing religion, right, is that what we're here to do? We have found, in fact, once we just say, oh, no, we're here to uphold common and shared values. And this is a space where we are working together. And the faith component for us that comes into play is the elements of our faith that inspire us to do this work, that lead us to kind of lean into it when it's difficult, and most particularly, ask us to do it in a way that is peaceful. When we kind of emphasize that, it has been some of the most productive work we've done as an organization. when we have worked with people of other faiths. So I completely concur with what you've said, that when people of faith do this work, understanding what's appropriate in the setting, they can just be really significant builders, both of peace and collaboration and unity. But I think it does require exactly what you've asked us to do, is to be self-aware of what we're bringing to the table in different situations.

(18:29-19:32) Eboo Patel: And actually, if you think about this, we do this all the time, right? Like there are Mormons and Muslims who perform heart surgeries together all the time. And they're never worried that the other person is trying to convert them, but they know that at their respective house of worship, that's part of the conversation. So we do this in private companies all the time. We do this in science labs all the time. You know that people have a religious life or a private life where they are engaged in other activities. For example, conversion. But you expect them to bring their best professional self to work. and that best professional self is also connected to their religious tradition. The reason that a Muslim might become a doctor is because healing is holy in Islam. The reason a Mormon might become a doctor is because healing is holy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So I just think we should, in some ways, it seems very simple and it actually is. It's just saying, this is a part of my faith too. My faith is the Great Commission and it also has the Great Cooperation and I'm here to be a part of the Great Cooperation.

(19:33-21:02) Patrick Mason: I just love that vision and I love the fact that you say, at some level, we already know how to do this. At some level, we do this every day. It's very natural to us. I really like that. Maybe we'll come back to that a little bit later in terms of some specific skills that we can use. But I do want to raise the question A lot of people are going to say, OK, yeah, I recognize there's some of these good relationships that happen, but also there's a lot of conflict that comes because of religion. Of course, this won't be news to you. One of the critiques that a lot of people level against religion and religious people is it can often be a kind of a nuanced critique. that the religion is really the problem that needs to be solved. For instance, there was a book published shortly after 9-11 actually by a Baptist pastor named Charles Kimball. The name of the book was When Religion Becomes Evil. At the very beginning of the book, he says, it's somewhat trite, but nevertheless sadly true to say that more wars have been waged, more people killed, and these days more evil perpetrated in the name of religion than by any other institutional force in human history. And then he goes on from there. So how do you respond to this view? It's not uncommon that religion is the problem, or at least a problem. And therefore, we don't need more of it. We don't need more interfaith work. We actually need less religion in the public square.

(21:02-22:47) Eboo Patel: Yeah, you know, Rabbi Brad Hirschfeld has a smart metaphor on this. He says, you know, religion is like fire. It burns very hot. It can cook your dinner, which means, you know, and that's not ancillary, right? Like if you don't have your meat cooked, you can't eat it, right? or it can burn down your house. How do you organize religion in such a way that it cooks a lot of people's dinners and doesn't burn down a lot of houses? Part of what strikes me about the era in which we live is people are honestly totally ignorant of the good that religion does. I'm not even just talking about that it brings solace to lots of people. Think about it this way. Imagine every faith-based institution in your city burned down overnight. Let's take a walk in the morning and see what's gone. So I'm in the city of Chicago and probably half the hospitals would be gone, right? Good Samaritan, Religious Hospital, Loyola University Hospital, Religious Hospital, Northwestern, Memorial Hospital. Northwestern was founded by Methodists. an awful lot of schools would be gone. The largest providers of social services after the federal government are Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army. I do not know what this city would do with the 20,000 migrants that are here if it was not for faith-based social services. So, I mean, I just think we should be asking the question, how do we facilitate the kind of religious expression that is a civic benefit and limit the kind of religious expression that is a civic harm?

(22:48-24:11) Jennifer Thomas: Well, I want to add to that metaphor because I love how you've described religion as either being something that can cook the food or that can burn something down. I think you've also explained to us that it can be this enormous engine for productive building. In between just cooking my dinner or cooking dinner for a few people next to me, I can use fire to make steel or I can use fire to run a combustion engine. And I think what you're talking about is when we do this collaboratively and work together on a large scale, we have the opportunity to have our faith do something more than just sort of feed our bellies individually or burn down the world, but we can actually be the source for enormous productive change that transforms our communities. And I'm wondering if you can kind of share with us, I think that's probably easy to conceive of when everybody in the space is in the exact same faith. Like we all share a faith. We're going to use that flame to do something productive together. I think it becomes harder, but potentially also more interesting and enormously fruitful when we can create that flame with a lot of different people of faith. Like the flame is coming from different places. And that to me feels like when pluralism succeeds, what happens in a society. So I'm wondering if you could just maybe explain to us what you think are some of the benefits of religious pluralism and the way it can contribute to both peace and the building of institutions and societies like you've talked about.

(24:11-24:29) Eboo Patel: Yeah, so here is one very concrete example. Refugee resettlement. So six of the nine refugee resettlement agencies in the United States are faith-based agencies. By the way, does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a refugee resettlement agency?

(24:29-24:33) Jennifer Thomas: No, I think they work with other organizations to help do that. Yeah.

(24:33-27:51) Eboo Patel: But Episcopalians, Jews have the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Lutherans. Here's what's interesting. Many of these agencies, HIAS, for example, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, were founded to resettle refugees of their own community at a time of profound pain for that community. For Jews, it was during the Russian programs of the late 18th century. They found Hayes then. By the time the 1970s were all around, 80 or 90 years after Hayes is founded, basically every Jew in the world that wants to be resettled has been resettled, either in Israel, the United States, or Europe somewhere, right? Does Hayes close? No. They start resettling Cambodian Buddhists, and now they resettle a lot of Muslims, right? How inspiring. That is interfaith work at its core. a refugee resettlement agency founded by a faith community that spends most of its time resettling people from other religious communities. And it's not just a theoretical thing, right? Like if you are resettling a Muslim from Sudan or Somalia, and you are like actively helping that person find an apartment and set up a household, you have to actually be very sensitive to that person's religious commitments. You don't stock the fridge with ham. You realize that men and women from many Muslim cultures have different kinds of gender relations. There's different relations between children and parents. You have to be very sensitive to religious sensitivities that you might not agree with, that might actually violate your politics and your own sense of God, which means you have to be an interfaith leader. By the way, disaster relief functions the same way. Social services function the same way. It is both a civic benefit for our society to have multiple agencies founded by particular faith identities that work with people of all faith identities. Basically any college or university founded by a religious group functions this way. Brigham Young has students who are not LDS, and many of them are Muslim. And why is that? Because actually Muslims and Mormons have pretty similar on-the-ground values when it comes to alcohol, for example, or sexual relations, etc, etc. We have different doctrines, different ideas of prophecy and prophethood, but very similar modes of walking through the world. So there is a civic benefit to those kinds of partnerships, but it's also sacred. In the Quran, it says that God made us diverse nations and tribes that we may come to know one another. President Nelson talks about peacemakers being needed, peacemakers across lines of difference. President Oaks, talks about the importance of pluralism, including between people who disagree with each other, right? So it's not just a pragmatic value, interfaith cooperation. It's also a matter of holiness, I think, working with people with whom you have doctrinal disagreements, and yet, can you make a difference on earth together?

(27:51-29:03) Patrick Mason: That's great. So let me… Let me shift gears just a little bit for a moment, and let's talk about scripture. So in this podcast this season, we're really focusing on the Book of Mormon. We're going through the Book of Mormon to pull out principles of peacemaking, how it can help us be better peacemakers. But in the Book of Mormon, just like in every scripture of every world religious tradition, there are other kinds of verses as well that seem to point in a different direction, that point towards religious exclusivism, and division. For instance, one in the Book of Mormon in First Nephi chapter 14, the very first book, it says, So there's this kind of dualistic language. We can find this in the Bible, in the Quran, in the Gita, in all these different world sacred texts. How do you as an interfaith leader, how do you recommend that interfaith leaders approach these spicy scriptures that can be found in any sacred text?

(29:03-32:00) Eboo Patel: Sure. One of my favorite essays on this is an essay called The Place of Tolerance in Islam by the Islamic legal scholar, Khalid Abu Al-Fadl, who's at UCLA or was at UCLA for a long time. So Halat Abu Al-Fadl says two things which are very powerful for me. One is pretty straightforward, which is in the Quran, the Quran is revealed over a 22, 23 year period in history, right? And in many cases, verses will be revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, to deal with a particular situation. So there are verses of violence and like fighting in the Qur'an. And what Abu al-Fadl says is those were meant for a particular time and place. There was a group of people warring against the Prophet and the Qur'an says you got to fight them. Right? So that is not meant to be a universal declaration. It's meant to be, you got to fight these people now. You are allowed to fight these people now. So that's one thing is, is, is, and I don't know how the Book of Mormon functions as far as, but is, I think there are similar examples, revelations that were given for a particular time and place. So here's the second thing that, that Abu al-Fadl says, which is there's, God gives each of us a fitra, gives each of us kind of a stamping in our heart, right? God kind of stamps us. In a way there is a scripture within our being. There's a scripture within our being, and that scripture within our being is meant to meet the scripture that is in the text. And incidentally, it's meant to meet the scripture that is creation. And all of these actually have a single, they're called, they have the same word. Ayah means sign, okay? The term ayah means sign. The verses of the Quran are called ayahs. They are signs. Your own Fithra, your own orientation is a sign. A leaf on a tree, a blade of grass, the ocean is a sign. Those are signs of God. And what Abol Fadl says is you have to align these things. So your heart has Fithra, has scripture in it. Scripture kind of metaphorically. And it ought to connect with the dimension of scripture that is the most uplifting. You can find anything you want in the Quran. So the question is, what do you want to find? What do you desire to find? If you desire to find conflict, you got to ask yourself some hard questions before you ask the Quran some hard questions. That's a powerful, that's a powerful hermeneutic, right? And the reason it's powerful is because it is saying God gave you his stamp. So what are you doing with that stamp?

(32:01-33:06) Jennifer Thomas: So there's also a scripture in 2 Nephi, these sections that we're reading today, that says, And then he goes on in the next scripture to say, And when the two nations shall run together, the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And so this to me feels like a call to do exactly what you're saying, to have the part of your scripture that is best call out to you, and when you respond to that, you're gonna recognize that in the scripture of your neighbor, right? When your two nations run together, you are going to be able to look for that in someone else, find it, recognize the humanity and the goodness and the divinity in that, and use that as a way to connect you. And so I really like that framing that you've offered us because we'll find what we're looking for and then we'll act what resonates with our hearts as we stand, right?

(33:07-33:19) Eboo Patel: Absolutely. And by the way, I don't even want to say these other scriptures are bad. I want to say that they're meant for something else. And it is not a situation that I face or a purpose that I have.

(33:20-35:00) Patrick Mason: Yeah, we did a whole little mini episode earlier on hermeneutics and the questions that we bring to Scripture and what that's going to do for us. And so I think you're exactly right. Oftentimes these same books that have these verses that point towards conflict oftentimes in very descriptive, very particular ways. They offer also more general or prescriptive, normative claims towards universalism, towards the brother and sisterhood of all human beings, the fact that we're all part of God's creation. And so what are we going to do with that? So some people worry, and I know you've heard this a lot, that if they engage in interfaith work, that's going to force them, as you said, you talked about the difference between conversion and cooperation, but some people feel like, if I'm not witnessing to that person of another faith, like salvation hangs in the balance, right? Okay, so it's okay for for us to do some nice things, to do a service project together or things like this. There's a way that some people might minimize some of that and say, no, what really matters is salvation. That's more important than anything else. And so that great commission, that witnessing, that evangelizing that I'm called to do, that has to be more important than any other kind of cooperation. How do you recommend that the people balance these kinds of things if salvation is really on the line?

(35:00-36:41) Eboo Patel: If that is who you are, you should go do that, honestly. Look, the Great Commission exists within Islam and I don't engage in it at all. That's just not where my energies are. I'm like 100% the Great Cooperation. And if somebody is 98% the Great Commission, that's fine. I don't think you should oppose this work. You should do it when you can. You should pay attention to the places in your life where you are already doing it. There's times that I've taught at more evangelical seminaries where people are against this on principle. I'm like, that's fine. Can you name a person in your life from a different faith who made a positive difference in your life? Just think, right? I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I'm asking you a question. Is there a person in your life that made a positive difference who was from a different faith? Okay, do you think that that person's faith helped make that person who she was such that she made a difference in your life? I'm not trying to convince you of anything. I'm just trying to illuminate what is. But honestly, I am not against, I would never tell a kid who is on a mission, you should spend any time doing interfaith work on the mission. I have a great deal of respect for religions the way they are. I simply think the great cooperation is a part of every religion and it has received relatively less attention than other parts of faith. So our goal is to illuminate what already is within traditions.

(36:41-37:30) Jennifer Thomas: So I think I would add that there are spaces where if our only focus is the Great Commission, it's going to add poorly for everyone. I think there are spaces where great cooperation is the order of the day, right? And I would say that particularly in this country, given that we are a pluralistic democracy, if we lose sight of the fact that our job in these political spaces is to cooperate and to build and to, like, ensure that there are protections for all religious minorities, for all faiths, we actually run the risk of having that blowback on ourselves, right? And so I think there is huge value in making sure that, I really love the way you framed that at the beginning, that we bring sort of our best self in different situations, right?

(37:30-38:55) Eboo Patel: Look, it is It is not rocket science. It's simply illuminating what is. Look, even in Salt Lake City, what, one out of every four people is a member of the church? Right? So unless you're at church headquarters, you're going to run into a lot of people who are not members of the church. Okay, so how are you going to treat those people? Are you always going to try to convert them? the woman who's at the grocery checkout aisle, the police officer helping the kid who's fallen off the bike, right? The hairdresser, the nurse, right? And people tend to treat people with dignity and respect. And they tend to do that partially because of their identity. And so I simply think we should illuminate the positive things that are and lean into that. And I don't think anybody in the history of the world has ever had, you know, a Jewish nurse say, I'll pray for you and said, actually, no, thank you very much. I don't really want you to do that. Pass on that. Yeah. Because you realize The intention of that is I am going to seek to help you in the language that I am most comfortable with and that I derive my own sense of spirituality from.

(38:55-39:18) Jennifer Thomas: Well, and I also feel like that's signaling so clearly, by offering to pray for someone or participate, that's me signaling to them, I feel like they are important to God, right? That they matter to God, that God is interested in their welfare. And so when that's extended to me, regardless of where it comes from, I just appreciate so deeply that that person from their place of faith is also acknowledging that I matter.

(39:19-39:49) Eboo Patel: I think that's a beautiful, Jennifer, I've never actually thought that's a beautiful way to think about it, that that person is saying you are important to God. And I recognize that in my religion, right? Yeah. So what are you going to say to a person who says, I think you're important to God in my religion? I mean, you might disagree with that religion, but that's probably not the way. Are you going to say, actually, I am not important to God because I believe your religion is false? I honestly don't know if anybody in the history of the world has ever said that.

(39:49-40:24) Jennifer Thomas: So I also love the way that you're sort of illuminating for us the fact that interfaith work can be opportunities for us to engage in the Great Commission without actually engaging overtly in it, right? By just getting into spaces with people who are believers and who are moving in to solve problems from a position of faith, we are witnessing to the power of faith to one another. We're witnessing to our beliefs just by our willingness to see the humanity in each other and work together as children of God. I really appreciate that.

(40:24-41:46) Eboo Patel: Well, look, I would even say this more overtly. How did I begin when you all asked me to say a little bit of my life story? One of the most important things that happens in my formative years was, was having a close relationship with a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for whom religion clearly played a powerful role in making her a better person. People are attracted to the sources of being better people, right? I bet you there are no small number of converts to both Islam and to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where somebody's like, you know what? I want the sense of satisfaction that that person has. I want the order in my life that that person has. I want the sense of spirituality that that person has. This is not to de-emphasize or be dismissive of, of the kind of conversion efforts that are knocking door to door, et cetera, et cetera. But I would say my wild guess is more people have converted to religions freely. The people who have converted freely, more people have converted because they are attracted to a way of life and an example set by human beings that they admire.

(41:47-42:13) Patrick Mason: Yeah, it reminds me I've got Saint Francis of Assisi on my mind because I'm lecturing about him and in class tomorrow, but the great Catholic Saint and he said preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words right and and here is this icon. Within the Roman Catholic Church this this huge engine for internal reform Nobody doubted his Catholic credentials his commitment to his faith. And what does he do in the middle of the Crusades?

(42:13-42:42) Eboo Patel: He travels to Egypt and and tries to negotiate peace with the Sultan al-Malik and he and he Admires the form of prayer in the Sultan's court and there are scholars who believe Patrick you may be one there scholars who believe that that the multiple time of day of Franciscan prayer comes from St. Francis' witnessing the multiple time a day of Muslim prayer on the Sultan's court. Yeah, I mean, I think St. Francis is like an archetypal peacemaker, interfaith leader and peacemaker.

(42:43-43:41) Jennifer Thomas: Well, and I also love the idea that in a pluralistic society, sometimes, just like you said, it might draw people to the origin of that faith and say, I want to be like that, or I want that in my life. But just as often, I think it will say, I actually think that person and that faith is a valuable addition to my society. So even if I decide I'm not going to completely transform my life to be like them, I am actually going to defend their ability to exist, to be here, and I'm going to witness to people around me that they are adding something to the conversation. And I think that's one of the reasons that interfaith work to me has such a positive impact on a pluralistic society, because we just learn so deeply on a firsthand level how valuable other people are to our society and we are willing to defend their right to exist and to defend the faith that made them who they were. Even if it's not our faith, right?

(43:42-43:45) Eboo Patel: Absolutely. I think absolutely that's the case.

(43:45-43:52) Patrick Mason: We're hoping that our listeners are persuaded by the overall argument.

(43:52-44:01) Eboo Patel: My hope is to simply illuminate the parts of people's lives that already exist and encourage them to take a second look.

(44:01-44:37) Patrick Mason: Yeah. So tell us more about that. What would that like? So somebody says, OK, I want to be I recognize this probably is a part of my daily walk in some ways, but I want to be better at it. I want to be more intentional. I want to be more thoughtful. I want to I want this to be part of my peacemaking. I know you offer workshops and seminars and written books about this, but if you were to distill this down to a couple or three very specific concrete things that people could start working on to be better interfaith leaders in their lives, what might those concrete steps be?

(44:37-46:08) Eboo Patel: Yeah, I'll give you three. One we've talked a lot about. Notice the places in your life and in your history in which you've been enriched by people from a different religion. you broke your arm and it was a Buddhist doctor who fixed your arm and you felt like that person really took care of you, just notice it. Pay attention to that. If your dentist is Hindu, pay attention to that. What are the parts of your life that have been enriched by people of different religions? That's the first thing. Here's the second thing. When you think about, when you pause and reflect on, okay, My dentist clearly has a religious kind of symbol on her necklace, but I don't know what it is, right? Like I carry this with me. It's a Thusby just about everywhere in a meeting. I'll just take it out and I'll pray, chant the name of God or the prophet. Um, just ask, Hey, tell me about that. Tell me about that. Right? So just, just ask a question. Just ask a question. And the third thing is, reflect on the dimension of your own faith, the scripture, the heroes of your own faith who have encouraged bridge building or peacemaking. And for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that should not be hard, right? Because, you know, the leadership of the church, the first presidency for the past few years has made this an absolutely central area of emphasis.

(46:08-47:42) Jennifer Thomas: So I completely agree. And I also love, I think I will flip that back. I will say I love those three things, right? So to notice and to ask questions and then look for examples, you know, in other people's faiths or your own. I also want to flip that back on people and say, when people notice you, hopefully make sure that that's always going to be positive, right? So if you reflect well, so you can do this as an observer and a participant, but you also want to do this as an exemplar. So make sure that you are noticeable in ways that your faith is noticeable in ways that are positive and inclusive and make you a good neighbor to others. When people ask you questions, be prepared to give honest, but not not incoherent answers, right? Sometimes people just want a very clear, specific answer to a question and be ready to answer it without kind of being embarrassed or also without feeling like you're being put on the spot. And then the third, I would say, really look for that in other people's fates as well, right? Because I feel like some of I have actually been more able to find peacemakers in my own faith after I started studying peacemakers in other faiths. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but as I saw it in other people, I'm like, oh, this is being reflected in my own faith tradition as well, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I can see how this is playing out in my own faith as well. So I think we can do that both as looking for it in others, but also really trying to be all those things ourselves.

(47:44-47:51) Eboo Patel: That's my story exactly, is finding it in other religions first and then seeing it in my own.

(47:51-48:37) Patrick Mason: As we move towards wrapping up, we've talked mostly about peacemaking across religious difference with Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims, people who are clearly in different religious traditions than you. Sometimes the greatest conflict happens not between religions but within religions. It's not the interfaith conflict, but the intrafaith. It's the person in your congregation that supposedly you share the same doctrines and the same scriptures and so forth, but that you oftentimes really are butting heads precisely because the stakes are so high. How do these principles work or what kind of advice do you have for peacemaking within religious traditions?

(48:37-49:03) Eboo Patel: I would say two things. One, our definition of interfaith work is actually inclusive of that. We say, we talk about religious diversity as being people who orient around religion differently. So it can be atheist and believer, it can be Sunni and Shia, it could be more observant and less observant, right? It's, it's any, it's, it's any liberal conservative. Exactly.

(49:03-49:03) Patrick Mason: Exactly.

(49:04-49:15) Eboo Patel: I mean, I will give you very pragmatic advice or very pragmatic answer, which is there are important times to not try to convince people of things.

(49:15-49:21) Jennifer Thomas: Some of the best advice ever given in human history and some of the advice most often ignored.

(49:21-49:33) Eboo Patel: Yeah, like. The amount of energy and time I save. When I just make a decision, I'm just not going to try to convince you of this. hours of the day.

(49:33-49:39) Patrick Mason: And enormous stress and anxiety. Right, right.

(49:41-50:39) Jennifer Thomas: So I'd add to that, that's something I feel like I have learned on my journey as a peacemaker. And what I've learned is that when I find myself inclined to realize that there is no work to be done here in terms of convincing or coming to a meeting of the minds, that my responsibility as a peacemaker, and I think this is also true as my responsibility in my case as a disciple of Jesus Christ, is to make sure that that person, if we cannot agree that that person at least leaves our conversation having felt seen, loved, and if not understood, seen and loved. I can acknowledge that you are a valuable person even if we don't agree because I think we can leave conversations where we decide, okay, fine, we're just going to agree to disagree and that can be a really negative parting. But figuring out how to make a situation in which you're absolutely right, it is not worth the energy here, but how do I leave this conversation as a peacemaker so that at some point in the future, Maybe we can re-engage, or you'll be prepared to re-engage with someone else.

(50:39-51:19) Patrick Mason: Yeah, and this is where I'll make the case for participation in religious congregations. So in our case, specifically in a Latter-day Saint ward, I'm not going to make everybody in the ward just like me. I'm not going to make them all share my politics. I'm not going to make them all share my worldview. That's not what we're there to do. But I've had tremendous experience, and again, I'm guessing that every Latter-day Saint could say the same, in serving alongside them. Like, I know that they vote for a different person than I do. I know that they have different ideas about parenting than I do. but we work in a young men's presidency together. We work as Sunday school teachers together, right? We serve children, we work in primary.

(51:19-51:20) Jennifer Thomas: Minister to one another, yeah.

(51:20-51:31) Patrick Mason: Yeah, we minister to each other. And it's not about converting the other person to my brand of Latter-day Saintism. It's about living out our deepest values.

(51:31-51:55) Eboo Patel: I mean, the way that I would put that pragmatically, right? And I think you're right, but it's, you just have different relationships with people in different settings. And I think to myself, you know, I think you are wrong about everything. But I don't fight forest fires for a living and you do. I don't have the courage to do that. Right. And I really admire that. And we really I really need you to do that.

(51:56-52:21) Jennifer Thomas: Yeah. And in an intra-faith setting, in a setting where we have a common faith, my obligation in that setting, like you said, is to actually demonstrate love, demonstrate, you know, the ability for us to be together in this space, regardless of those differences. Right. We just always close with the last question for all of our guests, which is, we're just curious, personally, where do you find peace? What do you do? Where do you go?

(52:21-52:32) Eboo Patel: I mean, to my faith. I mean, that's going to be obvious, right? But I'll be more specific, to my thespy. Right, like it's it's it's just is there is there an LDS practice of this? Do you have prayer beads?

(52:32-52:34) Jennifer Thomas: No, we do not. Yeah. Oh, man.

(52:34-52:46) Eboo Patel: At some point, maybe continuing revelation. Yeah. I'll tell you, like, it's so powerful, like, like any meeting that I have, I'm just they're just out and I'm

(52:48-52:53) Patrick Mason: So people who don't know, so what do you do? You run your fingers along them? Yeah, it's like a rosary, you know?

(52:53-53:59) Eboo Patel: So, Ya Allah, Ya Allah, Ya Allah, Ya Allah, that's the name of God. You know, I'm a Shia Muslim, I'm an Ismaili Muslim, so you could call the name of the first Shia Imam, Ya Ali, Ya Ali, Ya Ali, Ya Ali, or the Prophet Muhammad, Ya Muhammad, Ya Muhammad, Ya Muhammad. But it's like, you know, like and sometimes I'm not even saying it consciously, but because it's so kind of ingrained in my being, I'll just move my fingers and I know that something in my being is saying those is is chanting that mantra. So that's it's just very peaceful. I mean, so this is what I do regularly and all the time. But what I really try to do also is, I mean, to give you a very fuller answer, I try to take roughly half the summer off. and I tried to get away a couple days every month, which doesn't actually really happen. It probably happens once every quarter, but like three days on my own with a limited agenda. Very, very useful. Long walks, occasionally binging Netflix, but just like letting letting my brain and body decompress.

(54:00-54:25) Jennifer Thomas: Well, we cannot express how much we appreciate you joining us, um, for this conversation. Um, as Patrick said at the outset, you are not only a leader in the field, but I think an exemplar of how to do this work and how to connect deeply with people across faiths. But also what I have appreciated about your work is the way that it has helped me to do the same. So I think you're an exemplar of that. And I, we really, really appreciate you bringing this conversation to our listeners.

(54:26-54:37) Eboo Patel: Well, that's kind of saying you guys are awesome. This was a great podcast, a great interview. I appreciate you all very much. And I mean, the church should be proud of you. There's lots of jewels in your church and you are two of them. So thank you so much.

(54:37-55:02) Patrick Mason: Thank you. Good luck with everything. Thanks. Thanks everybody for listening today. We really appreciate it. We just want to invite you to subscribe to the podcast and also to rate and review it. We love hearing feedback from listeners, so please email us at podcast at mweg.org. We also want to invite you to think about ways that you can make peace in your life this week. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

(55:08-55:23) Jennifer Thomas: Thank you for listening to Proclaim Peace, a proud member of the Faith Matters Podcast Network. Faith Matters holds expansive conversations about the restored gospel to accompany individuals on their journey of faith. You can learn more about Faith Matters and check out our other shows at faithmatters.org.

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