Named one of "America's Best Leaders" by US News & World Report in 2009, Eboo Patel, Ph.D. is the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based organization founded on the belief that religion is a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division. He is inspired to build this bridge by his faith as a Muslim, his Indian heritage and his American citizenship.
"Pluralism is not a birthright in America; it's a responsibility. Pluralism does not fall from the sky; it does not rise up from the ground. People have fought for pluralism. People have kept the promise. America is exceptional not because there is magic in our air but because there is fierce determination in our citizens." -Eboo Patel, Ph.D.
Dr. Patel has authored two books, Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, and Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, which won the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion. He has spoken about his vision at places like the TED conference, the Clinton Global Initiative and the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, as well as college campuses across the country. Dr. Patel is also a regular contributor to the Washington Post,USA Today, NPR and CNN.
Dr. Patel is an Ashoka Fellow, part of a select group of social entrepreneurs whose ideas are changing the world. In March 2013, he received the Sandor Teszler Award for Moral Courage and Service to Humanity from Wofford College, selected for his commitment to courage, justice and understanding. In 2012, Hofstra University awarded Dr. Patel the Guru Nanak Interfaith Prize, honoring his work using religious dialogue as a means to minimize conflict and cultivate awareness of faith traditions. He served on President Obama's inaugural Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and on the Department of Homeland Security's Faith-based Advisory Council.
Dr. Patel holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University, where he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship. He earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It was during his college years that Patel first became interested in religions diversity and found inspiration in the legacy of his "first faith hero," Dorothy Day, leader of the Catholic Worker movement. After completing his undergraduate degree, he embraced the role of advocate and activist, teaching at an alternative education program for high school dropouts in Chicago and founding a cooperative living community for activists and artists in the city's Uptown neighborhood. As a doctorate student at Oxford, Dr. Patel organized youth for several interfaith organizations in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Recognizing the significance of the convergence of faith, service and diversity, Dr. Patel developed the idea for an organization that would unite young people of different religious beliefs around service and dialogue. His idea, cultivated through his relationship with Brother Wayne Teasdale, a Catholic monk and social justice advocate, and blessed by the Dalai Lama, led to the Interfaith Youth Core, which he cofounded in 2002 with a $35,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.
Today, the Interfaith Youth Core is a thriving organization that inspires and trains college students to build a sustainable movement of people from all faiths and traditions who are working together to change the world. Focusing on the science of interfaith cooperation and the art of interfaith leadership, these students engage religious diversity, shift the public narrative on religion from division to pluralism, and empower students nationwide to build the movement for interfaith cooperation and become life-long interfaith leaders.
Dr. Patel lives in Chicago with his wife, Shehnaz Mansuri, and their two sons.
The impact of interfaith at Saint Martin's
Dr. Patel's beliefs resonate strongly with the Benedictine values that have defined Saint Martin's for more than a century. One of the core Benedictine values is hospitality, and as that value calls us to do, we enthusiastically welcome students, staff, faculty and community members of all faith traditions, backgrounds and belief systems. Other core Benedictine values include service, community, and respect for all persons - all of which align with Dr. Patel's call to commit to "common action for the common good."
Because of this close alignment with Saint Martin's Benedictine mission and identity, Dr. Patel was invited to be the inaugural speaker for the Benedictine Institute Lecture Series, a new series at Saint Martin's that will explore issues related to faith and community. Saint Martin's University is eager to engage the broader Puget Sound/Pacific Northwest community in the spirit of interfaith cooperation and dialogue!
Inaugural Benedictine lecture
On October 3, 2013 Eboo Patel engaged an audience of over 700 at the Norman Worthington Conference Center on the campus of Saint Martin's University. Students, faculty, staff, community members and community and religious leaders rose to their feet to applaud his inspiring message.
Video courtesy of Thurston Community Television (TCTV).