American Civic Life

Five Ways Interfaith Mentors Can Foster Future Bridgebuilders 

Whether the mentees are organizing their first interfaith project on campus or leading a well-funded program across states, interfaith leadership mentors help mentees identify goals and develop plans to achieve them. (FilippoBacci/Getty Images)

Whether the mentees are organizing their first interfaith project on campus or leading a well-funded program across states, interfaith leadership mentors help mentees identify goals and develop plans to achieve them. (FilippoBacci/Getty Images)

Mentorship is like a guiding light. It provides individuals with the tools to navigate their careers and lives. In interfaith leadership, mentors are pivotal in shaping future bridgebuilders. 

Here are five ways mentors inspire mentees to engage in practical, impactful, and sustainable bridgebuilding work: 

1. Cultivate Cultural Awareness

When mentors integrate interfaith leadership into their guidance, they naturally cultivate cultural awareness among their mentees. They ask their mentees questions that encourage them to consider new perspectives. They introduce diverse traditions, customs, and worldviews into the conversations, offering new insights for the mentee to reflect on. By sharing their personal experiences from their worldview, mentors help mentees understand the story behind why the mentor engages in bridgebuilding work. 

 

2. Create Safe Spaces

Interfaith leaders are well-equipped to facilitate dialogues among people with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds. Thus, they are skilled at building safe spaces for intercultural exchanges. Mentors emphasize the importance of these spaces to their mentees, advising them to approach all conversations and dialogues with empathy and understanding. As a result, mentees learn how to actively listen to diverse viewpoints, acknowledge differences without judgment, and foster an atmosphere where everyone’s beliefs are respected.

 

3. Set Interfaith Leadership Goals

Even though mentors have a diverse range of skill sets and experiences, interfaith leadership mentors share skills in bridgebuilding. These skills range from effective communication across lines of difference, utilizing a radar screen for religious diversity, and sharing a public narrative about their motivations for engaging in interfaith work.

Interfaith leadership mentors assist mentees in identifying and developing their own interfaith leadership goals. Whether the mentees are organizing their first interfaith project on campus or leading a well-funded program across states, interfaith leadership mentors help mentees identify goals and develop plans to achieve them. This personalized support helps mentees continually improve their skill sets and sustain their motivations to lead.

 

4. Navigate Complex Issues

The complex landscape of interfaith work requires skillful navigation. Mentors guide mentees in handling disagreements among religious groups, addressing community social issues, and more. They share strategies for thinking through these challenges while emphasizing the importance of self-care. The problems may seem significant and overwhelming, but it helps nobody if the mentee burns out. Therefore, mentors can serve as accountability partners to ensure mentees integrate self-care practices into their leadership.

 

5. Encourage Continuous Learning and Reflection

Effective mentors instill a commitment to continuous learning and reflection within their mentees. Acknowledging that they do not have all the answers, mentors share their journeys and highlight the obstacles they faced and overcame. This transparency should inspire mentees, fostering a mindset that embraces challenges as opportunities for growth. The mentor’s commitment to ongoing education prepares mentees to lead in an evolving, complex, and diverse world. 

Overall, mentors who instill interfaith leadership skills in their mentees help them navigate the evolving terrain of cultural and religious diversity. Through their wisdom, mentees learn essential skills and insights that nurture sustainable and impactful interfaith leadership. The journey of mentorship is a partnership where the mentor and mentee work together to maintain the sustainability of interfaith and bridgebuilding work. 

Suraj Arshanapally

Suraj Arshanapally, MPH, is an Indian American peacebuilder, public health advocate, and storyteller. He started The Multicultural Man to amplify culturally diverse stories of masculinity that promote health and peace. He is also the Managing Editor for the CDC Yellow Book, an international travel medicine publication at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suraj received his MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Yale University. He believes multiculturalism and interfaith cooperation are crucial to building a healthy and peaceful society.   

Suraj Arshanapally wrote this article in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services, Interfaith America, or the United States government.