To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Interfaith America, we spoke with individuals connected to the organization about their own interfaith work, favorite memories of IFYC/Interfaith America, and their hopes for the future of this important work.
Interfaith America Magazine’s Allie Vroegop interviewed Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Religion & Society Program and author of “The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life.” As an educator, writer, and activist, he shares his longstanding connection to interfaith work and the impact Interfaith America has had, including his hopes for future growth.
This conversation was lightly edited for clarity.
Allie Vroegop: Share with us about your connection to interfaith work.
Simran Jeet Singh: I got involved in interfaith work very early in my life. Growing up in San Antonio, my parents believed it was important to connect with diverse religious communities and that it would be a great way for us as kids to get to know people and, ultimately, create more understanding and safety.
In elementary school, we’d attend and then lead, speak, or sing at interfaith events and programming. Friendships then started to develop with people across different traditions. Over the years, I’ve come to see interfaith gatherings as valuable places to strengthen relationships and to dig into conversations about the bigger questions in life in ways that enhance the world for all of us.
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AV: When and how did you first get involved with Interfaith America (or IFYC)?
SJS: I distinctly remember an Interfaith America [then Interfaith Youth Core] program a few years ago, the Interfaith Leadership Summit. I was a speaker and came to share my perspectives with young students and leaders interested in interfaith work. I was hoping to share some lessons I’ve learned on my own journey, and I was pleased to find such rich programming and deep, meaningful conversations that in many ways went beyond stereotypical interfaith gatherings. I appreciated the fact that Interfaith America was focused on diving deeper and finding connection across differences rather than glossing over differences.
AV: What’s a special memory you will always hold dear from working alongside and being a part of Interfaith America?
SJS: Welcoming Interfaith America as part of our programming at the 2022 Aspen Ideas Festival was powerful. Eboo Patel joined us on the main stage alongside other diverse religious leaders to discuss the changing landscape of religious diversity in America, and what challenges and opportunities that brings forward. It was a special conversation that helped push listeners’ thinking in new and important ways.
AV: What’s something you’re really proud of that Interfaith America has achieved in the past 20 years?
SJS: Interfaith America has helped to elevate the importance of religion in American society, a critical issue that is too often overlooked. The Interfaith America team over the years has been on the forefront of starting these conversations and increasing awareness. The country is better for that.
AV: Where would you like Interfaith America to be in the future?
SJS: I would love to see Interfaith America continuing to grow both in its organizational maturity and its footprint. The impact Interfaith America has had is incredible and I would love to see that continue and flourish over the next twenty years.
Author and activist Simran Jeet Singh reflects on being a Sikh American and how his faith inspires him to fight racism with love.
We as spiritual beings and as political beings are best served when we start from a place of oneness.
— Simran Jeet Singh