Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Sikh, and others… Interfaith Philadelphia is governed by a Board of Directors and a professional team whose members reflect a broad spectrum of religious, ethnic and racial communities. These leaders advance the agency’s mission by drawing on their collective experience in interfaith relations and diversity work conducted in civic, governmental, community and educational areas.
Interfaith Philadelphia’s holistic approach to learning engages the head, the heart, and the hands through teaching, dialogue, and service. Formal projects, or Signature Initiatives, have the same goal, which is to create communities of hope and reconciliation throughout our region—in workplaces, schools and neighborhoods. We bring together religious leaders, congregants, and youth to get to know each other as people and to learn how to value and respect the “other” while maintaining (and often strengthening) their own religious identities.
Interfaith Philadelphia works strategically with people in workplaces, congregations, schools, and neighborhoods. Based on the social-ecological model, Interfaith Philadelphia posits that change cannot occur without impacting multiple levels of influence. Social change at Interfaith Philadelphia is defined as increased social harmony. Consequently, we focus on changing attitudes and increasing knowledge at the individual level, developing relationships across difference at the inter-personal level, building bridges between diverse communities at the community level, and creating a new public narrative at the societal level. This approach cuts across all of our programs and guides our focus into the future.
What We Do
With a focus on long term, enduring impact, all of our initiatives incorporate the following critical components:
Equip Individuals with Competencies for Interfaith Engagement
We provide individuals with interfaith experiences, skills and knowledge that will increase understanding and improve attitudes. We help people embrace our region’s rich religious diversity and enhance their comfortable engagement across difference. We serve to be a point of entry for those curious to learn about different faiths and traditions, including those who orient around religion differently - from orthodox or evangelical, to secular or atheist. The skills we teach are transferable: Developing genuine curiosity can extend to ways we engage others in political and social discourse as well. We are committed to being the region’s expert resource for programming in diverse settings on the subject of interfaith understanding.
Build Authentic Relationships of Mutual Trust and Solidarity
We hold interfaith relations as a priority for our community and sustain urgency around the importance and need for interfaith engagement. We serve as an avenue for collaboration and for the building of mutual support. We also serve as a central “connector” for religious, community and civic leaders, able to facilitate strategic introductions and essential conversations. We function as our region’s expert voice for this work among diverse audiences and sectors, fostering honest conversation and effective communication, managing shared data collection and analysis, and (when needed) mediating conflicts.
Advance Interfaith Understanding in the Public Sphere
We want Philadelphia to be known as a place where diversity is celebrated and religion is critical to that conversation. We want to approach our work in the public sphere with greater intentionality and emphasis, both to play a significant role in shaping public discourse, while also developing sophisticated responses to emergent issues. Our efforts strive to touch diverse audiences and ensure that our impact is greater than a single event, program or crisis.
In order to promote social harmony and inter-religious understanding, the Interfaith Philadelphia equips individuals and communities for interfaith engagement, builds collaborative relationships, and stands in solidarity with our diverse neighbors.
Since our founding in 2004, the Interfaith Philadelphia has challenged Philadelphians to dare to understand one another. Our bold vision is to have our region reflect the vibrancy of a religiously diverse democracy, one in which all people are valued, distinctive traditions are welcomed, and people of diverse backgrounds collaborate to shape a just and compassionate society.
Dare to Understand
Our tagline, Dare to Understand, is both a statement of fact and a call to action, encapsulating so much of what makes our work unique. It conveys a sense of the courage required to participate and engage in interfaith work, the fear of the religious “other” felt by so many, and the need to overcome such fears. It challenges us to be bold in learning about one another, to dare to listen sincerely to the crying needs of our time, and to work together to contribute to the good of our region. Not only is our tagline a call for a deeper understanding of the religious “other,” but it is also an invitation to continued self-discovery and appreciation of one’s own heritage.