Dr. Eboo Patel, a leading voice in the movement for interfaith cooperation, will speak Thursday, May 1, from noon-1 p.m. in James B. Woulfe Hall of the Anderson Student Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

Eboo Patel

Eboo Patel

His talk, “Interfaith Leadership: Engaging Faith and Philosophical Diversity in the 21st Century,” is sponsored by St. Thomas’ Office for Mission and is free and open to the public.

Patel, who believes that diverse faith and philosophical identities can serve as bridges rather than barriers, is founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit that partners with higher-education institutions to foster interfaith cooperation.

An American Ismaili of Gujarati Indian heritage, he is the author of Acts of Faith, which won the Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion, Sacred Ground and, most recently, Interfaith Leadership.

Patel and his Interfaith Youth Core are working with a 20-member group of St. Thomas students, staff and faculty who are midway through a one-year project to assess the university’s interfaith climate and to develop a permanent interfaith council that will be part of the university’s Office for Mission.

“Embracing our Differences as One Human Family” is one of eight priorities that comprise the strategic planning effort that is now underway at St. Thomas.

“When we talk about embracing our differences, we need to ask ourselves what it means to be a Catholic university with a diverse student body,” explained Father Larry Snyder, the vice president for mission at St. Thomas.

“Dr. Patel puts it nicely,” Snyder said. “The work of this interfaith council will be to build bridges.”

A frequent speaker on the topic of religious pluralism, Patel served with Snyder on President Obama’s Inaugural Faith Council and in 2009 was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s Best Leaders.

Patel grew up in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford University where he studied on a Rhodes scholarship.

While a student at Oxford, Patel ran numerous interfaith youth projects in India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. He founded Interfaith Youth Core in 2002 with a Jewish friend and a grant from the Ford Foundation.

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