Interfaith Youth Core founder Patel to present ‘big vision’ idea of interfaith work in United States to open week on evolving narrative


Eboo Patel is perhaps one of the most respected people in America’s interfaith community in the present day.

Having served on President Barack Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Patel is also the founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core, a national nonprofit which cooperates with higher education and corporations to create the next set of leaders in a religiously diverse world, according to its website

At 1 p.m. Monday, July 19 in the Amphitheater, Patel will present his lecture “Interfaith America,” the first of three Interfaith Lectures in Week Four, themed “The Evolving Religious Narrative of America.”

“No one is better qualified to present this aspect of America’s future,” said Chautauqua Institution Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno. 

With the IFYC, Patel oversees and organizes what he called its big vision.

“A lot of my job is strategy,” Patel said. “It’s articulating the big vision. It’s inspiring other people around the big vision, and the big vision is interfaith America — the welcoming of America’s diverse religious identities and the nurturing of cooperation between them.”

Patel loves every aspect of pursuing this big vision.

“I love the day-to-day of my work, the strategizing, the figuring out how to team the right staff members together,” he said. “I love giving talks, I love writing — I’m just about to publish my fifth book — and I love the big vision. I love the idea of being able to contribute to something called interfaith America, which I think is the next chapter in the great story of America’s religious diversity.”

Patel’s forthcoming book, We Need to Build: Lessons From the Field For Those Who Want To Forge A Diverse Democracy, is out next May. He is also a regular contributor to Inside Higher Ed, with his blog titled “Conversations on Diversity.”

Not only is Patel a regular Chautauqua visitor, he said, there is a quote of his painted the wall of the Colonnade’s hallway, even though Patel doesn’t remember what it says. 

“It’s a wonderful community,” Patel said. “It takes religion seriously as a part of the human enterprise and civic enterprise of the U.S., and that’s really important.”

Rovegno finds it fortunate Patel and Chautauqua have maintained a strong relationship.

“Chautauqua has been blessed to have (Patel) and IFYC as valuable partners in our interfaith work since we held our Chautauqua International Interfaith Conference at the Ismaili Center in London in 2005, during which Eboo first joined us in this ever-expanding part of our mission,” Rovegno said.

In his lecture, Patel said he will discuss the history of Judeo-Christians, his vision of interfaith America and how Chautauqua might model his vision.

“I would like people to view themselves as creators,” Patel said, “to recognize we’re at an exciting hinge point in the history of religious diversity in America.”

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The author Max Zambrano

Max Zambrano is a recent Western Kentucky University graduate in his first season at Chautauqua. At WKU, he served as editor-in-chief of the Talisman magazine and website, majored in political science and minored in journalism writing. Max has traveled to Australia and Morocco, and he hopes to visit all 50 states (28 to go). This summer, he will report on interfaith lectures and sacred song services. Let him know if you want to play backgammon on Bestor Plaza.