Written By Gagandeep Kaur Mann
Pictures Provided by Kurt Huckleberry
The Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County 12th Annual Faith Forum and Festival
On March 13th, 2016, the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County (IYCOC) held their 12th Annual Youth Forum and Festival at the Pacifica Institute in Irvine CA. With the support of its administration, New Vision Partners, over 173 individuals attended the program. Over 120 of those were High School Students participating in the Youth Forum from over 12 different faith traditions. Even more amazing, this program was put together by the IYCOC youth members. This event was a chance for high school students of all faiths to get together and gain a better understanding of each other’s beliefs by engaging in dialogue and a free space to express their feelings and opinions. Students included members of IYCOC, members of the Interfaith Youth Council of LA County, and teens all throughout Orange County and even San Clemente. This year’s Theme was “Merging World’s”. The Forum Questions focused on teens to understand their own faith’s history of migration as well as to come up with solutions for coexistence.
This year’s Questions:
- Has the generational divide between you and your parents affected the way you practice your faith/beliefs at home?
- In terms of your faith/beliefs how is your life different from your grandparents’?
- How is your life different from what perhaps your grandchildren’s lives will be?
- Throughout its history has your religious or ethnic community experienced migration? If so, how and why?
- How does your faith’s/beliefs’ ideology tell you to respond to the current Syrian refugee crisis?
- How is your faith participating in efforts to coexist with other faiths?
- Have you experienced coexistence of faiths in your community?
- What, if anything, have you learned today that you could take with you?
Throughout the Forum portion of the program, students could be seen finding commonality in their peers. This engagement and group conversation, brought together teens who may have not met otherwise. The forum combated stereotypes and many friendships were formed and strengthened over the course of the day through open dialogue and the sharing of opinions and collaborative solutions. A key strategy in strengthening these bonds was in the seating arrangement, as one table sat one student from each faith.
At the closing of the program a panel of IYCOC members, students from the F.I.S.H Interfaith Center at Chapman University, USC, Pasadena City College, CSU Long Beach, and young adults working in interfaith and other non-profits, highlighted the importance in multicultural, interfaith activities. The senior officers, Kurt Huckleberry and Sahib Ajit Singh from IYCOC, shared their experience as board member and the leadership skills they would take with them to college and beyond. All young adults shared in the impact of being a part of interfaith and the personal growth they have all had in their own lives and even career.
The Forum concluded with a beautiful candlelight ceremony. One high school student from each faith tradition came up and as they lighted their candles they expressed their hopes and dreams for the future. Each candle was lit in hopes of lighting the way towards coexistence, compassion and peace.
Following the Faith Forum, parents and family were welcomed to join the students at the Festival portion of the program. The Faith Festival included, Henna Artistry, Ebru Painting by the Pacifica Institute and around 15 pieces of Art contributed by High School Students for “The Expressions of Faith” Art Gallery. It also included Information Booths of all the faiths that were represented that day.
The Festival had 10 multicultural performances including a “Call to prayer”. The program showcased the immense talent of these incredible teens through instrumental performances, song and dance.
All in all, the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County and New Vision Partners, pulled off yet another successful Faith Forum and Festival. IYCOC continues to stay true to its mission, in coming “together to promote respect, understanding and appreciation for the integrity of each other’s beliefs, cultures, and traditions, through interfaith dialogue, education, and activities.” Join them next year for the 13th Annual Faith Forum and Festival on March 19th, 2017 Location TBA.
IYCOC would like to thank everyone who came out and supported IYCOC’s 12th Annual Faith Forum and Festival. We are so grateful to the dedicated parents, facilitators and our IYCOC Advisory Board: Mike Penn, Jasjit Ahuja, Doris Longmead, and Brenda Davis who had a dream 12 years ago to create a safe space for teens to learn and grow from one another and who continue to support and mentor our efforts.
Thank you to our awesome partners: Executive Director Steve Wiebe of New Vision Partners, Program Director Ineko Tsuchida from the Shinnyo-en Foundation and Rabbi Frank Stern from the Orange County Interfaith Network.
A special recognition to our gracious and incredible hosts for this year: The Pacifica Institute who opened their doors and hearts to support IYCOC. Thank you to Hatam and “The Day Your Way” for the amazing lunch.
Thank you to our hardworking IYCOC Officers and Youth Board Members for putting together an incredible event. And of course, thank you to all of our Participants! You are all an inspiration and we hope this has been a transformative experience.
And we hope you share your experience (and pictures!) with us: Follow us on Instagram @iycoc “Like us” on Facebook.com/IYCOC
If you would like to submit a reflection for our IYCOC blog, all submissions can be sent to IYCOCorg@gmail.com
To learn more about the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, Visit our Website at IYCOC.org