What Does Interfaith Engagement Mean to Religious Millennials? Response from Hamdi Abdi

The perspective of seasoned Atlanta community and faith leaders within the discussion of interfaith engagement is invaluable. But it is equally important to shine a light on new, fresh voices in this conversation. To this end, we are excited to introduce a four-part blog series sharing the thoughts of three young interfaith leaders in AtlantaBrittani Magee, Amanda Wolkin, and Hamdi Abdi met during a dialogue dinner at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology last spring and come from varying religious backgrounds. They will each be tapping into their unique perspectives as religious young adults to discuss what interfaith engagement means to them within today’s social, political, and societal context. Be sure to stay tuned for the fourth, final post in this series detailing their collaborative call to action for the Atlanta interfaith community.


Describing what “interfaith” is in explicit terms is a fairly difficult task. It’s tough to envision a scenario where you can neatly package everything that makes up the belief system that is Islam or Judaism or Christianity and meaningfully enmesh it with another similarly complicated belief. However, I’m still a huge believer in interfaith work and engagement because of the direct impact it has had on my life and my understanding of myself and others.

My undergrad at Trinity College was a dark time for me. By my sophomore year, I was engulfed in feelings of isolation that made even leaving my dorm a trying task, and I had a habit of dropping out of my friends’ lives for weeks when I felt overwhelmed that did not help matters. I told myself it was just how I coped with the stress, but I actually had no idea what was going on with me. It took no shortage of individuals to pull me up to where I could stand once again, but the person that helped me make the best sense of it was the college chaplain. At Trinity we had an Interfaith House (formally the Charleston House of Interfaith Cooperation) where we held monthly dinner discussions about the common threads that ran through the participants’ faith traditions regarding themes such as love, justice, liberation, etc. The conversations were insightful, the food we catered was delicious, and a fun time was had by all. To be honest, I’ve forgotten most of what was said, but what was lasting was the sense of community I felt in that time and the relationships I made. I met Chaplain Allison Read through the House, who talked me through a crisis I had never experienced in my bubble of a home in Georgia. There was nothing missing between us or impeding her from reaching through to me. And there was no pressure or competition to grapple our faiths against each other. It was just us communicating.

It’s easy for people to commune over having similar identities, including religious identity. It’s much more difficult to do that in terms of knowledge. At the House, we all made a commitment to come together and learn from each other and at least my life has been richer for it. I ultimately hope to continue developing the same sort of compassion and understanding for others that these people had for me because this interfaith experience changed my life.


Hamdi Abdi is a graduate of Madina Institute Seminary and Trinity College, in which both she found a home in great ideas and even greater people. She credits her undergrad for introducing her to interfaith as a concerted practice through three years at the Charleston House of Interfaith Cooperation and black women for everything else. She believes an empathetic understanding of people is necessary for meaningful progress towards a more just world, which is more work than she bargained for. But she’s willing to make it work.