What Does Interfaith Engagement Mean to Religious Millennials? Joint Response From Brittani Magee, Amanda Wolkin and 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.


In our last few articles, you’ve read three very different stories: one from a Jew navigating the waters of the professional world, one from a Muslim seasoned in interfaith dialogue, and the last from a Christian studying at the Candler School of Theology. And while we all come from different perspectives, we share two common threads: 1) we are millennials, and 2) we care about interfaith dialogue.

Our generation tends to get the brunt of bad stereotypes – that we don’t look up from our phones, that we’re too caught up in ourselves to care about issues in the world. And yet, the three of us met doing the exact opposite. We put ourselves out there to strangers, eager to exchange in intercultural dialogue and understanding. We began as strangers, with nothing but stilted conversation starters and plates of falafel between us, and emerged as religious millennials eager to 1) understand, and 2) encourage others to do the same.

Albert Einstein once said that “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Within our country, religious intolerance seems to be woven into the hearts of many who fear the beliefs of the “other.” So we wondered: what can be done to broaden the perceptions of certain religions, when only a small group of voices are heard?

So here is our call to millennials: let’s get out there. Let’s engage. And let’s take action. Living in a multicultural society, it is not a question of if but when will we encounter someone whose worldview is very different from our own. As such, we invite you to join in the conversation with hopes that it can breed understanding, compassion and respect for those who are different. Think it will be hard? Here are a few starting tips:

Engage in Open Conversation: We get it – Interfaith dialogue can be scary and uncomfortable. That’s why there’s a set of rules, developed by the Former Dean of Religious Life of Emory, Susan Henry-Crowe, to encourage open conversation. The highlights include:

  • Honor each person’s identity, whether that’s diet, dress or modesty.
  • Carefully articulate differences while affirming each religious group.
  • Encourage positivity and build trusting relationships.
  • Pray in the presence of “other,” but don’t expect all to pray together.

Don’t Let “Religion” Scare You: Not everyone is religious – but that shouldn’t stop you from engaging in conversation. Whether you’re atheist, agonistic, or just plain unsure, join the dialogue. We can all learn from each other.

Attend Local Events: There are events all around the city meant to encourage these conversations. Start with Georgia Tech’s Leadership and Multifaith Program’s (LAMP) upcoming symposium in February 2018, “Religious and Scientific Perspectives on the Future of Life.” See https://lamp.iac.gatech.edu/ for more details.

Check out the Resources: Believe it or not, there are resources all around Atlanta to encourage conversations – and millennials are always invited. A sampling of them are below (but you can always find more on this blog):

  • AIB-TV: Atlanta’s interfaith television and video network.
  • The Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta: An organization whose mission is to promote respect and unity among diverse faiths in the Atlanta region.
  • Neshama Interfaith Center: A center designed to build a community for exploration and spiritual growth.
  • Compassionate Atlanta: A grassroots movement that seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of compassionate action.
  • Interfaith Community Initiatives: An interfaith organization that provides interactive experiences engaging individuals and organizations to strengthen community relations and resolve conflict peaceably.

And Know You’re Not Alone: Starting to engage in interfaith dialogue can be scary and uncomfortable. But you’re not alone in your quest for understanding. The three of us did it – and so can you.