Interfaith Encounters Alternative Break
is an exciting and transformative weeklong experience offered by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia for college students who wish to acquire an understanding of major world religions, dialogue with members of these faith communities, and serve the communities with them. Over seven days, participants encounter such divergent faiths as Islam, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Sikhism among others in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Through structured workshops and reflection sessions, students experience personal growth by confronting their preconceived notions, which are then transformed into a deeper respect for and understanding of those of diverse faiths. In the words of one participant from last year’s trip, “Whereas once I had a closed mind, I am now open to working with other faiths. I have left my ignorance and entered into a new knowledge.”
Self-discovery is a large part of this Alternative Break program, as noted by another student who said “the experiences made me realize who I really am.” From participating in community service projects, to visiting faith communities for education, worship, and conversation, students have the opportunity to learn about the diverse religious groups present in Philadelphia from active members of those groups.
Last year, students visited the Har Zion Synagogue, the Quba Institute, the Philadelphia Sikh Society, the White Rock Baptist Church, and others, in addition to attending workshops led by the anti-gun violence group, Heeding God’s Call. A student on the 2013 trip reflected, “I built a stronger faith in my own religion while also building strong bonds with my brothers and sisters of different religions.” Interfaith Encounters Alternative Break helps prepare participants to take their place as knowledgeable citizens and leaders in a global, multi-faith and multi-cultural society.