American flag waving in blue skyWritten by Don Byrd

As part of the Baptist Joint Committee’s involvement in the Know Your Neighbor campaign, we are working with other organizations to promote a variety of methods to encourage Americans to get to know people of other faiths while sharing their own.

One of the partners — The Interfaith Youth Core — is promoting an important awareness campaign through February 11 called #ChangeTheStory.

#ChangeTheStory encourages people to share positive stories of interfaith encounters and relationships, in an effort to counteract the negative media narratives surrounding religion differences in America.

Here’s an example of an encounter related to #ChangeTheStory — it comes from 2015 BJC Fellow Sabrina Dent, serving as a reminder that we are all connected despite our spiritual differences:

Several years ago, I was riding the Amtrak train from New Jersey back to Petersburg, Virginia.  There was an open seat beside me which eventually became occupied by an Indian woman. We began to chat during the ride; I learned that she had recently moved down South due to employment, and we talked about the differences between the two areas.

Eventually, we engaged in a conversation about our spiritual beliefs, which informed our engagement with humanity. I learned that she was practicing Hindu; I am a person of faith who embraces an interfaith identity. We talked for the entire ride. When we reached our destination, I was concerned because she didn’t know where to go or how to contact a taxi. I stayed at the station until she felt comfortable. We never exchanged contact information; only stories about our lives and love for humanity.  

Several weeks later while I was at work, one of the children from the youth program where I was employed had a difficult time managing his listening skills. I insisted that I speak with his parent about my concerns … and, to my surprise, in walked the same woman from the train! In that moment, I realized how the Universe connects us in the most interesting ways. Most importantly, the Universe not only allowed for me to express care and concern for the mother but also her child. This reminds me that the dynamics of human relations transcends religious boundaries and seeks to connect us to our most basic concerns … one another.

Do you have an example of a #ChangeTheStory encounter to share? Post stories on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #ChangeTheStory. Learn more about the campaign and submit a story directly to the Interfaith Youth Core.

We can overcome the challenges we face today along lines of religious division, but it will take more than just the right laws and public policies to undo the growing suspicion and stereotype based on religion that sadly defines much of the current conversation surrounding differences in faith. As Sabrina found, reaching out to someone of another faith invites a recognition of our common humanity, and breaks down unnecessary barriers between us.

Share your story today on social media, or browse the #ChangeTheStory hashtag to read about the experiences of others!