I spent the last week of May in Chicago with the Faiths Act Fellows. For many, it was the first sight of each other since we parted ways back in September. Unfortunately, only 29 of the 30 Fellows were able to attend. Bilal Hassam, who was based in Leicester, UK, was detained in Montreal on his way into the US, a casualty of America’s homeland security theatre. Luckily, we were able to Skype him in for a few of our sessions!
We spent three jam-packed days at the offices of the Interfaith Youth Core, talking over the last eight months. Each pair of Fellows gave a short presentation – basically a highlight reel – of their work, and we talked very candidly about successes and failures. As a whole, the Fellowship raised around USD $140,000, which former Prime Minister Tony Blair will personally match. The money is going to Project Muso, Spread the Net, and Malaria No More US and UK. We had around 10,000 people come to our events and reached out to around 40,000 in total. We had 350 media pieces and trained dozens of new interfaith leaders.
Tony Blair himself interrupted a series of toasts we were giving each other to say how proud and excited he felt about us. We are his Fellows, really, and he’s always very eager to talk us up. He told us that what we did was new and trend-setting and most of all important.
It was a bittersweet three days in Chicago, though. The US Fellows are spread all over this huge country of ours, to say nothing of the distance to the UK. The Canadians are also widely dispersed. I might not see some of these people for a very long time, or ever again.
One of the unexpected byproducts of the last ten months of training and action has been the “gelling” of the Fellowship into more than a group of people brought together for a common purpose. We’ve shared trials, tribulations, and laughter, collaborated on national and international initiatives, and changed the map of interfaith work in just a few short months. These activists are my dear friends and allies.
Someday years from now, I will be asked to assemble a Dream Team of world-savers. The alumni of the Faiths Act Fellowship will be first on my phone tree. Thank you all for everything.