What is Interfaith?
Throughout history, people have made enormous sacrifices – and committed horrible crimes – because of their passion for their faiths. This cannot be said about people’s passion for, say, Geometry, Biology, or English Lit. It seems odd, then, to create a course of study that does not focus on – or at least include – Faith Studies. And so, at the Peace & Justice Academy, a class in Faith Studies holds equal weight with all other subjects. An Interfaith Curriculum Committee comprised of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim educators has designed an inspiring scope and sequence for this high school program. Other faith traditions are welcome to participate and are invited to join the school. The Peace & Justice Academy is a place for all faiths.
Those who come with a strong personal faith background continue learning about the history, tenets, sacred texts, and practices of their faith. Those who come without a particular faith background are free to study with any faith tradition track they wish. Students experience two types of Faith Studies classes. In some classes, they join students from their own faith tradition for lessons taught by clergy, scholars, and other experts in that faith tradition. Other whole-school classes allow these Faith Studies teachers to share what they believe with students of all spiritual backgrounds.
During ninth and tenth grades, Faith Studies emphasizes how similar we are – how all great religions share so many core values: love, empathy, compassion, mercy, service, hospitality, community, honesty, and of course, peace and justice. Students build strong relationships with each other, seeing each other’s humanity. In eleventh and twelfth grades, students go deeper into their own faiths and learn to appreciate and celebrate the things that make us different.
Years from now, students who graduate from the Peace & Justice Academy will have friends from diverse cultural and spiritual backgrounds. They will stand as allies with one another. They will act as role models in a world so often plagued by isolationism and mistrust.