My Voice, My City: Making Community Connections at the Chicago Interfaith Gathering

Today we welcomed high school students from around Chicago to meet each other and learn about different justice issues through an interfaith lens. Photos of the event are interspersed with our intern Megan’s interview with our Director Brendan, who led the event. A recap of the event will come soon! – Eleanor Peck, Director of Communications

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By: Megan Deppen, intern at Niagara and student at DePaul

Niagara is excited to welcome students from high schools across the city to My Voice, My City, an exciting event amid Niagara’s Chicago Interfaith Gathering.

The all day program seeks to engage high school students from an array of socioeconomic, cultural, and religious backgrounds so they may reflect on justice in their city and understand how they relate as members of society.

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This is the first time Niagara has worked with high school students, and Director of the Center for Cultural Exchange & Interfaith Collaboration, Brendan Dowd, expects a transformative experience for all.

“[High schoolers are] really starting to open up their eyes to the larger community and the world, and starting to think bigger, ask bigger, challenging questions,” Dowd said.

“We really wanted to really look, answer, and explore some of the justice realities here in Chicago and connect students to those realities so they can be educated about these issues and their role.”

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Representatives from CeaseFire Illinois, the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), and the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will speak for their organizations as well as share their experiences with injustice.

Following the presentation, Reverend David Kelly, director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR) in Chicago, will guide the students through a “circle healing” exercise.

“Circle healing,” Dowd explained, is a restorative justice technique that PBMR uses to provide “spaces for safe healing [and also create] a dynamic conversation between victims of gang violence.”

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Reverend Kelly will use this same process to help students reflect on the larger themes of the event.

“It’s all about allowing students to find their narrative to find their voice, to find a strength in their processing of whatever they saw, and to see that it’s valid amongst and in contrast to other students,” Dowd said.

Dowd hopes that the event will inspire students to view their role differently in their community; that students see their potential to bring about social change, and work towards a peaceful coexistence with people of other backgrounds.

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“We’re hoping that because we’re drawing from students from different areas of the city, different social contexts, religious traditions, that perhaps they will be introduced to one injustice, one reality that they really weren’t well versed in,” Dowd said.

“They’re learning with other students of all different backgrounds, they’re learning about new realities, and then they’re reflecting and processing it,” Dowd said.

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The Chicago Interfaith Gathering begins Monday, February 3rd at the Chicago Cultural Center at 9:00 and is open to the public. Registration is available here.

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