Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Foundation, recently announced the selection of 30 young people from the UK, US, Canada and India to join his Faith Foundation's youth leadership program, the Faiths Act Fellowship. The Faith Act Fellows will be tasked with building understanding between different religious communities by mobilizing them around the common cause of eradicating deaths from malaria, which this year alone caused more than 750,000 unnecessary deaths.
The Foundation received almost 700 applications from around the world and has chosen just 30 of the most outstanding young people of faith to be ambassadors for its Faiths Act programme. The Fellows represent a diverse cross section of the faith traditions: 30% are Muslim, 26% Christian, 17% Jewish, 10% Hindu, 7% Buddhist, 3% Bahá'í, 3% Sikh and 3% Quaker.
"Too often we hear about the negative aspects of faith but the number of applications we received shows the enthusiasm which exists among young people to use their faith as a force for good. Faith can build understanding and provide unity and strength to counter those who see faith as a source of division and discrimination," said Blair.
The San Francisco Interfaith Council (SFIC), a URI Cooperation Circle, was selected by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as one of 15 international host sites for the Faith Act Fellows. Founded 22 years ago in response City's homeless crisis and the aftermath of the the Loma Prieta earthquake, the SFIC represents over 800 congregations, along with their respective judicatories and faith based-social service agencies. "Celebrating our diverse faith and spiritual traditions, the San Francisco Interfaith Council brings people together to build understanding and serve our community," is the organization's mission.
Executive Director Michael Pappas noted, "The SFIC's commitment to advancing the UN Millennium Development Goals, both abroad and at home, make this selection as a Faith Act Fellows host site an exciting match. We greatly look forward to our 10 month partnership with the Faith Act Fellows."
The two Faith Act Fellows who will be joining the SFIC family in September are:
Rachel Finn is 22 years old and from Framingham, MA, a suburb outside of Boston. She grew up with a strong Jewish family and a connection to the local synagogue, and she is very excited to be moving to San Francisco. She studied International Relations with a concentration in International Security and Religion as an undergraduate, earning her B.A. from Tufts University in 2011. She was the President of Tufts Hillel and has been a part of and leader for social action, interfaith, and dialogue groups. She spent time focusing on genocide awareness and education at Tufts. In addition to spending a semester in France, Rachel was a lucky participant on service learning trips to Kazakhstan and Berlin and will spend two weeks on an interfaith service trip in Rwanda this May. While she may be short, Rachel has a black belt in Karate!
Nina Pine, 23, is a Buddhist from Kathmandu, Nepal, and grew up internationally in a Sherpa Buddhist and Jewish household. She graduated with a BA in Critical Theory and Social Justice from Occidental College, where she also had the opportunity to study in North-eastern Brazil for a semester. Nina was a Program Assistant for Occidental's Office for Religious and Spiritual Life where she organised interfaith dialogues and programmes. She was also the student coordinator of the Buddhist Meditation Group and a Values and Vocations Fellow, a program that explores the connection between spirituality and social justice work. Nina was also an Associate Coordinator with the Coalition of Welcoming Congregations of the Bay Area. Along with interfaith activism, Nina is passionate about sustainable agriculture, poetry and tea.