The way people of different faith traditions interact has long been of interest to college student Patrick Golden. The Gift of Hope scholar is pursuing a government and religious studies major at the University of Texas in Austin.
A member of St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Houston, Golden said his church upbringing has helped fuel his passion.
In 2014, he attended an eight-day trip to the Philippines as an elected delegate from the South Central Jurisdiction to be a part of the quadrennial United Methodist Global Young People's Convocation and Legislative Assembly. The event included 350 youth from around the world.
"This gathering aimed to break down borders and establish global friendships between people of different cultures and biblical ideologies. A large part of our time here was spent in holy conferencing with one another as we all participated in various discussion and debate," he said.
Last year, Golden worked with interfaith groups as a counselor at a Kids4Peace youth camp. Founded in Jerusalem in 2002, Kids4Peace operates five international summer camps and a year-round program for Palestinian, Israeli and North American youth. The program connects children and families from different backgrounds in an effort to promote peace and break down barriers.
The experience provided Golden with a lot of hope for the future, he said. This fall, he will have the chance to study abroad in Jerusalem.
"I will have the unique opportunity to take classes in a city that three major world religions hold sacred ties toward. In a place like Jerusalem, religion is politics and politics is religion. Learning how to integrate myself into a society that is so heavily influenced by religion will be very difficult, yet very rewarding.
"I hope that my time spent here will enable me to learn how to really take note of where people are coming from when it comes to tackling divisive religious issues and understanding why one might view something in a particular way. There is no way that any type of compromise can occur without an underlying level of understanding and courtesy between both parties. I've learned that it is a lot easier to convince a friend to change their beliefs than it is to convince an enemy."
Golden is grateful for the United Methodist Student Day offering. He said the Gift of Hope scholarship allowed him to pursue his education without worrying about money, and being able to travel and volunteer with various nonprofits has helped him find his calling.
"I find a lot of hope in organizations … (that) bring people of vastly different backgrounds together for the common goal of making this world a better place," he said. "(In the future), I hope to work for a nonprofit like Kids4Peace that helps bridge people of different religious upbringings for the political goal of promoting non-violence and more mature diplomacy."
Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications
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