The Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY) works to overcome prejudice, violence, and misunderstanding by activating the power of the city’s grassroots religious and civic leaders and their communities.
We define interfaith as the positive awareness of religious diversity, and the intention or actual practice of engaging people of different faiths for the betterment of society as a whole. For our purposes social change is defined as the integrated effect of changing attitudes and social patterns towards other religious communities while at the same time improving the social well-being of one’s own community and the community at large.
“Lived Religion“ – In ICNY’s Education Programs, we stress personal experiences of religious life – not just the views of canonical doctrines and texts – in order to give New Yorkers and others the subtle, empathic understanding of religion they need to be full participants in a pluralistic society.
History of The Interfaith Center of New York
The Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY) is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) affiliated to the United Nations Department of Public Information (UN/DPI), a nationally-recognized non-profit organization that catalyzes collaborations among hundreds of grassroots and immigrant religious leaders and civic officials (judges, teachers, and social workers) to address New York’s most pressing social problems. Founded in 1997 by the Very Rev. James Parks Morton, former Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, ICNY’s historic partners have included the New York State Unified Court System, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, UJA Federation, The Center for Court Innovation, the Harlem Community Justice Center, CONNECT and the city’s nine Social Work Schools. ICNY works with hundreds of grassroots and immigrant religious leaders from fifteen different faith and ethnic traditions including the Afro-Caribbean, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Jain, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh, Taoist and Zoroastrian communities of New York City. Our long-term goal is to help New York City become a nationally and internationally-recognized model for mutual understanding and cooperation among faith traditions.
ICNY’s early initiatives included the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer working retreats for religious leaders (1998–), a series of one-day educational seminars entitled “Religions of New York,” retreat programs for women religious leaders, and dialogues on religion and psychology. The International and UN Affairs department worked to forge partnerships with international leaders and communities to integrate the spiritual, ethical, and moral aspect of religion in international peacemaking. After September 11, 2001, ICNY’s work became increasingly centered on providing assistance to immigrant and disenfranchised communities whose religious leaders were often the only source of knowledge for new immigrants coping with a new life in an urban environment like New York City. Programs initiated at that time included Religious Communities and the Courts System, Teacher Education in American Religious Diversity, Mediation for Religious Leaders, and Religious Diversity Training for Social Workers.
Since 2007, ICNY’s work has included Training Religious Leaders in Domestic Violence Prevention with CONNECT Faith (2010-2012), Catholic-Muslim Join Action Initiative with Catholic Charities and the GHR Foundation (2009–), The 411 on Faith with the New York Public Library (2010), and a National Endowment for the Humanities Religious Diversity Training Institute for Educators upcoming in the summer of 2012. ICNY has hosted over 72 U.S. State Department-sponsored Visiting Leaders from 38 countries and has developed sister-city relationships with interfaith organizations in Glasgow, Scotland and Barcelona, Spain. In lead-up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11 ICNY became a founding member of the interfaith coalition Prepare New York, taking part in the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs’s “One New York, One Nation” campaign and having direct responsibility for 250 coffee-hour conversations between religiously diverse neighbors in a season of grief and healing. This year ICNY and the Harlem Community Justice Center are launching an exciting new initiative matching Harlem congregations with fifty parolees in partnership with the JC Flowers Foundation, and Harlem-based churches, mosques, and other houses of worship.