IOPs are two or three-week journeys of intensive thought and experience designed for clerics, scholars, religious educators and community leaders. Participants are invited through U.S. Embassies to take part in and observe communities around the U.S. and for training in specialized areas in several U.S. states. Participants in IOPs offered between February and April, may, in addition to their own program, be able to observe the international, intercultural, and interfaith youth leadership conference known to high school, university exchange students and young professionals as Better Understanding for a Better World (BUBW). While the interfaith segment of the program is principally focused on the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, participation is open to all irrespective of their faith tradition, and is also open to participants, who may be secular or not active in any faith tradition.
Building partnerships between people, countries and civilizations is critical in the world we live in today. Establishing these relationships begins by fostering mutual understanding and appreciation of one another’s culture, history, religion and way of life. We can do this in a number of ways, but personal and professional dialogue, along with face-to face interaction helps to more quickly break down barriers and achieve our goal. We all must become “Global Citizens” and realize that what happens in one society impacts societies globally. Clergy, scholars, community leaders and teachers are key players in this endeavor. They have the ability to reach to the hearts, souls and minds of those with whom they engage. We must make opportunities for these leaders to venture out and begin this process themselves.
Education is critical to address the need for understanding both within and between religious groups, who are often ignorant of both their own traditions and of those of others. Cross-cultural learning must be emphasized to inspire people to engage in collaborative efforts that positively impact every aspect of society, ranging from their community’s most basic needs, to civic and international involvement. Partnership-building between individuals, groups, and cultures, is of greater importance than ever before to assure safety and stability in our politically and economically volatile world.
This is the guiding principle by which we tailor our International Observer Programs (IOPs).