Hope for the Future: Voices of the Decade – the New Mexico Interfaith Immersion Trip

July 23, 2021

Photos from New Mexico, courtesy of Deacon Steve Herrera, Co-director of the Teen Interfaith Leadership Council of Santa Clara County

We are proud to announce the release of the video that Steve Herrera produced this summer after hours of intensive viewing, clipping, and editing the interviews and footages, and inserting and animating photos collected from 2010 to 2019. This video production took a place of this year’s New Mexico Interfaith Immersion Trip in-person as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers around much longer than any of us has first assumed.

In partnership with the Working Partnerships USA in the earlier years and with the Jewish Silicon Valley in the later years, the co-directors, Deacon Steve Herrera and Diane Fisher of the Teen Interfaith Leadership Council (TILC) of Santa Clara County, have been co-planning and co-leading the New Mexico Interfaith Immersion Trip while receiving the guidance and collaboration from Community Learning Network, Santa Fe, NM for a decade.

Accompanied by the teens from Santa Clara County and Orange County with varied religious backgrounds, Shinnyo-en Buddhist teens from across the U.S. have been part of this life changing journey to New Mexico. Below is the narration by Deacon Steve Herrera, which set the stage for the reflective and insightful voices of the youth. At the time when so much is uncertain during the pandemic, and social, political and racial divisiveness, Deacon Steve affirms that over a hundred of youth who have participated in the New Mexico Interfaith Immersion Trips over the last decade are our hope for the future.

Please enjoy the video (33:44 length) by finding it here. Deacon Steve Herrera’s narration starts as follows;

“For the past 10 years, teenagers from various religious traditions have been travelling to New Mexico to participate in an immersive week long interfaith trip. They helped serve meals to the homeless, they explored beautiful National Parks, they helped with graffiti removal on the Pueblos, and they visited dozens of houses of worship. Jewish Synagogues, Sikh Gurdwaras, Catholic Churches, Hindu Ashrams and Zen Buddhist Monasteries to name a few.

A key component of this project has been the opportunity to participate in interfaith dialogue with religious leaders from various faith communities. At the heart of this experience was engaging in interfaith dialogue with teenagers from other religious traditions. In most cases this was the first time they had meaningful conversations with teens from other traditions or had the chance to share their own religious beliefs in meaningful ways.

The experiences of these young people give us hope that we can build a more peaceful world, in which everyone is respected and valued. This video documents how these unique immersive interfaith experiences have impacted hundreds of teenagers. They prove there is indeed Hope for the Future.”

A tribute was made to Mike Penn at the end of this video. Often referred to as “the father of interfaith in Orange County,” Mike was a beloved leader who served for many years as President of the Board of Directors of the Orange County Interfaith Network (OCIN). Every year OCIN supports two teens from the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County to take part in the New Mexico Interfaith Immersion Trip. Along with Gagandeep Kaur Mann-Saechao, Mike was instrumental in forming a close partnership with Deacon Steve Herrera and Diane Fisher to nurture youth interfaith engagement beyond southern California. With great sadness to many whose lives Mike touched, he passed away earlier this year.

Mike Penn