The New Mexico Interfaith Immersion Trip is a summer opportunity for Santa Clara County teens of various faiths and Shinnyo-en youth from across the country to visit houses of worship, learn from each other while engaging in interfaith dialogue, and serve local communities. Teens are led by Co-directors, Deacon Steve Herrera and Diane Fisher, of the Teen Interfaith Leadership Council of Santa Clara County, and a Shinnyo-en Youth Association leader, Jennifer Uchikawa.
This year, participants had a chance to meditate at the Upaya Zen Buddhist Center, learn about the torah and Jewish faith at a synagogue, and visit the Roman Catholic Church, El Santuario de Chimayo. They also practiced yoga at a Sikh Ashram and shared a meal at a Hindu Ashram. Home base for this 5-day immersion trip was the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Eleanor, one of the Shinnyo-en participants shared an excerpt of a reflection and highlights of her experience with us:
I will never forget the truly unique experience I had on the New Mexico Interfaith Immersion Trip this summer. Shinnyo-en Foundation sponsors a few members of the Shinnyo-en Youth Association each summer to immerse themselves in different religions in the beautiful Land of Enchantment -New Mexico. I met so many new and amazing people on this trip. I loved the diversity in our group – it allowed me to truly immerse myself into other religions. My group consisted of two people of the Jewish faith, three people of the Roman Catholic faith, one person of the Hindu faith, and five people from the Shinnyo-en Buddhist Order.
I loved that this trip not only provided a chance for religious immersion, but also allowed us to serve with the community. Santa Fe is the home to many; however, many of the people residing in Santa Fe are homeless or cannot afford to put food on the table every day. I had the privilege of serving food to the community while in Santa Fe. Serving food to the community truly was an eye-opening experience, and it made me realize that many of the people in need of help are hiding. I believe that the community coming together to help one another is a prime example of oneness. Together, we are one.
The most interesting part of this trip was participating in the Creativity for Peace program. This event was absolutely wonderful and is something I will think of whenever I find myself in times of trouble. The Creativity for Peace program welcomes teenage girls from Israel and Palestine, two countries that have had a long history of conflict. One Israeli girl worked up enough courage to share her story. When she was just eleven years old, her father had heard of some conflict just up the street from her home in Israel. Her father left the house to go check what was going on and he never returned. She later learned that her father was shot and killed by a Palestinian man. When she was accepted into this program she felt deep hatred towards Palestinian girls. However, she left feeling full of love for one another. I believe that if those girls are able to make peace with each other, then the rest of us should be able to do the same. If they can do it, so can we. All we need is a little effort from everybody and soon enough we can come together and be one.
The name ‘Land of Enchantment’ fits New Mexico perfectly. New Mexico possesses a breathtaking landscape throughout the state. New Mexico is the home to many wonderful people. This journey was a truly unique one, and I hope that many others will have the chance to live the experience I had. Leaving the friends I made on this trip was hard. By the end of the trip I felt as if we were family. Through this trip, I believe that I have found oneness. Four different religions, one group, one heart.