Author(s)Krebs, Stephanie Russell
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The purpose of this interpretive phenomenological study was to explore the lived-experiences of students participating in interfaith dialogue at the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) Interfaith Leadership Institute (ILI) in Atlanta. The lived-experiences of the participants were explored though the following research questions: (1) How do participants define interfaith dialogue in their own words? (2) How do participants experience interfaith dialogue? (3) What do participants perceive that they learn or gain through participation in interfaith dialogue? A purposive sample of eleven participants who self-selected to attend the ILI were recruited through the assistance of the IFYC staff. The researcher conducted a brief face-to-face screening in Atlanta with each participant, followed by a semi-structured interview via Skype or phone. Data was analyzed using an interpretive phenomenological approach, inductively looking for themes to emerge. Results demonstrated that the lived-experience of interfaith dialogue was characterized by: (1) the role of the environment, (2) the value of individual relationships through sharing and storytelling, (3) holding an ecumenical worldview, which led to the (4) strengthening of the individual's faith or non-faith tradition. The results of this study support past research on curricular intergroup dialogue and serves as a vehicle to translate similar outcomes to a co-curricular format. Recommendations include: intentionally creating environments to foster interfaith dialogue, expanding formats of interfaith dialogue to include co-curricular options and experiential opportunities, and increasing religious literacy through education and training. In addition, expanding the faith discussion to include the secular and others that do not fit with the current paradigm of religion must be explored.