Unlike other interfaith and intercommunal programs, which play down fundamental dissimilarities between people in favor of emphasizing what they have in common, CEDAR places difference squarely at the top of the agenda. In fact, the key to CEDAR’s approach is the requirement that participants, known as fellows, confront one another’s differences—and then learn how to live with them anyway. In two intensive weeks of combined lectures, site visits, and hands-on learning, these fellows experience unfamiliar religious customs, grapple with beliefs that contradict their own, reexamine lifelong assumptions, and figure out how to share time and space.
CEDAR’s program creates new social and interpersonal spaces, broadening the range of possibilities to present a new way of “living together differently.” We don’t seek to build a new community in which everyone agrees and shares the same assumptions, but rather to teach people how to live with their different understandings of home, life, faith, worlds of meaning, and belonging. In short, we model the reality of how to live in our existing communities with people who are not like us—whether these differences are religious, national, tribal, linguistic, or sexual.
Engaging with the “other” in practical and constructive ways prepares CEDAR fellows to apply their experiences in their home communities around the world when the school is over. In recent years a number of alumni have been inspired to develop affiliates using CEDAR’s model in eastern and southern Africa, Canada, and the Balkans. As a result, CEDAR is fast becoming a pioneering global network.