These globetrotters are committed project leaders: they list interreligious initiatives in the countries they visit, work as mediators between these initiatives, and finally study them to extract pedagogic contents.
In six years InterFaith Tour has formed three teams. Season 3 was about Bénédicte, Bettina, Sami, and Eloi, respectively an atheist, a Jew, a Muslim and a Catholic, traveling twenty countries, from July 2017 to May 2018.
Bénédicte, 21, is from Grenoble and a Sciences Po school student in Strasbourg. She testified of her experience as an atheist in some profoundly religious countries and everything her travel partners had taught her. We interviewed her to collect her learnings on her travel experience.
How did you get involved with InterFaith Tour?
After subscribing to Coexister a few months earlier, I experienced my first national event with other young people from every part of France, in June 2015. That’s where I met Lucie, Ariane, and Samir, who were about to leave for season 2 of InterFaith Tour. I didn’t know the project at all, and Lucie’s explanation, with stars in her eyes, convinced me to apply for the third season. In January 2016, I was selected with my team after some tests (interviews, urban challenges in Paris, and so on).
What did you experience as an atheist in the countries you visited?
Participating in InterFaith tour as an atheist was quite a singular experience. Although I am a convinced atheist, I was raised in a Christian environment. These two elements place me in a majority that is very rarely a victim of religious discriminations. On the 21 countries we studied during our tour, only 5 have a strong atheistic or agnosticist population (Finland, Estonia, New Zealand, Canada, Iceland). In the others, I had, for the first time, to face some discriminations. For the first time, I was reduced to a part of my identity: an identity that I perceive as plural. That’s where I acknowledged what some Jewish, Muslim or Christian friends of mine in France must have gone through and the pain this reduction of their identity must have caused. It becomes a barrier instead of being a gate to discover one’s neighbor. Instead of merely questioning me, out of curiosity, I was constantly judged and criticized. Worse even, some reproached my travel partners not to try to convert me. Discriminations reveal the privileges of some, my friends being advantaged in some countries, while in France, I am usually most priviledged. To know this is something, but to fully acknowledge it is a whole other story.
Could you rely on your travel mates for support?
In France, during Coexister events, we speak a lot about inclusion, respect, especially that of minorities. In France, I try to listen and to understand the daily life of my friends to act better as an ally and a support. During this world tour, the roles were inverted. I think it was made possible by our mutual experience at Coexister. All these exchanges and events allow us to support one another. Eloi, Bettina, and Sami supported me, as I do support them in France. What we’ve lived all together is real respect: reciprocity, and equality.
How did this trip challenge your perception of France and of the world?
The tour has indeed changed my perception of the world and of my country. Each new country required to change my view, to forget all the prejudices I had. I was biased when I arrived in some countries like Cyprus, Israel or Madagascar, I realized I was conditioned as a French and as a European citizen. Detaching oneself from a regional context, history or interests, is hard. Not to mention France is not always neutral nor perceived as an ally. Globally, I came back motivated and hopeful for the future of my country and of living together. But I also acknowledged the generalized and systemic sides of privileges and racism. online games Wherever one goes, some will be provoledged and other discriminated against. Finally, as Aeeshah said, one of the most beautiful encounter we had in the US: “Human beings are not so developed, they see things only through the prism of colors, shapes, and sizes“. Yet, when the heart speaks, we can se beyond bias and our commitment to humanity takes all its meaning!