Tuesday, March 6, 2012

President Obama’s Interfaith Dialogue & Community Service Challenge

(c) www.whitehouse.gov
Last spring (2011), the White House announced the establishment of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, aimed at strengthening the relationships among diverse faith groups and promoting interfaith service efforts that benefit the broader, collective community. UCI was honored to be selected to participate in the challenge. More than 200 campuses across the country are participating in the President’s Initiative, including a number of other UC campuses.

In his address on the Interfaith Service challenge the President said, “Interfaith cooperation and community service [is] an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good.”

Elaborating on what interfaith service involves he said, “Interfaith service involves people from different religious and non-religious backgrounds tackling community challenges together – for example, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Jews, and Muslims and non-believers — building a Habitat for Humanity house together. Interfaith service impacts specific community challenges, from homelessness to mentoring to the environment, while building social capital and civility.”

UCI’s program, Leap of Faith, was created in the fall by a group of student leaders, led by current Dalai Lama Scholar Armaan Rowther, who participated in a class on interfaith dialogue and service and decided to focus their efforts on hunger and nutrition. Orange County, despite its reputation for wealth and cultural privilege, has approximately 1 million residents who face hunger each month, half of whom are children. Shelters are capable of accommodating only a tenth of the county’s homeless population, and proper nutrition remains an ongoing challenge, especially for children. And while a number of faith groups already work with food banks and local volunteer initiatives, the President’s Initiative gives our campus a unique opportunity to coordinate a broadly cooperative interfaith project that strengthens us internally and engages us more constructively in the larger community.

UCI’s Leap of Faith is planning three events in conjunction with the President’s challenge:

* Oxfam Hunger Banquet (April 17)
* A day of service (April 28)
* A day of fasting (May)

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