This post originally appeared on the White House blog on March 17, 2011.
Since his inauguration, President Obama has emphasized interfaith cooperation and community service – as an important way to build understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good.
On a conference call this afternoon, Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, launched the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. The launch featured a video from President Obama calling on institutions of higher education to make a commitment to advancing interfaith and community service initiatives over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year.
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 can impact specific community challenges, from homelessness to mentoring to the environment, while building social capital and civility.
This work is already happening in campuses across the U.S. This spring, at Agnes Scott College, a small Presbyterian school in Atlanta, Georgia, students and local Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith community leaders are teaming up to address educational inequity in urban schools. At Ohio University, a coalition of students partnered with community groups to combat water pollution by cleaning up streams polluted by acid mine drainage practices. In Ann Arbor, students at the University of Michigan formed a group called United 2 Heal, an interfaith humanitarian aid student organization that works with local hospitals to collect valuable medical supplies and send them to countries in need like Ghana.
American colleges, universities, seminaries and rabbinical schools have often been at the forefront of solving our nation’s greatest challenges. That is why the White House is inviting higher education institutions to make the vision for interfaith cooperation a reality on campuses across the country.
Details about the program, along with the video from President Obama, can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/interfaithservice. The site includes a program overview and a service planning template for interested colleges and universities.
The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge is led by the White House and supported by the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). This initiative was developed in part by the recommendations of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Mara Vanderslice is the Acting Director for the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department for Health and Human Services. She also serves as the Coordinator for the President's Advisory Council for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.