Interfaith and community service on President Obama’s priority list

McKenzie Sixt

The year-long Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, announced by President Barrack Obama on March 17, strives to incorporate religious and community cooperation and involvement.

College campuses are often a melting pot of cultural and religious identities from which students can gain respect and understanding of one another’s affiliations. This challenge hopes to incorporate the educational aspect of that melting pot into the community.

In a video message, President Obama encouraged campus-based religious and non-religious organizations to work with community organizations and houses of worship to tackle year-long community service projects.

“Our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted,” President Obama said at the 2009 National Prayer Breakfast, “to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what is broken.”

Institutions of higher learning around the country are already working with their communities to make peace. At Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., different religious groups are working together along with Habitat for Humanity to build a home this spring, according to the White House Office of Media Affairs.

College campuses that wish to participate in this challenge must submit their plans to develop interfaith and community services for the 2011-12 academic year to the White House by June 1, 2011.

The White House will host select institutions in fall 2011 to learn from one another, network, and be recognized for their commitment to interfaith community projects.

By means of digital and multi-media updates, institutions will be in contact with the White House documenting the progress of their community service efforts through the 2011-2012 academic year.

The most notable student efforts to help those in need will be recognized by the White House in the summer of 2012.

Saddleback College is unsure whether or not the school will officially be participating in the event.

However, the school does make efforts to incorporate religious and cultural aspects into everyday campus life. The Saddleback quad was home to an array of clubs such as anime and Future Teachers, sharing their cultures with passer-byes during the Multicultural fair last Tuesday and Wednesday.

The student development office held the outdoor fair that featured food, dancing, and music from different cultures of the world. Tuesday’s activities included salsa dancing, line dancing and Polynesian performances. The movie “Babies,” which follows the birth of babies in different backgrounds from San Francisco, Tokyo, Mongolia, and Namibia, was screened on Wednesday.

The fair provides culturally diverse clubs the opportunity to showcase what their cultures offer, said Delainey Taylor, 20, the student development office assistant.

Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has been working to emphasize the importance of what he calls “interfaith service.” The challenge he is currently presenting is an effort to incorporate that into campuses around the country and by building “understanding between different communities and contribute to the common good,” according to the White House.

The White House is at the forefront of this initiative, but it is also supported by the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service.

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