White House announces interfaith campus community service initiative

By Collegian News Staff

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The White House is challenging students across the country to give back to their campus communities. Specifically, President Barack Obama’s administration is asking faith-based and secular student groups to come together on campuses throughout the nation to participate in a year-long service program being called the President’s Interfaith Community Service Campus Challenge.

Obama announced the creation of the program, which is sponsored by the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Department of Education, last Wednesday in a video message posted on the White House website. The challenge has been developed in the hopes of harnessing the manpower of a diverse array of service-based organizations on college campuses and encouraging “campus-based religious and non-religious organizations to partner together with local community organizations or houses of worship to tackle specific, year-long community service challenges,” according to a March 17 release from the White House Office of Media Affairs.

President Obama said he feels community service can bring together people from all walks of life behind a common mission, and that using faith-based programs as an engine for development can strengthen community ties and individuals’ faiths.

“As a Christian who became committed to the church while serving my community, I know that an act of service can unite people of all faiths – or even no faith – around a common purpose of helping those in need,” he said in the video message. “In doing so, we can not only better our communities, we can build bridges of understanding between ourselves and our neighbors.”

As part of the challenge, both faith-based and non-religious groups from colleges and universities can log onto www.whitehouse.gov/interfaithservice to post their plans for year-long service drives to better specific community needs. The White House will then “recognize” the projects it deems most effective and helpful for community development, according to Wednesday’s statement.

According to the release, several such programs are already underway at campuses across the country. The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana presently has a program in place bringing together the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Hillel, the Muslim Students Association and Buddhists for World Peace along with the community’s Salvation Army to help earthquake victims in Haiti, while several faith-based groups at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee will work together to build a house through Habitat for Humanity, according to the release.

-Collegian News Staff