Yesterday, the White House convened a dialogue on interfaith and community service with University Presidents, faculty, Chaplains, foundations, religious and community leaders and other key partners.
This half day event, co-sponsored by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the White House Office for Social Innovation and Civic Participation, was designed to advance interfaith and community cooperation on college and university campuses across the United States. Speakers from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Department of Education welcomed the group.
More than 120 leading scholars, academics, university presidents, chaplains, foundations, and student service organizations attended the convening from institutions across the country. The attendees reflected the diversity of views and backgrounds across the country with Presidents of evangelical and Catholic colleges, Muslim and Buddhist chaplains, Hindu and Jewish student organizations and representatives from secular service groups as well.
The President promoted interfaith service as one of the Administration’s goals in his speech in Cairo one year ago. The Administration believes that interfaith service can advance concrete projects to serve those in need and foster social cohesion among diverse groups.
In addition, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships made a recommendation to scale up interfaith service on campuses, in cities and around the world. The Council asked the Administration to challenge the academic community to scale up interfaith service initiatives onto 500 campuses across the country. This event was a response to that recommendation of the President’s Advisory Council, and was planned with the help of Council member Eboo Patel, Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core.
College campuses have long nurtured diverse community service efforts and have traditionally been viewed as a vanguard sector for important social movements. These campus leaders were asked to partner with the Administration in the coming year to further advance interfaith and community cooperation on campuses and connect these campus-based initiatives to the Administration’s broader service priorities.
We plan to bring the group back next year to report back on the accomplishments they have achieved over 2010-2011. We will be tracking that progress and look forward to continued relations with such a broad and diverse representation of American academic life.
Mara Vanderslice serves as a Deputy Director at the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.