Hoya Paxa

President’s Interfaith Challenge Educates for the Urgent Work Ahead

A few weeks ago I was reading a Facebook post by one of my hijab-wearing friends. The post was a news article about the shooter at the Oregon school shooting. While I was reading the post, another person started calling my friend racist and Islamophobic names. I was shocked and felt like I had just watched someone get slapped. At first I didn’t know what to do, so I started with a reply, calling the person out and telling them it was unacceptable. But this person’s comment was only the beginning of a string of hateful comments directed at my friend and other Muslims by several commenters. 

I called a mutual friend and asked for advice. By the time we looked back at the page, our friend had already removed the comments and moved the conversation on. It was another stark reminder that there is real hate and fear in this country and around the world.  

During the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, held at Howard University September 9-11, 2015, I was privileged to invite guests from around the world to join US colleges, universities, and seminaries to explore and share experiences of interfaith community service engagement. Faculty and students doing interfaith and community service work around the world were able to share their experiences, passion, and professionalism. Topics included interfaith engagement in post conflict and conflict zones; Catholic principles in interfaith community service; and interfaith families.

They spoke about confronting prejudice on campus and off. I was inspired and reminded of the many people who have made it their mission to create safe spaces, where it is the norm to be invited to a Jewish house for Shabbat dinner with an atheist and Muslim friend. It is easy to think that our safe spaces are normal, it is tragic when we are reminded that they are not, and it is essential that we continue to work and support others working to make every space inclusive and affirming.

 
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