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Remembrance Through Service: The September President's Challenge Roundtable Event

On Tuesday, September 28, 2011, twenty Georgetown students, faculty, and staff gathered in historic Healy Hall’s Philodemic Room for the first monthly President’s Interfaith and Community Service Challenge Roundtable. The discussion focused on the theme “remembrance through service” in honor of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.
Participants reflected on the many events focusing on service and interfaith dialogue that took place in September, including a campus wide interfaith vigil, the 9/11 Unity Walk attended by over 1000 people, a 9/11 talk by Arun Gandhi on how service and compassion can end the cycle of violence, and a 5k run on 9/11 that included an interfaith vigil and raised funds in support of US military personnel, veterans, and families.

The event was moderated by Prof. Thomas Banchoff, Director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. Rev. Bryant Oskvig, Director of Protestant Chaplaincy, and other staff from the President’s Office, Campus Ministry, Center for Social Justice, Teaching, and Research, and the Berkley Center attended. Students represented the Georgetown University Student Association, Interfaith Council, Hindu Students Association, Catholic Daughters, Center for Social Justice, Social Innovation and Public Service project, Muslim Student’s Association, Berkley Center, and President’s Office.

To frame the discussion, Prof. Banchoff reminded the group that the link between faith and service is not always obvious to everyone, and that we should reflect that we are trying to achieve a conversation on many levels, from the personal, to the campus, to the global. He asked the group what they had done over the past month, and how it helped them to connect the link between faith and service.

Students spoke about how their participation in the events and service work gave them something positive to focus on for the anniversary of 9/11. They used their anger or sorrow as a way to take action and responsibility for improving the world through service instead. One student noted a direct correlation between ignorance and anger and complacency, calling for students to counteract complacency by taking action when they see injustice or a way they can make a difference.

The group discussed how to reach out to those close to us when we discover that they hold opinions that are hurtful and divisive about people from different religions or cultures. The challenge of talking about personal faith or moral commitments in daily life came up, and the group agreed that we want to create a culture on campus where you do talk about your commitments in order to get at the truth. A student noted that we don’t always consider faith to be a part of diversity in discussions on campus, and found it exciting that we are working to “rebrand diversity” on campus.

The discussion closed with announcements and ideas for the Challenge. In October, the Challenge will focus on an interfaith “25 Days of Service” project in collaboration with the student Patrick Healy fellows.

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