Hoya Paxa

White House Challenge: Building Bridges

If I had to choose one way to describe the White House Interfaith Service Challenge the one thing I would say it does is build bridges. Over the past year at Georgetown we have been building bridges. And these bridges don’t just connect people of different faiths; they have brought together people from different departments, student organizations and when I recently attended the summer convening for the President’s Interfaith Challenge there were people from all around the country who were brought together for the one cause of interfaith dialogue and community service. For two days campus ministers, administrators and students met to discuss the many successes and challenges they have had while fulfilling the President’s challenge.
So often when we work to promote interfaith dialogue at Georgetown it is easy to just focus on the Georgetown community. However, it is not just Georgetown, the drive to promote interfaith dialogue and service extends all across the country involving hundreds of colleges (many of which I haven’t even heard of before). When I first got involved in the challenge it felt like a small movement consisting of people from Campus Ministry and the Berkley Center. But it is so much more than that. Through engaging in interfaith dialogue and service we are doing much more than just talking to each other, we are expanding our world by reaching out to people with completely different backgrounds and faith traditions. At this conference, the challenge for me became so much more than something we do at Georgetown, this is a national movement for the recognition of the value interfaith dialogue can bring to our communities and to the world.

And in this broad national community that Georgetown is a part of there is great strength and potential for furthering interfaith dialogue and service. When Georgetown joined up with Syracuse for the can drive last year we collected 500 pounds of food for local food banks. I can only imagine how much more we can do with the hundreds of other colleges and universities participating in the White House Challenge. We are all part of a national movement which has the potential to spread the values of interfaith dialogue and community service around the whole country.

And along with the great amount of work the hundreds of colleges taking part in the challenge can do, we are even part of a larger community. Also present at the summer convening were representatives from numerous government departments and agencies including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, the Department of Labor, the Department of Agriculture, the EPA along with many other governmental and non-governmental organizations supporting interfaith dialogue.

In choosing to pursue interfaith dialogue we are extending our scope of the world and building bridges with people of other beliefs and backgrounds. This past year Georgetown has greatly expanded interfaith dialogue and service by building bridges between many students and faculty of different faiths and backgrounds. At the summer convening I was able to expand those bridges to students and faculty from colleges and universities all around the country.

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