Archive for April, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Posted: April 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

Today, I was hungry, so I visited the campus cafeteria to ease my stomach’s growls.  Today, I also felt thirsty, so I turned on the tap water, filled my water bottle, and drank to my heart’s delight.  For me, obtaining the essentials for living is a piece of cake, sometimes quite literally.

Yesterday, I helped coordinate an event that brought nine college students to realize the lack of food that many people face.  Through Kids Against Hunger (http://www.kidsagainsthunger.org/), these students helped pack hundreds of thousands of meals.  While the exact totals are still not known, the goal was to pack 500,000 meals, and they did not fall very short.  They wished to give others the ability to have a source of food.  How many people will be fed by 500,000 meals?

Yesterday, I helped coordinate an event that brought over 200 concert-goers to realize the lack of water that many people face.  Through the Thirst Project Benefit Concert, (http://www.thirstproject.org/), we raised $3,520.21 to provide clean water to others in Swaziland.  Every $20 saves one life, so we gave 176 people clean water for the rest of their lives.  They wished to give others the ability to have a source of water.  What benefits can come from giving 176 people water?

We celebrated these types of accomplishments at the Better Together Bash at UIndy on April 14. Christians, Muslims, Mormons, and agnostics enjoyed a free vegetarian meal from Earlham College’s chapter of Food Not Bombs while listening to great speakers that celebrated the interfaith accomplishments of the past school year.  On this day, we realized the potential that interfaith service has to change the world.  As seen by the events occurring yesterday, the Indianapolis and UIndy interfaith movement has already started to change the world.  Sorry, John Mayer, but we are done waiting.

Next year, UIndy and other colleges around the nation will join in fulfilling President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge (http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ofbnp/interfaithservice).  Look at what has already been achieved.  What great heights can happen next year?  How many people will be served?  How many interfaith friendships will be forged?

Today, I filled my stomach and quenched my thirst, but yesterday, I was reminded that not everyone has the privileges that I can access.  For those that attended yesterday’s events, they probably now feel the same way that I currently do.  Through the impact of interfaith service next year, many more can start realizing the social problems that occur.  Many of those people will later affect their communities in ways never before believed.

Do you know what I hear?  I hear a movement starting.  May Indianapolis be considered a place where the interfaith service movement began to become the norm rather than the exception.

Mark Wolfe

This blog post was written by Dean Michael Cartwright, the head of UIndy’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Office.

1. Who are you? I am Dean of Ecumenical & Interfaith Programs at the University of Indianapolis. I also am a member of the faculty in the College of Arts & Sciences as Associate Professor of Philosophy & Religion, and an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church (Indiana Conference). And as a long-standing fan of Duke Basketball, I am True Blue!

2. What is your involvement with interfaith? In addition to the fact that I oversee the university’s office of ecumenical & interfaith programs, I have learned a great deal from interfaith engagement. Over the years, I have had the privilege of participating in scripture trialogue groups through the Society for Scriptural Reasoning www.scripturalreasoning.org. I have also enjoyed the hospitality of friends who are Muslims and Jews, and from time to time I have also had the privilege of having persons of other religious traditions share a meal with me and my family.

3. Why are you involved in interfaith? My interest in interfaith engagement over the past decade has been prompted by three converging interests.  First, as a Christian theologian and ethicist, I have a longstanding interest in Jewish-Christian relations.  In particular, I am interested in the ways that Christians make sense of Judaism and vice-versa. Almost a decade ago, I had the privilege of editing a collection of essays with Peter Ochs, a Jewish theologian and philosopher. I learned a great deal from that scholarly collaboration about the different ways that Christians and Jews think about what it means to be children of Abraham.

Second, I have longstanding commitments to Christian peacemaking, which means that I have a stake in making dialogue possible between persons who have different allegiances and loyalties. While I regard nationalism as a more pernicious threat than I do religious identity, I also know that misunderstandings about how persons of different faiths practice their religions also exist. The process of eliminating ignorance and developing relationships is hard work, but I think that is what we are called to do as “royal ambassadors for Jesus Christ.”  “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:15)

Finally, as an educator, I believe that universities like UIndy owe it to students to provide them with opportunities to engage difficult topics of conversation. That is part of the reason why I taught the course on “Christian Approaches to Interfaith Engagement” (REL 299) last year. I am equally concerned to make extra-curricular opportunities available for student exploration.

4. How do you see interfaith affecting the future? As someone who is deeply committed to church-related higher education, I believe that Christian engagement with non-Christian religious traditions is already very important. But I anticipate that it will become even more important as students engage one another in a more diverse world. Once upon a time, it may have seemed like interfaith engagement could be an option to pursue, but that is no longer the case. Faculty and students alike must become more knowledgeable about the wide range of religious traditions that exist around them. And the EIP Office hopes to provide opportunities and incentives to help make that happen. With that in mind the Office of Ecumenical & Interfaith Programs is in the process of creating an annual recognition for Academic Excellence in Interfaith Exploration. We anticipate that this award will be given for the first time in the Spring of 2012.


This op-ed article will hopefully soon appear in the Indianapolis Star.  It is already scheduled to be included in the Southside Times and the Daily Journal.

With the recent unrest in the Middle East and Africa, we have witnessed inspiring calls for freedom, but also disturbing amounts of warfare. Religious convictions are often a catalyst in the violence, as Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus alike choose to defend their belief systems rather than promoting peace. Is there any way to end the fighting?

One encouraging message has come from the Obama administration, which has promoted interfaith service as an antidote to worldwide violence. The President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge calls for university students and administrators to harness the religious diversity on college campuses to work for the betterment of their communities and the world. Can you imagine what might happen if people from all different faiths, motivated toward service, attempted to work together to create positive change in the lives of others?

At the University of Indianapolis, interfaith service has already created small but positive change in the community. In September, a UIndy student group called Interfaith Forum – with members representing Christian, Muslim, Mormon and agnostic worldviews – hosted a block party for homeless families at the Interfaith Hospitality Network. In October, the Interfaith Forum packed 700 food bags for the hungry in Indianapolis. In November, the group hosted an event to make blankets for the city’s homeless.

More projects are in the works.  From 6-8 p.m. on April 14, UIndy’s interfaith community and its counterparts at IUPUI, Butler, Marian University and Franklin College will host members of various Indianapolis faith communities for a Better Together Bash, sharing a vegetarian meal provided by Food Not Bombs and hearing about the work the central Indiana college interfaith community has accomplished in its first year of operation.

On April 16, the college interfaith community will host the Great Day of Service. First, college students will gather with other community members at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds & Exhibition Center in Noblesville with the goal of packing 500,000 meals for the worldwide relief efforts of Kids Against Hunger. Next, from 2-5 p.m. that day at UIndy’s Ransburg Auditorium, campus organizations will host a Thirst Project benefit concert by nationally known singer-songwriter Jon McLaughlin, raising thousands of dollars to provide clean water to the impoverished people of Swaziland. Imagine the impact that this single day could have.

College interfaith service has already enacted change in Indianapolis. As warfare wages in other countries, our goal is to lead the charge in developing an America and a world that will choose harmony over division, service over violence.

I’d like to think that central Indiana’s college students have answered the president’s call to interfaith service. Indianapolis, will you support us and fulfill your faith’s call to serve others?

Tickets for the Thirst Project Benefit Concert featuring Jon McLaughlin are $20, available at the UIndy box office or by phone at (317) 788-3251. Every $20 raised for the Thirst Project will provide one person with clean water for life.

Mark Wolfe