Students serve the community, the world and their faiths

Posted: April 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

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

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