Xavier University is participating in the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, an initiative led by the White House and supported by the Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). On August 3, Rabbi Abie Ingber, founding director of Xavier’s Office of Interfaith Community Engagement, traveled to the White House to help launch the challenge.
President Barack Obama invited campuses to commit to a year of interfaith cooperation and community service, bringing students of different religious and nonreligious backgrounds together to serve the common good. The best examples of students coming together to help those in need will be recognized by the White House. The challenge seeks to help university leaders understand why this work matters and why it should be an institutional priority. Quality interfaith initiatives exist on many campuses, but often are led by an individual with few resources. Engaging religious diversity on campus will allow college students to enter the broader world thinking cooperation with those who believe differently is the norm. As they begin to take leadership in society, religious intolerance might decrease and world understanding will blossom into celebration.
Xavier’s Interfaith initiative focuses on two areas - Health Services and Multiculturalism and Global Awareness. Responding to a call to justice and service, the Interfaith/Pre-Professional Health Service Mission to Guatemala provides students with a unique job shadowing experience while immersing them in the Guatemalan culture through interfaith dialogue and community engagement. In addition to medical service to the impoverished community of Patanatic, the different faiths of the participants and the different spiritual traditions of Guatemala are linked substantively and educationally to the social service dimension of the trip. Creative and transformative programs will take place throughout the year regarding global awareness and interfaith community building. A leadership council of ten Xavier students will oversee and assess the White House Challenge programs.
“We are honored to be counted among the universities that have responded to the President’s challenge,” said Ingber. “As the only such college in this region to do so, we look forward to linking our innovative co-curricular programming and Xavier’s mission to form students intellectually, morally and spiritually. Many universities have fine Math Departments and History Departments, but only Xavier also has an office for Interfaith Community Engagement.”