The University of the Incarnate Word is currently one of approximately 250 universities in the United States participating in President Obama’s Challenge for Interfaith Service and Community Development. UIW has committed to develop an ongoing program of interfaith and cultural dialogue through assisting the refugee population in San Antonio and on-campus through educational initiatives.
“Taking part in this challenge is part of the UIW Mission and puts an emphasis on student community service,” said Sr. Martha Ann Kirk, CCVI, of the College of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS) and council member of the UIW Interfaith Council.
The Interfaith Community Service Campus Challenge is led by Dr. Lopita Nath, CHASS assistant professor of history, as well as numerous faculty members, UIW Mission and Ministry, and student leaders Marty Battafarano and Sarah Hanson.
Throughout the fall, at least six UIW classes were engaged in service learning projects and were working with refugees along with Catholic Charities as community partners. The initiative has focused on refugee resettlement and adjustment, and also involves the national service priorities of domestic poverty, educational opportunity, health services, and education.
Other interfaith activities have also taken place on campus, in classes, through public lectures and presentations that have impacted students and increased their understanding of and offer opportunities to dialogue with others of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds.
Panels including, “How Do You Teach Your Children About Your Faith? How Do You Teach Them About Other Faiths?” united students and faculty of various faiths. Representatives from five major world religions including Christianity (Catholic and Protestant), Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism were present.
“Overall, I thought this panel was a huge success,” said Battafarano. “One of the main things that stuck out to me from this event was that loving God, loving our neighbors, respect, compassion and forgiveness are all foundational principles in the religions represented in the panel.”
Kirk said she feels taking part in the Interfaith Service Challenge prompts living with a sense of gratitude so that students can learn to enjoy providing service to others.
As part of the Interfaith Service Challenge, UIW Liturgical Outreach also hosted “Where in the World is Compassion? Creating Ongoing Relationships for the Common Good,” a Conference on Compassion March 23-25. The conference featured Dr. John Esposito of Georgetown University and author of “Who Speaks for Islam, What a Billion Muslims Really Think.”
For more information, visit www.uiw.edu/interfaithservice.