Students holding candles after 9/11 Interfaith Peace Walk on Sunday

Photographer: George Mauzy

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UCM and Ohio University to kick off Interfaith Challenge

Diversity officer Brian Bridges to deliver keynote address

The Ohio University Interfaith Challenge partnership will host a kickoff event from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 19, at Baker University Center Ballroom B.

The Interfaith Challenge was created by President Obama as an incentive for higher education institutions to commit to one year of interfaith cooperation and community service programming in order to build understanding between diverse communities and contribute to the common good.

The event will feature a keynote address from Vice Provost for Diversity, Access and Equity Brian Bridges, a student-produced video describing the goals and initiatives of the Interfaith Challenge, and a panel discussion featuring local people from diverse faiths. Refreshments will be available after the panel discussion.

"The kickoff will inform the campus about the good work that is already taking place to bring people from different faith groups together to solve civic and social problems," Bridges said. "It will also get people excited about the project being launched by President (Barack) Obama and it will allow us to rally support from the community to become involved in the project."

Melissa Wales, executive director of United Campus Ministry and student intern Rachel Hyden will introduce the Better Together campaign with examples of how students can get involved locally. Ohio University Interfaith Youth Core's Better Together campaign promotes interfaith activities on campus and in the community.

"We are hoping that students, faculty, community members, local congregations and faith groups, and others are inspired to get involved with this interfaith service challenge and expand on the opportunities we already have planned," Wales said.

The participants in the panel discussion, whose names will soon be announced, will discuss how interfaith dialogue can be used to further social progress.

The Ohio University Office for Diversity, Access and Equity and other OHIO offices, departments and student groups, United Campus Ministry (UCM): Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice, and several other local organizations are partners in the inaugural President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

The White House's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Corporation for National and Community Service will evaluate all the efforts of the more than 250 colleges and universities participating in the challenge and invite the most exemplary ones to the White House next summer.

"We are not participating in this challenge just to go to the White House," Bridges said. "We think this is a way to solve local problems and also promote religious diversity and mutual understanding that is necessary for our society to move forward.