United We Serve Marks Interfaith Service Week

Sep 1, 2009

Washington, D.C.— President Obama's United We Serve initiative has designated Aug. 31 through Sept. 6 Interfaith Service Week to honor the service efforts conducted through faith-based organizations working together across religious lines to strengthen our communities. Over the summer, interfaith volunteers have participated in more than 3,000 projects through the United We Serve effort, with numerous others scheduled this week.

In establishing the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in February, President Obama set a priority for the Office to work on interfaith dialogue and cooperation. He has called upon Americans to form new partnerships to cross historical divides and come together to serve our neighbors in need and renew our communities as part of United We Serve.

In his speech earlier this year in Cairo, President Obama said, “Indeed, faith should bring us together. And that's why we're forging service projects in America to bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews… .Around the world, we can turn dialogue into interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action—whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or promoting relief after a natural disaster.”

According to the Volunteering in America study, which was released in July by the Corporation for National and Community Service, 35.9% of all volunteers between 2006 and 2008 volunteered through religious organizations.

“Communities of faith are responding to President Obama's call to service in historic numbers and working together to strengthen our nation,” said Joshua DuBois, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “President Obama applauds their service and looks forward to their continued engagement, through the United We Serve initiative and beyond.”

“For religious organizations, serving people in need is an integral part of their mission,” said Nicola Goren, acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. “United We Serve builds on that reality by encouraging interfaith cooperation to continue and expand the important service that is currently being accomplished.”

This week, United We Serve will highlight projects and volunteer successes on the stories of service blog at Serve.gov. Examples of activities taking place include:

  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and a diverse delegation of interfaith leaders distributed compact fluorescent light bulbs at Maple Terrace, a senior citizens public housing facility at 2746 Maple Ave, Zanesville, Ohio. The Aug. 29 event, sponsored by Eastside Community Ministry and Ohio Interfaith Power and Light, was part of an effort by people of faith to recognize the need to be good stewards of the earth.
  • Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago sponsored a group of 12 youth leaders from diverse faith traditions this summer, who have served hundreds of members of Chicago's homeless population, engaged in weekly interfaith dialogues and blogged about their experiences. They have also trained in interfaith leadership, campus asset-mapping, service learning, and developed commitments to bring their interfaith leadership skills to their campuses over the next semester and year. On Sept. 4, they will be conducting an interfaith service tour for staff of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. On the tour they will volunteer in a health clinic, a community garden, and at a homeless service center.
  • In Orlando, college Jewish students from Hillel, the Hindu Students Association, and evangelical Christian students from the Northland Church will join with the Muslim Students Association as part of Project Downtown, which aims to provide basic needs of the homeless, such as food, clothing and hygiene kits. The event will be on Sept. 6.
  • The Center for Interfaith Relations in Louisville, Ky., is sponsoring an “Adopt a Waterway Cleanup Event,” on Sept. 7, as part of United We Serve's Interfaith Service Week. The Adopt-A-Waterway Program brings together individuals from multiple houses of worship and faith traditions to work together to clean stream banks, test the water, and monitor the natural flora and fauna of the waterway. “Water and natural sources of water are integral parts of all the world's faith traditions, said Turney Berry, local organizer from Interfaith Relations. “By working together on a common project with tangible, local, outcomes we learn not to fear our differences but to celebrate our diversity and to capitalize on that diversity for the common good.”
  • Muslim-American community organizations are working to help communities, from Atlanta to Baltimore and from Phoenix to Philadelphia, through Muslim Americans Answer the Call. These community groups are offering programs focused on health care, the environment, education, and community renewal in communities across the country. Volunteer projects such as the Day of Dignity on Aug. 29, sponsored by Islamic Relief USA in Baltimore and 19 other cities, during which Muslim-American volunteers invite volunteers from diverse faith traditions to provide compassionate care to all those in need regardless of color, race or creed.
  • The Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in Washington, DC, will host “Fast 2 Feed,” an interfaith Iftar and community service rally to support the United We Serve initiative. The Iftar, the traditional meal that ends the daily fast during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, will bring together participants from diverse backgrounds who will explore the potential of coming together for ongoing service projects to benefit the greater Washington community. This event is free and open to the public but participants are encouraged to bring canned goods or non-perishable food items to be donated to The Salvation Army's Emergency Assistance Programs, providing help to community members who need it most. Fast 2 Feed is scheduled for 7 p.m., September 3 at the synagogue, 600 I Street NW.
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