Members of United Religions Initiative joined hundreds of participants last week for the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge gathering at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama initiated the challenge in 2011 when he sent a letter to college and university presidents calling for interfaith and community service programming. Today, more than 400 institutions embrace his call to interfaith service.
The yearly gathering is a time for students, staff, and like-minded organizations to build connections with one another and hear from members of the Obama administration. This year, plenary speakers included the First Lady’s Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen; Director of the Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet; Secretary of the Department of Education, John King; and representatives from the U.S. Department of State and both the White House and Department of Education Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
URI members from four countries and three states attended the gathering, including URI North America Regional Coordinator, Sari Heidenreich. Regional Coordinator for URI in the Latin America and the Carribean, Enoe Texier and Fr. James Channa, Regional Coordinator for URI in Pakistan were invited as special international guests by the Obama administration. Representatives from several URI Cooperation Circles also attended, including Sun Devils Are Better Together (Arizona), Nashville Cooperation Circle @ Scarritt Bennett Center (Tennessee), S.A.R.A.H. (California) and Coexister (France).
Breakout sessions topics ranged from how to increase media coverage of interfaith work to the challenges of creating safe spaces for people with a wide range of identities.
“It was an honor to represent the United Religions Initiative network at such a diverse gathering,” Heidenreich said. “I always carry with me and share the work URI members are doing to bring interfaith collaboration and harmony to the world. This work and these people give me Tangible Hope that we are making progress towards a more peaceful and just world.”