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Guest bloggers Abbas Jaffer and Jessica Bean are fellows at the Buxton Initiative, a Case Foundation partner organization which serves to foster understanding among people from different faiths and worldviews.
Every year, thousands of Americans get together in communities around the country to perform acts of service around Martin Luther King Day. Whether it's a canned food drive, after-school tutoring, or other volunteering in community shelters and hospitals, the weekend has become a beacon for civic engagement. We at the Buxton Initiative will be taking part in an MLK service event, partnering with the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington's Youth Service Initiative.
We heard that they received four times the interest they had predicted; clearly the idea of interfaith service has caught on. The concept of bringing different faiths together to perform service has been led by Dr. Eboo Patel, Founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core.
We featured an excerpt of Dr. Patel's book, Acts of Faith, for one of our Buxton Readings. Eboo writes an exceptionally insightful line about the about the needs of youth: "It's not a place young people need so much as a role, an opportunity to be powerful, a mount from which to shape the world."
His organization has taken this idea and run with it, training interfaith student and community groups across the country to incorporate service as an activity that can truly build bridges between those with deep religious differences. The Core started an initiative called Days of Interfaith Youth Service, where interfaith organization link up with service opportunities in their local communities. They also offer training to organizations on campus and in cities nationwide on how to engage in productive interfaith service.
In addition to his work with IFYC, Eboo is also a regular contributor to Washington Post's On Faith blog series, a guest contributor on Chicago Public Radio's Worldview, and is currently advising President-Elect Obama's transition team on civic engagement. About the incoming administration's involvement in MLK Day of Service, he shared the following: "Oftentimes, Days of Service are an end in themselves, but the conversation around this one has been about long-term change, not just short-term charity. It's very clear to me that this administration means to engage the efforts of ordinary citizens in the long march to solving poverty."