Interfaith & Service Campus Challenge offers diverse religious celebrations to build community unity

December 13, 2011 |

The Indiana University East Interfaith & Service Campus Challenge program is connecting the campus with the community through diverse religious celebrations. The celebrations are an opportunity for students, faculty or staff to help inform, educate and build unity within the community.

For the past four months, IU East has been a participant in the President Barack Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, a new initiative inviting institutions of higher education to commit to interfaith cooperation and community service programming on campus. The initiative is to build understanding among diverse communities and contribute to the common good.

Patty Crawford, career and experiential learning coordinator, leads the program at IU East.

“The goal of the religious celebrations is not to change the faith or beliefs of our students or community but to strengthen our individual beliefs by learning about others. Truly this is a good way to build a dialogue on campus and within the community,” Crawford said.

The program received an Indiana Campus Compact (ICC) Community Service Mini-Grant that will be used for service programming for the religious celebrations on campus and at Girls, Inc. On campus events are open to the campus and community.

As a part of each of the celebrations, students will lead a day of service at Girls, Inc. by creating and displaying a collage of strong women who have had an impact on society. Two displays will be created; one will remain at Girls, Inc. while the other will be on display in the IU East Campus Library. The displays will be catalogued and available to check out for programs.

Maryann Deatline of Connersville, Ind., a junior social work major, and Emilee Hammond of Shirley, Ind., a senior criminal justice major, are Interfaith AmeriCorp members and IU East students, who are working directly with the celebrations and Girls, Inc.

“I was interested in this because I believe that it is important to know the people in your community. This is a great way to bring knowledge to the community,” Deatline said. “The programs are informative and interesting and it lets others share who they are. Students and community get to know each other in the community this way.”

Wazir Mohamed, assistant professor of sociology, was the featured presenter for the first celebration, Eid-al-Adha, held November 7. Over 120 people attended the event from IU East, and students from Earlham College, Richmond Community Schools, and Children of Abraham were also guests. IU East students in the Lifespan Development course, taught by Assistant Professor of Psychology Mattie Gabston, discussed the celebration and how it related to other religious celebrations and carried the discussion to the classroom.

During the celebration, Mohamed discussed the Muslim holiday and included traditional foods for guests to experience.

“The overwhelming response and ambience of the event speaks to the thirst on this campus and in the area for information and exposure on other cultures. For me personally this event helped me to share with people of other faiths, especially with Christians, Jews and Muslims the historical bond between these three Abrahamic faiths,” Mohamed said. “In the final analysis, the event gave me the opportunity to share and reinforce existing knowledge that while all members of the human community may worship in differing ways, human beings across cultures share certain common virtues such as charity, respect, and the need to live lives consumed with finding answers to the problems of society.”

Deatline said working with Wazir was a privilege.

“The first day that we set down with him to plan the Eid celebration, was the first time that I heard that much about the Eid holiday. It was so interesting to hear about the traditions that go along with the celebration,” Deatline said. “For me, it was knowledge that I never knew before. It was also great to hear the passion coming from Wazir. The event was also remarkable. We had more people show up than we had anticipated, and that means more people got to hear about the Eid holiday. I believe this helped break down the stereotypes of Muslims. Overall it was a great experience.”

For more information, contact Patty Crawford, career and experiential learning coordinator, at (765) 973-8625 or email

The celebrations to be held in 2012 are:

January 11: Sage Steele, ESPN SportsCenter Anchor, and Service Project
Whitewater Hall, 3:30–5:30 p.m.

January 16: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast
Townsend Center, 7 a.m.

January 25: Quaker Presentation and Worship Service
Community Room, Whitewater Hall, IU East Campus, time TBA

February 7: Tu B’Shevat
IU East Campus Library, Hayes Hall, time TBA

February 28: Lenten Meal and Presentation
Community Room, Whitewater Hall, IU East Campus, time TBA

March 8: Magh Puja Day – Buddhist Holiday Celebration and International Day for Women Celebration
Community Room, Whitewater Hall, IU East Campus, time TBA
Followed by meal and reflection, hosted by The Children of Abraham

March 21: Naw-Ruz, Baha’I New Year Celebration
Community Room, Whitewater Hall, IU East Campus, time TBA

April 9–13: Habitat for Humanity Build
Time and Location to Be Announced

April 20: First Annual Indiana University East Interfaith Institute
Community Room and Vivian Auditorium, IU East, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Followed by Meal & Reflection, hosted by The Children of Abraham

April 21: Interfaith & Service Campus Challenge Reflection Event
Time and Location to Be Announced