Oglethorpe University Remembers 9/11 with Interfaith Dialogue, Service Projects

Last month we told you about COEXIST Oglethorpe, a new campus-wide organization of students and staff, which emphasizes interfaith cooperation and community service as an important way to build understanding between different communities. Now, with the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this Sunday, COEXIST Oglethorpe has planned events and service projects this Sunday—also National Day of Service. Everyone is welcome to attend and participate.

COEXIST will host a Community Interfaith Dialogue and Roundtable Discussion in Emerson Student Center on Sunday, September 11 from 2:00-4:00 p.m. The Dialogue will include various community and faith leaders who will answer questions about cultural and religious diversity and the implications of 9/11. 

The panel will include moderator and OU alumnus Dr. G. Gil Watson ’68, senior pastor at Northside United Methodist Church. Panelists include Reverend Mr. Bill Garrett, deacon at All Saints Catholic Church; Rabbi Chiam Neiditch, from the National Conference of Synagogue Youth, Atlanta; Mr. Gogi Basi, President of the Sikh Study Circle, Inc.; Reverend Marthame Sanders from Oglethorpe Presbyterian Church; and, Soumaya Khalifa, founder and executive director of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta.

Refreshments will be served following the discussion when everyone will get a chance to write letters to U.S. soldiers and veterans. If you are able, please bring a healthy non-perishable food item to donate to the Suthers Food Pantry in Chamblee (beans, fruit, nuts, peanut butter, tuna, veggies, etc.).  COEXIST also is hosting a blood drive that same day in Emerson Student Center from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The drive is in collaboration with the American Red Cross and will support victims of Hurricane Irene. Sign up online at www.redcrossblood.org using the sponsor code: Oglethorpe.

Center for Civic Engagement Director Tamara Nash and Assistant Director Heather Staniszewski have credited staff and student members of COEXIST Oglethorpe as instrumental in planning these events—in particular, Clair Carter ’12, Ruwa Romman ’15, Emily Sharfstein ’14Zach Robinson ’15 and Kendra Hunter, director of student leadership and activities.

Oglethorpe Takes Up White House Campus Challenge

This year Oglethorpe University will participate in President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, which challenges more than 300  colleges and universities around the country to promote intentional interfaith dialogue and community service. Oglethorpe will focus specifically on the issues of health and hunger.

To work toward meeting the challenge, OU students and staff created COEXIST Oglethorpe, an effort open to all Oglethorpe students, faculty, staff, and alumni who are interested in this interfaith initiative. Staff from the offices of Admission, Campus Life, and Center for Civic Engagement have met with students Clair Carter ’12, Jimmy Comerford ’13, Emily Sharfstein ’14, Awet Woldegebriel ’14, Zach Robinson ’15 and Ruwa Romman ’15 throughout the summer to pave the road for the next two semesters.

“COEXIST helps us create a culture of understanding and in doing so, allows us to reach out to the community and work towards progress in health and hunger,” said incoming freshman and committee member Zach Robinson ’15.

Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, recalls that when she first started working at Oglethorpe, she was impressed with “the Interfaith Council and collaboration between faith groups to keep the dialogue open and ongoing.”  She joined COEXIST Oglethorpe because it “gives [her] a chance to work with students and fellow OU staff members of different faiths to not only educate the community, but educate [each other].”

The fall semester’s inaugural event, to be held September 11, 2011 in Emerson Student Center, will combine service projects with an educational interfaith dialogue. The day will consist of three different service projects including a healthy nonperishable food drive, a blood drive from 1:00-6:00 p.m. hosted by the American Red Cross, and an opportunity to write letters to soldiers and veterans. From 2:00-4:00 p.m. a panel of various community faith leaders will answer questions and lead discussions with participants.

Please direct any questions or interest in volunteering for these events to the Center for Civic Engagement staff via email at hstan@oglethorpe.edu or call 404-504-1978.  We hope to see you in Emerson on Sunday, September 11.