[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/05/obama.faith/art.obamacap2.gi.jpg caption="President Obama announced Thursday that he is changing the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives."]
Interfaith Youth Core
Two things struck me about President Obama’s Faith-based office yesterday: this matters to him, and he expects it to get things done.
I’ve been asked to serve on the Advisory Council for the Office , and had the honor of being part of a 30 minute Oval Office meeting with the President yesterday. He set out our charge pretty quickly: cooperate to serve others during this time of need in America, and be a positive example of interfaith engagement in a world torn by religious conflict. He spoke about the importance of engaging talented young people, of reaching out to the Muslim world, of working across religious diversity and also the secular / faith divide. The focus isn’t so much what happens in churches, synagogues and mosques – it’s what all those Christians, Jews and Muslims do in the world together.
Obama’s office has several concrete initiatives, all of which seem designed to avoid controversy and to deliver results. Engage faith communities and other service organizations in helping Americans during this economic crisis; reduce abortions and work with at-risk girls and unwed mothers; strengthen fatherhood and reach out to at-risk young men; and encourage interfaith cooperation at home and abroad.
The Advisory Council has been told that we will be divided into Task Forces along these four priorities and asked to generate recommendations for actions that will get results.
I look at this as the chance to achieve the dream of the 1893 Parliament of the World’s Religions, where the Protestant leader Charles Bonney said: “From now on, the great religions of the world will no longer declare war on each other, but on the giant ills that afflict humankind.”
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