Monday, January 24, 2011

To Serve the Spirit

Looking through an old photo album. Really old. And there's a picture of my father, holding a baby that turns out to have been me. And what draws me in to the picture are his eyes as he's looking at me. You may have seen this expression before--part joy, part fear, part awestruck responsibility, part hope and excitement. And all the parts add up to a certain knowledge that, in that moment, everything is changed.

I remember that moment from my own life, when my daughter was born and I held her and looked into her little face. Everything was different, in a good way, a way that was calling a better self out of me. I knew she needed me, would need me from here on, in ways I couldn't even imagine. And I knew, with that same certainty, what I was going to do about it: whatever it takes.

I was reading an article the other day by a colleague in campus ministry. Talking about how students today are concerned about whether they'll have the opportunity, the skill, the determination, the whatever to "change the world." They want to feel like they'll have an impact.

I get this--it's a big world with a lot of problems, and it needs all the changing it can get. Periodically we remind ourselves of this, by celebrating the lives and work of the remarkable people who have changed the world before us. And I think sometimes we allow ourselves to be not inspired, but intimidated by their example.

What I want our students to know is that they will change the world. They've changed it already, and they're changing it every day--just like I changed my father's world, just like my daughter changed mine. Just by being there and needing, at the beginning; then by asking hard questions, then by doubting the answers, then by casting visions and dreaming dreams and putting their backs into the hard work what they care about requires. Asking whether one will have a chance to change the world is, I'm convinced, asking the wrong question.

The right question, the one we ask here at UCM all the time, is "How will you change the world?" What vision of the world will your time and effort and passion and energy move us toward? Because it's going to move us. We're moved by the free meals that are served, and by the couches that are burned; by the impassioned calls for justice, and by thoughtless consumption and waste. And eventually, at the end of our moving, we can only hope to be satisfied with, rather than ashamed of, our answer to the hard question asked of us by that child we held, the one who needed us in her helplessness: "How did you change the world for me?" Through our work together, let us write our best answer--over and over again, as many times as it takes.

-Evan Young

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Need for Interfaith Cooperation at Ohio University

It starts with a simple question. What if students of all faiths and traditions took action together to make this world a better place? What if religion was used as a force to unite us and not divide us, at Ohio University and throughout the world? A common value in almost all religious and philosophical traditions is the belief that fulfilling one’s highest purpose comes in the service of others.

This past fall, we asked this very question in an event: the “What If? Speak In.” On November 10, over 70 students, faculty and local religious leaders came to the Speak In (held in Alden Library). After a panel discussion that featured Sikh, Muslim and Christian professors discussing the need for students of all and no faith backgrounds to come together in service, students left the event inspired to create a climate of religious pluralism at Ohio University. Students and faculty shared stories about interfaith cooperation they had seen or heard about throughout the evening, and discussed personal “faith heroes” such as Gandhi who inspire them.

I, along with the rest of the Interfaith Steering Committee, are partnering with United Campus Ministry to spearhead the interfaith movement on this campus. Our goal is to make cooperation among diverse faith communities the new social norm at Ohio University.

We have selected the issue of local and international water pollution to organize around, as we believe that access to clean water is a fundamental human right. This winter and spring, we are going to channel our common desire to serve others by cleaning up local streams polluted by acid mine draining practices and raise money to send personal water filters to Haiti.

My parents converted to the Indian religion of Sikhism before I was born, so I grew up practicing that faith. Though I do not practice Sikhism as rigorously as I once did, I still hold the Sikh faith in my heart. There is Sikh scripture and theology emphasizing the validity of all religious paths, and a central tenet of Sikhism is that there is one truth, but more than one path to God. There are also examples of personal leadership among Sikhs who engaged in interfaith work. One such example is Yogi Bhajan, a Sikh from India who spread Sikh teachings throughout the West. Yogi Bhajan served on various interfaith panels across the country, and met with Pope John Paul II and urged him to bring leaders from all the major faiths together to convene on important issues.

So not only does my faith call me to serve others, not only does my faith call me to respect members of other religions, but my faith calls me to actively work together with others, from all and no faith backgrounds, in an interfaith capacity. I bet that if you think about it, yours does too: whether or not faith plays a large role in your life, whether or not you support organized religion, and whether your hero is the Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad, Dorothy Day, Rabbi Joshua Heschel, or Guru Nanak.

I believe that in order to combat complex and daunting issues on the global horizon such as overpopulation, scarcity of resources, global warming and massive poverty, cooperation and coordination among the world’s religious communities will be absolutely essential. Though there is severe conflict throughout the world today where religion plays a major role, from the Middle East to central Asia, from North Africa to the Balkans, I believe that it is only a matter of time before cooperation among members of different faiths as opposed to vicious conflict becomes the norm.

We are working to demonstrate this for others to follow at Ohio University and at universities across the country, proving to the world that it is indeed possible.

Some of you joined us in asking: What If? last fall. We truly hope that even more of you will help us prove that we are better together in 2011.

Guru Amrit Khalsa is a senior at Ohio University majoring in journalism. She is completing an intensive year-long fellowship with the Interfaith Youth Core, an international nonprofit organization that builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Travel with UCM to the US-Mexico border over Spring Break!

United Campus Ministry is planning a spring break trip for Ohio University students to Tucson, Arizona March 20-27. The group will spend time with host organization Borderlinks learning about the U.S.-Mexico border issues and immigration policy.

Students will have the opportunity to meet Samaritans who place drinking water in the desert, visit maquiladoras where cheap labor provides goods for import into the U.S., talk to artists who document the plight of immigrants, and visit with activists who provide services on both sides of the border.

Cost of the trip will be $1350, which includes room and board. Airfare will be a separate expense. A deposit of $200 will be due by January 31, and the full balance will be due on March 11. Passports will be required.

Ten positions are open for students interested, and will be reserved by first come first serve. An information session will be held Wednesday, January 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the UCM basement at 18 N. College St.

For more information or to sign up for the trip contact Evan Young at, or 740-593-7301.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Orleans 2010

UCM traveled to New Orleans over Winter Break 2010 with Ohio University students who engaged in a variety of service projects. The projects were organized by the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, with help from their partner organizations including the Gris Gris Lab, Greenlight New Orleans, Animal Rescue of New Orleans and the Neighborhood Empowerment Network Association in the Lower Ninth Ward.