Interfaith Serves Others

Nearly 107 students and faculty from different organizations and cultures gathered at the Cross Cultural Center Ring Room on Monday, Nov. 25, to prepare peanut butter and jelly sandwich meals for distribution among the hungry and homeless in Santa Ana areas.

This year, Interfaith’s theme for the event was “community service,” which focused on how various groups collaborated and functioned under a common purpose — in this case, giving back to the community while spreading awareness of similar services and objectives from different groups on campus.

The event was off to a good start as students and faculty assembled into two rows and distributed sections that became full within the first hour.  UC Irvine Dining and Hospitality provided 48 loaves of bread, 12 jars of jelly and 12 jars of peanut butter to help reach the event’s goal of preparing 500 sandwiches.   All participants wore gloves and took turns as the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were prepared and sealed, then descended down the line accompanied by chips, juices and sweets, which were then all packed into large boxes, each offering 30 brown paper bags.

For about a month, members from the Muslim Student Union (MSU) and Interfaith collaborated with the objective of building communication and connection with other groups through an Interfaith service event. Students who mainly led the initiative were from the MSU and the Baha’i club. This month’s event hopes to openly engage others around campus to communicate with members from different organizations in a comfortable setting with the commonality that everyone’s purpose is to give back to the community.

The initiative started two years ago with events like Leap of Faith and Speed Faithing.  tThe momentum has continued ever since, as members hope to raise awareness for next month’s Islam Awareness Group.

Karina Hamilton, the director of Dalai Lama scholars program at UC Irvine and one of the main organizers, explained how Interfaith was created for the first time: “Two years ago, one of my students started an Interfaith initiative called the Leap of Faith and that was part of President Obama’s challenge for interfaith service in college campuses. He started an initiative. A lot of students were involved in that initiative, so we started to make a peanut butter and jelly event.”

Fatima Mubbashir, a fourth-year and member of MSU, expressed her views on how students should form new relationships outside the bounds of groups they are affiliated with, as a way to strengthen ties and promote future participation from other groups holding similar events. “We know that we all can’t be on same basic fundamentals as on our religion, therefore it doesn’t mean we can’t interact with one another,” Mubbashir said. “That’s not the way it should be. We should all go to one campus, we should all have our own groups and cultures, but it still means we need to communicate and get to know each other.”

In previous years, members from MSU set up on Ring Road and made sandwiches to distribute to the Santa Ana area.

“So we decided to make that a large event by making it an interfaith event, so having different faith groups, and just anybody come out and have that same idea of social work. The idea was to come up with an event that was interfaith through action. So it’s like building relationships through the common goal of humanity and social work,”  Erum Siddiqui, vice president of MSU, said.

This year’s idea was different because they branched out and promoted participation from different faith groups as well as from students who show an interest in community service.

“This is one of the student initiated events along with the Peace Gathering, so these two events are going to the grass roots level of service because students can feel empowered to participate through different cultures and different religions. It’s going to continue. It may next time be a different kind of service, or the same, but the point is coming together among different cultures and religions, that is going to continue. It is just the beginning of something really great,” Sheiba Kaufman, a fourth-year graduate student and member of the Baha’i club, said.

The Peace Gathering began last December, and is an ongoingInterfaith activity that includes music, songs, thoughts, ideas and prayers on a specific topic.

Following this event, Interfaith held a peace gathering in Donald Bren Hall at 5:30 p.m. under the topic of “service.” The gathering was a reflection on the day’s event, and was open to everyone from all cultures and religions. Participants spoke about the service, discussed what it meant to people in their religion, and talked about their background and  future goals for service.

“I always liked the ones that are hands on. We do a lot of walks, such as Relay for Life but this one actually feels like you are actually doing something. You can see what you’re doing and where it’s going to,” Ioana Raburu, a third-year student and member of Sigma Delta Sigma, a community service based organization, said.

As the event continued, larger groups of people showed up. With the help of students and faculty from various organizations, 370 sandwiches were prepared, and more as the event progressed. By the end of the program, the brothers from MSU transported the packed meals and distributed among the hungry and homeless near the Santa Ana City Hall.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community and express our gratitude for people who are less well off than us,” Crystal Martinez, a second-year student, said.