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September 11 vigil promotes community

By Ellen Liu     9/7/11 7:00pm

There will be a campus-wide candlelight vigil on Sunday, September 11, at 8 p.m. in the Central Quad commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. This vigil will begin with a reading of Tony Kushner's "A Prayer for New York," include prayers from a variety of religious organizations, and close with the Phils singing the National Anthem.

The vigil stemmed from a proposal Rice submitted to President Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge, a national program that encourages cross-campus organizations to work together in year-long service projects that strengthen the community and unite people across religious and cultural lines, President's Challenge Co-coordinator Lawrence Lin said.

The proposal is broken down into service initiatives, interfaith engagement initiatives, and documentation techniques and future vision, Lin – a Duncan College junior – said.



The service initiatives section describes the social issues Rice wishes to tackle, namely domestic poverty and educational opportunities, health services and healthy living, and education, Lin said.

"We chose these particular social issues due to an already established capacity for Rice to pursue these social issues by the number of community partners we have that deal in these areas," Lin said. "We also chose these issues due to our knowledge of students' interests."

The interfaith engagement initiatives section describes how Rice plans to advance interfaith engagement on campus, Lin said. They have chosen to build an infrastructure for education and capacity building because Rice has well-established educational opportunities and resources in religious and spiritual life to build capacity within faith and non-faith groups, Lin said.

The documentation and future vision section details a multimedia approach to capture Rice campus's growth throughout this year and a five-year plan to get Rice to its goals of establishing more relationships with community partners and increasing attendance of service opportunities through faith and non-faith organizations, Lin said.

Lin and fellow Co-coordinator Maria Vrcek considered various proposals for the President's Challenge, including an interfaith dialogue led by a keynote speech and a less-structured, small group dialogue, Lin said. However, they ultimately chose the vigil due to its overwhelming popularity with club presidents who are affiliated with the President's Challenge, according to Lin.

"Due to the severity of 9/11 and the importance of the 10th anniversary, a vigil was the best fit," Lin said.

Lin said he and Vrcek have connected with multiple on-campus religious organizations for the vigil, including the Catholic Student Association, Muslim Student Association, Rice Interfaith Dialogue Association, ADVANCE, Agape, and Ruz Middle Eastern Club. He added that they intend to release a second call for religious clubs soon.

The vigil is only one of multiple events this weekend dedicated toward 9/11. Another is the First Ladies' Eco Bash on the Bayou, which will take place on Saturday and involves volunteers planting 2,998 trees – a tree for each life lost during the attacks – along Bray's Bayou in East Houston.

The Community Involvement Center Director Mac Griswold said up to 60 students can sign up to volunteer for the Eco-Bash on the CIC website, and he encourages them to attend the vigil afterward.

"Hopefully, people who do the service will also come to the vigil and really listen to each other," Griswold said.

Sid Rich College sophomore Michael Lam said he supported the idea of an interfaith vigil because it brought many cultures and religions together for a common cause. However, he said he was not sure if true dialogue could be established just through the candle-lighting without another more involved social event.

Lam said he would try to attend the vigil, though that would largely depend on his schedule for the day.

"Usually Sundays are busy days for me to study, but I'm willing to take a small part out of my day to participate in the prayers," Lam said. "The more the merrier and the power of numbers in prayers is indeed powerful in getting a message across, whether physical or divine."



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