When President Barack Obama kicks off his national Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge today in Washington, D.C., the Rochester area will be well represented. Officials from State University College at Geneseo, The College at Brockport, and Monroe Community College will be among the estimated 400 leaders from about 200 institutions of higher education expected to attend.

Muhammad Shafiq, executive director of Nazareth College’s Center for Interfaith Studies and Dialogue, could not go, because it would be difficult to travel during the Ramadan holy season. He fasts from dawn to sunset.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are also participating in the initiative, but aren’t sending anyone to the summit.

The White House initiative hopes to bring together people from different religions and backgrounds to tackle community problems. Obama believes that American colleges are fertile ground for this work because they typically stress both community service and religious tolerance and cooperation.

“I think this gives a national perspective on what other universities are up to. We may pick up some ideas — and incorporate them into our planning,” said Tom Matthews, director of leadership education, development and training at Geneseo, who is attending this morning’s kickoff.


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