Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Faith Leaders

The Monitor interviewed young artisans, politicians, educators, entrepreneurs and faith leaders. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world. We'll serve this smorgasbord in bite-size servings of 3 to 7 profiles per day. Today's lineup of faith leaders includes the Obama administration's leading man, the head of a Christian antipoverty group, and the director of New York University's Islamic center.

Joshua DuBois: White House faith guru

Courtesy of The White House
Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director for the White House Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

As a Pentecostal preacher, Joshua DuBois, 29, knows the power of the spoken word. But he's convinced that action can be even more powerful than words – at least for building bridges among faith communities.

Mr. DuBois has crossed a few bridges in his life. A former campus activist in a capital punishment case, he's now a leader in the Obama White House, where he directs the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

He hopes his generation learns lessons from the past. His grandmother, a civil rights activist in the 1960s in Nashville, Tenn., taught him that interfaith cooperation helped eradicate the Jim Crow culture in the South. He offers a related insight: When religionists work side by side to relieve suffering, they foster the very virtues that lead to peace.

"It gives a dose of reality to interfaith dialogue," DuBois says. "Instead of sitting in a room and talking about our theological differences, which are very real, let's step outside that room."

DuBois champions this idea through a nine-month-old initiative called the President's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. He says hundreds of colleges are organizing service projects that bring diverse groups shoulder to shoulder for common causes.

One example: Evangelical Christians and Muslims at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have recently teamed up to feed the hungry in their city. The idea is now starting to take root on campuses in Britain.

"There's something about that humility and that service," DuBois says, "that gives it a unique power to mitigate conflict."

– G. Jeffrey MacDonald

Next: Ryan Scott McDonnell: Modern Lazarus at the gate

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