Students said they were pleased to see speakers urge them to strive for interfaith unity at the Remembering 9/11: Ten Years Later ceremony held in Bovard Auditorium on Sunday.
Speakers included Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, President C. L. Max Nikias, Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni and Undergraduate Student Government President Monish Tyagi. They spoke about the impact of the attack on the country and the national interfaith community service initiative being launched at USC to help spread awareness and tolerance of other cultures.
“9/11 has been thought of as a national day of service, but at USC, we envision the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 as a year of service,” Soni said. “We anticipate that students who have personal experiences with those of other faith traditions will come to appreciate the common goals and shared aspirations that connect us as human beings.”
Students not involved with interfaith initiatives said they were pleased to hear about USC’s drive to promote understanding.
Nicole Baffa, a junior majoring in political science, said she was happy the university was sending a message of unity.
“I think its great that USC is not focusing on the impact of the event only, but more the remedy and forward actions,” Baffa said. “It’s important that we move forward and join rather than polarize ideologies.”
Andrea Lawler, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering and writing for screen and television, said the program was necessary for harmony in the community.
“I’m surprised it hadn’t been started since 9/11,” Lawler said. “The interfaith program really helps us to be a cohesive community and learn from our mistakes in order to fight this tragedy.”
Student members of the Interfaith Council said their experiences within the program were gratifying and informative. Robby Mack, a sophomore majoring in political science, said his work with the interfaith council exposed him to ideas not present at his high school.
“The interfaith program is the only place where I feel I can develop as a person within the Trojan family,” Mack said. “I came from a heavily conservative school and the program is one of the only groups that allows questioning of such topics in an educational environment.”
The Interfaith Council’s work is promoted by Nikias, who said USC will act as a global model for tolerance.
“I am proud to see that, in addition to USC being the country’s most diverse and multicultural school, we are on course to spread the education of people’s cultures and religion as part of a formal education that can truly be applied on a global scale,” Nikias said.
Speakers also said the interfaith aspect of the initiative is key to the school’s general plan to promote tolerance and understanding nationwide.
“Religion is unquestionably powerful force in the world,” said USC Religious Director Imam Jihad Turk. “Through this initiative, it is hoped that we can demonstrate that power of religion can be harnessed to be a power for the common good.”
Tyagi stressed the United States needed to move on from the tragedy of Sept. 11 and that USC must take similar actions to make sure such events do not occur again.
“To heal the 9/11 wound, we need to put the event in the past but not forget it,” Tyagi said. “We must understand it so we can work towards solving the hatred and misunderstanding by means of interfaith promotion.”
Villaraigosa said USC and the greater Los Angeles community were more cohesive following the attacks because of the remarkable reaction of the American people and students.
“Hope, resilience, love — these things were all demonstrated by the American people following the attacks to show the world that we are now more united than we were before,” Villaraigosa said.