Duke University -- A group of faith-based leaders, representing various religious groups gathered at Griffith Theater on Wednesday to listen to Iman Warith Deen Mohammeds speech on educating faith-based leaders.
Young leaders from many different religious institutions, including the Freeman Center for Jewish Life, The Newman Catholic Student Center, the Self-Knowledge Symposium, Black Campus Ministries, United in Praise Gospel Choir and an area Islamic Center proceeded in the panel discussion.
Mohammed, the son of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Mohammed, advised young people who are interested in leading their faith communities to gather "support from those nearest" to help them "follow their best nature and best motivations."
Courtney Wisotsky, a Jewish campus service corps fellow at FCJL, agreed. She said she understood the need for support for faith-based leaders, whose work can often be frustrating at such a secular campus as Duke. "People don't often come to Duke with Jewish life in mind," Wisotsky said.
Area pastor and Divinity School graduate Michael Walrond said he tries to excite students by encouraging them to find guidance in higher examples.
The leaders used their respective religion to share their thoughts in discussing a role model -- Gretchen Crowe of the Newman Center cited her belief in Jesus, while Ed Cheely of the SKS noted the "transformational morality" of religion as a valuable guide, saying individuals must aspire to a more natural adherence to religious dictates.
"The goal is to become the kind of person who no longer wants to covet his neighbor's wife, lie, cheat or steal," Cheely said. "Once you realize that you are nothing and God is everything, there is no reason left to sin."
In terms of challenges to campus leadership, junior Brooke Spencer o Black Campus Ministries noted fear of failure as a problem, Crowe noted doubt in religion as challenge to campus leadership, and Witsotsky addressed the unique lifestyle of college students as the problem .
"Faltering and starting over is not going to stop me from anything I want to do," Spencer said.
"They are no longer experiencing religion through their parents' lives," Wisotsky said. Students who in the past would have been regular churchgoers have the freedom to simply sleep late on Sundays once they move out of the house and into the dormitories, she explained. In reaction to the extreme and varied schedules of college students, Wisotsky described initiatives to tailor programming more to student needs, including plans for Shabbat services in Krzyzewskiville before the Maryland and North Carolina basketball
After the intense discussion, Mohammed closed the gathering as he assured of the bright future of religious leadership. "The world is not lost," he said. "We don't need a lot of leadership, we just need good leadership. Sometimes the best leader isn't the one who wants to be number one, but the one who wants to support number one."