Next Evangelical Generation Driven into Leadership, Action

WASHINGTON – The National Association of Evangelicals held a power-packed student leadership conference this week to help get the next evangelical generation to make a difference in the world.

"I watched and read and did nothing," said Patrick Schmidt, a senior at Georgetown University and leader of STAND (Students Taking Action Now: Darfur), as he described his initial encounters with the genocide in Darfur. These are the utterances of many other students in the younger generation - a generation that the NAE wants to raise in leadership.

Some 120 seminary and college students took in an earful of faith and politics, and global and national issues that they had been little educated on at the 50th Annual Christian Student Leadership Conference.

"There are a lot more issues than I was aware of," said Annie Buckles, a junior at Asbury College in Kentucky. "It made me realize how much I don't pay attention to the news in the newspaper."

Among the critical issues discussed around the major sites of Washington, Buckles highlighted human trafficking as her big eye-opener.

"I didn't know too much about it," she said. "It was something that really struck me. Not only is [human trafficking] just something that's happening around the world away from the United States, but it's also a problem here."

The weeklong conference stirred much of the young crowd onto new paths as it opened up opportunities for the next generation of leaders to put their faith into the action of the federal government and society as a whole.

Buckles noted the sudden rise in interest and inspiration among her peers for public policy, federal service and advocacy roles.

With some expressing interest in working in the nation's capital, others said they wanted be real advocates for certain causes when they return to their college campuses and "start a bunch of programs," said Buckles.

Participating students gathered inside the Rubinstein Auditorium of the Holocaust Museum Thursday where they heard a briefing on the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. Students were encouraged to organize groups, fundraise, and support the recently launched Million Voices for Darfur campaign.

Rather than just watching, reading and doing nothing, the next evangelical generation was called to "do something."

"It's young people who are driving the issue," said Sam Bell of the Genocide Intervention Network.

The Christian Student Leadership Conference, which began Monday, concludes Friday at the White House.