Two U.S. State Department employees — one who speaks out against anti-Semitism, the other against Islamaphobia – have teamed up to promote a global campaign to get young people to combat racial, ethnic and religious bigotry by volunteering their time for people unlike them.
“For instance, a young Jewish person could volunteer five hours at a clinic that services a Muslim community. Or a Muslim could volunteer several hours to read books to a Christian pre-school. The list goes on and on,” said Hanna Rosenthal, the State Department’s special envoy focused on anti-Semitism.
The campaign, “2011 Hours Against Hate,” grew out of Rosenthal’s friendship with Farah Pandith, the State Department’s special representative to Muslim Communities. Attending a conference two years ago in Kazakhstan, the two arranged to swap speeches decrying hatred against Jews and Muslims, catching the the ear of conferees.
They were accompanied by young people from six non-governmental organizations who asked them to promote deeds, not just statements. They said they were inspired by U.S. President Barack Obama’s call for more volunteerism and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s appeals for ”citizen diplomacy.” The concept also paralleled Europe’s declaration of 2011 as the year of volunteerism.
So, on February 17 at another conference in Vienna, the two introduced their idea.