For many people working on humanitarian causes, spirituality is the force that compels them to be engaged with the world. They may have a ministry to serve the poor or be an activist fighting for human rights. They may be Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or not adhere to any particular tradition. What they share is an engaged spirituality.
From our first project following the 1992 civil unrest in Los Angeles, CRCC’s research and training programs have sought to understand and support faith leaders committed to improving their communities. CRCC continues this work today by studying the lives and work of exemplary people committed to advancing human flourishing across the globe. The following page includes stories of such people, created by CRCC’s researchers and journalist fellows. From the individual stories, CRCC aims to define and establish a field of “spiritual exemplars” and understand how engaged spirituality operates in their lives. This endeavor is supported by the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton Religion Trust.
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Above, Maggie Gorban ministers to children in a slum on the outskirts of Cairo.
- ReportEngaged Spirituality: 100 Stories of Inspiration and ResilienceAround the world, humanitarians care for AIDS orphans, fight oil companies in the arctic, perform surgery in the middle of wars, save migrants from certain death in the desert or the sea, …Topics: Engaged Spirituality, Spiritual Exemplars
- AnnouncementNominate a Spiritual ExemplarDo you know someone who is changing the world? Is their work inspiring but not widely known? The USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture is launching a global project on spiritual …Topics: Engaged Spirituality, Spiritual Exemplars
- ArticleFather Greg Boyle: A Modern-Day Mystic — The Priest Behind Homeboy IndustriesThis article was originally published on Religion Unplugged, with the support of CRCC’s global project on engaged spirituality. The founder of the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and prison reentry program in the world is a …Topics: Catholics and Catholicism, Engaged Spirituality, Religious Leadership, Southern California
- ArticleKonda Mason: Growing rice in Louisiana is a path to justice for Black farmersThis article was originally published on The Christian Science Monitor, with the support of CRCC’s global project on engaged spirituality. It’s past daybreak on a muggy July morning when Konda Mason reaches the farm, a …Topics: Buddhists and Buddhism, Engaged Spirituality, Environment, Race and Culture, Religious Leadership, Spiritual Exemplars
- AnnouncementDonald E. Miller Retires from the USC Center for Religion and Civic CultureThe USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture celebrates the long and productive career of its co-founder Donald E. Miller upon his retirement from the center. The Leonard K. Firestone Professor of …Topics: Engaged Spirituality, Religious Leadership, Southern California, Spiritual Exemplars
- ArticleSarah Zouak: Leading a Laboratory of Muslim Feminism in FranceWhen Sarah Zouak was a graduate student in France, an adviser told her that the phrase “Muslim feminist” was a contradiction in terms. Zouak had proposed a thesis on the topic when …Topics: Engaged Spirituality, Europe, Gender and Sexuality, Muslims and Islam, Spiritual Exemplars
- MapEnvironmental Justice and Spiritual ExemplarsThis story map is best viewed on the Arcgis website on a computer.Topics: Engaged Spirituality, Environment, Spiritual Exemplars
- CommentaryThe Radical Resistance and Radical Acceptance of Spiritual ExemplarsHow spiritual exemplars work to create a world befitting of our inherent nobility A key question we are asked by consumers of our research on “spiritual exemplars” is about the qualities of …Topics: Engaged Spirituality, Meditation and Prayer, Religious Leadership, Spiritual Exemplars
- VideoSister Networks Building Hope at the US/Mexico Border
- Video“Stories of Social Change: Spirituality in Action” Exhibit Panel at USC Annenberg
- ArticleParveena Ahanger: A Grieving Mother’s Fight for the Disappeared of KashmirParveena Ahanger, a well-known Kashmiri activist, exuded her characteristic warmth as she sat cross-legged in the kitchen on a freezing January afternoon in Srinagar, the region’s largest city. The warmest corner of …Topics: Asia, Engaged Spirituality, Muslims and Islam, Spiritual Exemplars, Violence, weforum
- CommentaryThe Complex Relationship Between Religion and HumanitarianismThe hero image of religious saints involved in humanitarian work warrants examination. I have come to this conclusion in the process of leading a global project on “spiritual exemplars” at USC’s Center …Topics: Disaster Response, Engaged Spirituality, Faith-Based Organizations, Religious Leadership, Social Services, Spiritual Exemplars, Violence, weforum
“Pessimism, cynicism, despair—these words are not in the vocabulary of spiritual exemplars such as Sister Rosemary and Jean. Instead, I kept hearing the words hope, compassion and love. What really struck me was their entrepreneurial spirit in the face of poverty and trauma. Perhaps visionary action is an antidote to paralyzing anxiety and fear.”
— Donald E. Miller, Countering Pessimism and Despair: An Encounter with two Spiritual Exemplars
To schedule an interview with one of our experts, please contact CRCC:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-743-1611
- Ken ChitwoodKen Chitwood’s work specializes in global Islam, the Americas and Christian-Muslim relations.
- Hebah FarragGuest ContributorHebah Farrag was the assistant director of research at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture through 2023. She managed large grant-based research projects while pursuing her own research on religion, …
- Donald E. MillerCo-FounderDonald Miller focuses on global religious trends, genocides of the 20th century, and the role of religious NGOs in addressing issues of moral concern.
- Arpi MillerArpi Miller is a sociologist who studies secular and faith-based immigrant advocacy and accompaniment.