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Jan 13, 2024

"The greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel." --Florence Nightingale

Extraordinary Ordinary People

Around the world, an army of unsung heroes are upon us. These are not saints, but very human individuals, who, bolstered by their engaged spirituality, have surfaced deep contributions to the fabric of their communities, fields, and the world at large. "A lot of the reporting on religion is often negative. It's about abuse, it's about corruption, it's about the decline of a particular institutional religion," notes Donald Miller, Professor of Religion at University of Southern California (USC). Yet through Miller's work around the globe, he met remarkable, down to earth exemplars of humanity whose diverse faiths supported their service in the world, even in the sobering context of genocide, poverty, and human rights. "I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to try to document an alternative story about religion and the role of religion," Miller states. And so the Spiritual Exemplars Project was born. Housed in USC's Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC), with support from the John Templeton Foundation, a team of researchers, academics, journalists, and filmmakers collectively highlighted 104 humanitarians from 42 countries and diverse faith traditions in articles, podcasts, and visual stories. Their stories unveil the embodied practice and living spark of, in Miller's words, "purpose-driven human beings whose vision is enlivened through their spiritual practice."

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