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Founder of Habitat challenges students

Michael Chambliss | Monday, October 6, 2003

Milton Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity International, addressed the Notre Dame community Saturday at the Hesburgh Library Auditorium during his visit to what he describes as “one of the most dynamic student chapters in the world.”

Fuller received a warm introduction from fellow humanitarian and Medal of Freedom recipient, University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh.

“He took the Gospel rather seriously, sold all of his possessions for the poor and went to work building the kingdom,” Hesburgh said of Fuller.

In his speech, Fuller told the story of Habitat’s creation, relating some of the program’s greatest achievements. According to Fuller, the 28-year old program has provided housing for 150,000 families around the world. At a rate of one new house every 26 minutes, the program will have served 200,000 families and one million people by the year 2005.

According to Fuller, Habitat for Humanity International has made it a priority to work within Islamic communities in the Middle East. The program recently completed 4,000 new homes in Egypt and has already begun its work in Jordan by building 100 homes. “We are making a real, concerted effort to reach out to the Islamic world,” he said. “We want to let them know that while we have religious differences, we don’t hate them.”

Fuller emphasized the Christian message behind Habitat’s work, which he calls the “theology of the hammer.”

“It’s all God’s idea. We are total plagiarists,” he said. “Everything came out of the Bible. We don’t charge interest to the poor. All we do is give our partners an opportunity and finance their house on the Bible-finance plan,”

Fuller said that the “theology of the hammer” calls for people of all religious affiliations to lay aside their differences and work together in expressing their faith and love through hard work.

He posed a challenge to the greater South Bend community, describing a 1992 Habitat for Humanity undertaking that raised all inadequate housing to a decent level in the community where Habitat’s headquarters are located. Fuller issued a similar challenge to the Notre Dame chapter, the alumni group, area churches and community centers to work together with 4,000 poor families residing in St. Joseph County in order to completely eliminate substandard housing in this area.