David Kasbow, a proud Detroiter, has been giving back to the city of his birth since the year he graduated from UTS with a Master in Religious Education in 1991. Giving back for Kasbow means what he calls, “restoring the severe brokenness” found there, and his chief restorative instrument is interfaith engagement.

There's a band that's been around since the mid-1960s which recently celebrated their staying power with a farewell performance shown in movie theaters nationwide – perhaps even worldwide – celebrating their 50th anniversary with the well-known catch phrase, “what a long, strange trip it's been.” It's a line, of course, taken from one of their most popular songs.

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The Hudson Valley of New York is home to people of all faiths and on Wednesday May 7, local Buddhist, Muslim, and Christian Clergy gathered together with UTS students and seminary faculty to spend the day in dialogue.

The theme was “Nonviolence in an Age of Violence: Resources from Spiritual Leaders.” Post-conference evaluations by participants were extremely positive; Robert Brooks, for example, commented that he was impressed at the professionalism and surprised to learn that the event was promoted, designed and facilitated by UTS students in the “Ecumenism and Interfaith Class,” a core course for students pursuing the Master’s of Divinity Degree.

Dialogue Panelists included nationally known non-violence educator Richard Deats from the Fellowship of Reconciliation (Nyack, New York), Nurah Amat’ullah, from the Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development (New York City), Trudi Jinpu Hirsch, Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor at Vassar HospitalPoughkeepsie, NY), and Philip Carr-Harris, an Episcopal Priest and interfaith leader (Poughkeepsie, NY).

The interfaith dialogue conference was sponsored by UTS in keeping with the seminary commitment to “equipping people of faith to be interreligious peacebuilders” and will be offered again in 2010 by future students in the “Ecumenism and Interfaith” course.

The visits of Dr. Deats, Ms. Amat’ullah, and the Reverends Hirsch and Carr-Harris builds upon previous visits from local religious leaders to UTS in the 2007-2008 Academic Year, including visits from Rev. Hans Hallundbaek, a Presbyterian Minister from Prison Communities International (Katonah, NY), Imam Salahuddin Muhammad, spiritual leader of the Masjid Al Ikhlas (Newburgh, NY), and the Rev. John Simon, Baptist Chaplain at Vassar Hospital.

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