The Master of Religious Education (MRE) program at the Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) is a prime example of how religious studies are pioneering new roads in the implementation and practice of both teaching and learning and also interfaith peace building.

I was born in the Netherlands, stereotypically known as the land of windmills, tulips, bicycles and cheese. Among intellectual types, the Netherlands is also known as the land of Rembrandt and Van Gogh, of Erasmus and Spinoza.

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On October 17 during Chapel Service, the UTS community commemorated the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty by hosting the Reverend Dr. Hans Hallundbaek, a Presbyterian Pastor with almost two decades of experience in prison ministry in New York and concrete activities to relieve poverty in Kenya.

The program began with a testimony from Mr. Thomas Fuambilla (UTS 2001) about his twenty-one year experience as a refugee from his native country of Angola. Dr. Hallundbaek stressed how ministry to eradicate poverty is not only for the welfare of those suffering in conditions of poverty, but also for the welfare of the more privileged as well: by helping others we help ourselves. Following his message, Mr. Emmanuel Tannui, an interfaith scholarship student from Kenya, explained how cultural values that prioritize the extended family unit and hospitality drive people to give everything they have to help refugees or sick relatives, often exacerbating conditions of poverty.

The Community Chapel Service inspired many to take action for the eradication of poverty. Following the service, some students expressed an interest in doing Field Education work in prisons under the supervision of Dr. Hallundbaek and his wife, who has initiated a Theater and Performing Arts program for people in prison. Currently, one UTS Faculty member, Mr. Chris Antal, teaches in the Fishkill Correctional Facility in a program that Dr. Hallundbaek helped found in 1995, called Rising Hope Inc. After his visit, several other faculty members expressed an interest in volunteering their time in local prisons.

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