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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Here is an inspiring story about a woman named Sally Goodrich, who found, during a a "moment of grace," a way to turn her grief at losing her son in the 911 attacks into a way to love her enemy...

sally goodrichSally Goodrich (middle)SALLY GOODRICH 1945-2010
Founder of a School for Afghan Girls

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took her son's life, Sally Goodrich did something as redemptive as it was audacious: She traveled to Afghanistan and built a school there for girls in an area thick with Taliban fighters.

Ms. Goodrich, who died Saturday at age 65 of ovarian cancer, was a Vermont educator whose son, Peter Goodrich, was aboard United Airlines flight 175 when the plane slammed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in 2001. Peter Goodrich was age 33 when he was killed.

Overcome with grief and rage, she decided to channel her feelings into cultural outreach, something she thought her son would have done. "This is really Peter's journey," Ms. Goodrich told the Boston Globe in 2005, during a visit to Afghanistan's Logar province south of Kabul, where the school was under construction. "I am living to move my child's life forward."

A month after the attacks, Ms. Goodrich and her husband Don helped found Families of September 11, a survivors' support and advocacy organization (of which Mr. Goodrich is still chairman). Still, life seemed dark to Ms. Goodrich, who next endured a cancer diagnosis and the death of her father. She became severely depressed.

In 2004, a childhood friend of Peter Goodrich who was serving in the Marines in Afghanistan contacted Ms. Goodrich with a proposal that she later called "the moment of grace." He suggested she organize a program to collect supplies for a rural Afghan schoolteacher whom the Taliban had been threatening because he insisted on teaching girls.

Soon she hit on the idea of building a school for girls, and created a charitable foundation. She raised nearly $300,000. Working with an Afghan nongovernmental organization and Pashtun tribesmen, Ms. Goodrich managed to complete a two-story, 26-classroom schoolhouse meant for 500 students from kindergarten to eighth grade. It opened in 2006. In a glass case in the principal's office was an English-language Koran that had once belonged to Peter Goodrich. A computer programmer by occupation, he wasn't Muslim or even religious, but his interest in the Koran's teachings had been her inspiration.

Raised in Bennington, Vt., Ms. Goodrich married at 19 and had two sons. When they reached adolescence, she returned to school and found work as a remedial reading instructor at schools in southern Vermont and Massachusetts. She became a program administrator and had a reputation for garnering grants for impoverished districts.

At the Peter M. Goodrich Foundation, she helped provide funding for wells, a dental clinic in Kabul and tricycles for victims of landmines. The foundation also sponsors Afghan students to study in the U.S., several of whom lived with the Goodrich family. In 2009, a bomb exploded not far from the school, killing more than a dozen schoolchildren. The bomb's intended target was unclear, and the school remained open.

Ms. Goodrich visited Afghanistan several times to check on progress and meet the people she was trying to help. "What a great place to be heartbroken," she told O, The Oprah Magazine in 2007. "Anyone who's in pain should have the experience of being plunked down in a place where everyone is heartbroken."

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