The first ever Interfaith Speech Contest of the UTS Barrytown Campus was held in the evening of November 5, 2007. Ten speakers vied for first prize in the annual contest.
Dr. Tyler Hendricks, UTS President, welcomed everyone to the program and gave his encouragement to the speakers and students present. As UTS pioneers the new interfaith concentration, he regarded this initiative as “breaking new ground” in the seminary’s 33-year history. Previously, there was an oratorical contest which dealt with topics and issues of interest to the students. But now, the contest has been aligned with the positioning of the seminary to focus on interfaith.
Ten contestants representing different backgrounds all gave very impressive speeches, some very passionate, some very insightful, some very funny, some very elaborate, but all sincerely expressed their ideas and heart as to what interfaith means for them.
Three of them emerged as winners: At third place was Mr. Sergio Alcubilla, whose idea of interfaith was “to see each one as brothers and sisters, unique, special, and different in our beliefs and practices, just as children in a family are different.” However, “they all share the same unconditional love of the parents.” He shared his moving interfaith experiences when he volunteered in Israel.
The second was Mr. Abdel Moumin Ibrahim Ahmed, who as a Sudanese Muslim traced his tradition and scriptures of the peace building points of his faith such as the “Brothers of Pure Heart” who believed in the idea of one world family. He also abides by a saying of a Muslim saint: “Love is my religion and faith, wherever I find love, I follow.” He suggests that there has to be inter-discipline and inter-institution movements together with an interfaith movement.
Ms. Katarzyna Korda, the only female among the speakers, stood out in her exploration of the meaning of interfaith. As a social worker in Poland, she shared her experiences on mediating people in conflict. In mediation, one has to be like a mirror reflecting the subjects but not becoming one of them. She asks: “Why are there such people like the Dalai Lama, Jesus, and other revered religious figures? It is because they have something that is in common for all the best in religion, for all the best in people. It is because of their goodness. And in goodness “there is no barrier within.”
Judging the speakers were Rev. Gavin Hamnett, Dr. Andrew Wilson, Dr. Mark King, Dean of Students Mrs. Sunhee Davies, Mr. Chris Antal and the audience. The UTS Music Club and resident musicians entertained the audience with wonderful songs. The event was organized by the Student Council headed by Ms. Galina Li and hosted by Ms. Barbara Robertson and Mr. Joshua Lorenzana.