Welcome to Chicago, 2014 International Classroom Participants
We are thrilled to welcome the following participants to our Global Classroom this summer. They represent Unitarians, Universalists, Hindus, Buddhists
Alpar Bartha (Romania)
Alpár Bartha, 25, is a student in the second (and final) year of the master’s program at the Protestant Theological Institute in Kolozsvar, Transylvania. He was married this past Spring to Eva Bartha.
Claudia Espinel (Colombia)
I was born in Colombia 30 years ago and am currently pursuing a Master in Public Relations and Corporate Communication at New York University. I was raised a Catholic and influenced by its commitment with service. I have dedicated myself to Communication in the social field. Prior to moving to the United States, I was Chief of Communication for the Bolívar Davivienda Foundation, Colombia's largest corporate foundation. There, I led the communication strategy for the foundation’s seven main projects. These included its volunteer program and the Colombian Youth Philharmonic. Before leaving the Foundation, I was in charge of setting up a pilot non-profit communication agency focused on social issues. After finishing my MA in May 2014, I want to bring my communication skills to peacebuilding projects. My goal is to inspire communities to adopt non-violent solutions to conflicts.
Tet Gallardo (The Philippines)
I am the eldest of four daughters and an adopted brother. I’m 44 years old, ordained minister last April 2013 and installed in a small church in the shanties of Bicutan in Manila last October 2013. They say I’m possibly the first lesbian minister in the nonwestern world. I have worked 20 years organizing communities, artists, workers, women, farmers, and students in various capacities for about 30 non-profits. I joined the corporate world in 2011 and worked for the leadership development team of Accenture, Inc., a global company in 140 countries whose clients include Obamacare and 91 of the Top 100 largest global companies. I discovered UU in 2004 when I lived for a week in the New York home of Rev. Joseph Lyons along with his Filipino wife when he was still a student at Harvard Divinity School. When I came back to the Philippines, I started going to interfaith services that led me to the UU church here. That was 8 years ago. I believe in the continuing revelation and creation of the human spirit through a free inquiry and a collaborative environment.
Rev. Darihun Khriam (India) (photo not yet available)
My husband's name is Lambok Kharbithai and we have three children - one girl and two boys. They are 9, 6 and 3. I am born and brought up a Unitarian as my mother and grandparents are Unitarians. My father belongs to the Khasi indegenous religion until he convert in 2002 but he died in 2004. I work as a Unitarian Minister and being the first Khasi woman minister in the Unitarian movement. I look after 8 churches with 3 Assistant Ministers to help.
Francisco Javier Lagunes Gaitán (Mexico)
I was born in México City on April 19th 1966. I have a 16 years old son (Érik Omar) and am currently a single father. Our big interesting city has deep historical roots and became home for a big cultural diversity. I like formal sciences and systematic approaches, studied Social Anthropology. I have been an activist in the AIDS education movement, editor of a youth oriented LGBT magazine and been president of the Citizen´s Network for Equal Civil Union Law in Mexico City (Ley de Sociedad de Convivencia). In 1996 I atended the National AIDS Conference in Washington DC, in 2000 attended an international seminar on LGBT rights (at IIRE) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
My parents were originally Roman Catholics, but they became atheists in their youth, so I have had no previous experience of a religious community. After having my son I was spiritually in unrest, because I was looking for a way of offering to my son some community, besides family, that could help raise him in a liberal humanist ethics. I found the Belief-O-Matic test, and my result was only 98% atheist, but 100% Unitarian Universalist. I looked for some fellow UUs in Mexico City through the web and after an inspiring meeting with Rev. Lindy Ramsden, who was visiting the City, we decided to form a local group. In our emergent group I am the Lay Chaplain. We blessed 15 weddings, one child dedication and one funeral. I attended a the First Latinamerican ICUU Lay Leaders Conference in 2005 in San Nicolás de los Arroyos, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and also the ICCU meetings in Barcelona, Spain, Kolozsvár, Transylvania, Dumaguete, the Philippines and New York. I have had the honor of attending 2 UUAs General Asemblies (Minneapolis and Phoenix). I also was invited once to the Intermountain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico. For 6 years I volunteered offering workshops for prison inmates in 3 different prisons in and around Mexico City on Sexuality (Our Whole Lives), Humanist Ethics (The Moral Compass), Small Group Ministry group on masculinity (Gatherings, 8 sessions), Humanist Counselling.
Rev. Justine Magara (Kenya)
Lay-minister Justine Magara is the Pastor of the North Kisii Unitarian Universalist congregation in the very rural Kisii highlands of Kenya. The church is 45 minutes from the nearest town and approximately 5 hours from Nairobi. The congreagtion includes approximately 45 adults and 40 children.
Justine is also a member of the UU Church (Kenya) Board of Directors, and has been involved with the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists for a number of years. Recently he attended the ICUU Council meeting held at the UU Congregation of Shelter Rock, NY (January, 2014). He is 33 years old.
Arman Geganzo Pedro (The Philippines)
I am 39 years old, single, and presently, hold a position in public office. I was elected as member of our Village Council or what we called Barangay Council since 2007 and I am on my last term now. My term ends on December 1, 2016. I am the fourth child in our family. I finished my elementary and high school studies in a Public School here in our Province of Negros Occidental. I moved to Manila in 1992 to continue my college and in 1996, I graduated with the course in Bachelor of Science in Accountancy. After 10 years of living away from family, I resigned from my work in Manila working as an accounting analyst in a multi-national company and went home in September 2002.
I discovered the Unitarian Universalist faith then, through my family who were members since 1995. I knew the UU faith through our minister who happened to be a faith healer but at the same time a licensed minister of the UUCP. Slowly I embraced the faith and became an active member since 2003. I served as the Lay Leader of our Congregation - UUCP Doldol Congregation. Being a UU opens a lot of opportunities for me. I get the chance to meet more people from the US who are visiting here in the Philippines. I met Rev. Fred Muir in 2005 and 2012 and I met Rev. Eric Cherry last October 2013 in Manila and I get the chance to meet The Rev. Peter Morales with his wife when they visited the Philippines few years ago and several others. I am privileged to have worked with people from UUCA who are helping our community. Currently, I am working as the Program Manager for the project here in our place being funded by the New Pathways to Enterprise, USA with founder Dr. Christine Nielsen. And it's my first time to travel outside the Philippines. Feeling excited but a little nervous especially that I'm traveling alone.
Tara Rao (India)
After early retirement from a significant professional career in banking, I am now devoted to a life of spiritualism. I am looking to build on my experience in a structured and systematic manner to grow spiritually, find the purpose of living, and help share with the community. I am a Hindu by birth, and have been deeply influenced by its philosophy, lifestyle, rites, prayer, and meditation. I have been inspired by international writers, without religious boundaries, and this builds on my early education in a Catholic convent school, followed by degrees at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, and Central College in Bengaluru, India. I also recently completed a Post Graduate degree in Applied Psychology from Annamalai University in Tamil Nadu.
I have traveled extensively, including in Asia (India, Nepal, Tibet), Europe (UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany), the Middle East (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah), and North America (the US and Canada). I trek frequently to the Himalayas, am an active volunteer for several NGOs, teach yoga, and practice spiritual healing to help others. I am 64 years old, and enjoy visiting my son and two granddaughters, ages 6 and 3, who live in the Chicago area.
Kenji Horiuchi (Mr.) 26 years old-Japan
Mr. Horiuchi is a Risho Kosei-kai student at Kosei Gakurin Seminary and he is taking Dharma mission training in Bangladesh right now.
Itsuo Fujii (Mr.) 55 years old-Japan
Mr. Fujii is a new staff member of Rissho Kosei-kai International of North America (RKINA). He had been a devoted RK lay leader of RK for long time and became an RKINA staff member in last February. He will be at ML in weeks 2 and 3.