Humanitarian and Youth Programs


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Religious Youth Service

Exploring Interest in Religious Youth Service in Hong Kong and Macau

Religious Youth Service Director John Gehring visited Hong Kong and Macau after a project in Thailand May 7 to 16. He met with students, religious leaders, and peace activists to explore avenues of interest in Religious Youth Service programs.

Connecting with a mosque and seminary in Hong Kong

Students from Hong Kong University joined Religious Youth Service Director John Gehring for a meeting at the UPF office and then made a visit to Kowloon Mosque, where they were met by the imam. The imam, an active member of the Hong Kong Interfaith Council, shared with students his understanding of the role of religious cooperation in creating a better living environment for all. Students asked several general questions about Islam and also asked specific questions about being a Muslim in Hong Kong. Those attending the meeting were particularly interested in the imam’s response to questions about how Islam prepares young adults to face the tough challenges they meet on a regular basis.

The RYS Director shared about the recent RYS in Thailand, a program where Muslims from Thailand and Sri Lanka labored with participants from three religions and ten nations. He shared that all the volunteers had sincerely offered their hard work and concern for the rural poor and through their shared effort they had become close friends. The imam encouraged the students in their work in both school and in becoming peacemakers.

The Tao Feng Shan Christian Centre in Hong Kong is a bridge-building institute that encourages dialogue and sharing between men and women from various Christian denominations and cultural backgrounds. Dr. John G. LeMond, Ph.D. is responsible for the Bridge and Dialogue Division of the Centre, and he visited the UPF headquarters to learn more deeply about Religious Youth Service. During the visit Dr. LeMond shared that many seminarians came to their institute anxious to learn how to promote church growth. There was also a small group of students who sought to learn more about the world’s religions because it would both serve to deepen their understanding while allowing them to better communicate to people from other religions and cultures.

During the conversation, Dr. LeMond expressed an interest in participating in an RYS project. The RYS Director credited interfaith pioneers like Dr. LeMond for opening up doors and encouraging students to discover the rich spiritual diversity of the world’s religions. Integrating seminary students and young students of religion into the RYS is in a great way to encourage spiritual growth. The RYS Director shared that, “Those who do take the RYS challenge will be better prepared to reach the hearts and minds of the people they work with.”


Hope for the people from Timor living in Macau

A meeting concerning the development of an RYS outreach to the Timor community within Macau and the potential development of RYS alumni who can help the rebuilding process in the newly established-nation of Timor. The area of East Timor was a Portuguese colony until 1975, when Indonesia annexed it. After a bloody quest for independence, it gained nationhood in 2002 as Timor-Leste.

Macau is also a former Portuguese colony and has a sizeable Timorese community settled within its borders. Ambassadors for Peace, Mr. Agostinho Martins and Father Rodrigo met with RYS Director Rev. John W. Gehring to discuss ways to care for the local Timorese community through training them at international RYS projects and then guiding them through the process of setting up RYS programs within Timor. The challenges to Timor are great, but RYS has the potential to offer a healing formula to a nation that has suffered much.

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