The Words of the Galvan Family
Teaching Interfaith Leadership - An Interview with Rev. Estaban Galvan
Shin Young Chang
Rev. Estaban Galvan is a professor at Boricua College, the Manhattan Annex, Bronx, New York. He teaches in the winter semester, Introduction to Religion and now, in the summer sessions, Remaking of Leadership. This interview with Rev. Estaban Galvantook place in June 2007.
SC: Can you give us the details of the interfaith course you are teaching at Boricua College.
EG: Yes, we have a course in our admissions already, Introduction to Religion, exposing our students to all the religions, and the making of religions, which in turn exposes the student to a whole world or religious history and the development of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and the eastern religions.
SC: Can you elaborate on these courses you teach in relation to Unification Church missionaries?
EG: First off there are two levels in the course study; one is an inquisitive science and the other is effective development. In Cognitive science, we exercise the theory and practice behind the development throughout history of religion for the student. In the course of effective development (I teach both courses at both levels) the student is oriented more towards the experience of the conscious and subconscious sharing of their own feelings on religion and spirituality, and they share it over here and thereís a big response from the students. Iím the only professor teaching that course, offering that course. My students are primarily Hispanic, African-American, and Asian and there are a few European students. Itís very interesting, very amazing, really, very good.
So my message at the 43rd street Sunday Service several months back was - some of the students also attend the Jacob Javits Center as part of their course study site visit, and they responded very well to the environment because the school emphasizes learning context and environmental learning. For this particular course, the school is promoting that the student develop an open mindedness.
SC: How would you suggest those involved in inter-religious dialogue improve their ability to be facilitators for interfaith dialogue?
EG: I think itís best thing to do is to be aware, especially, of what weíre (Unificationists) doing in respect to the international foundation that we have, that Father has especially with the mission field, such as Universal Peace Federation (UPF). Iíve been speaking with some of the professors at the college now who are interested in both the Middle East project and our trips to Israel. Also any of the members here should be aware of programs that we have and have confidence to invite people of many faiths and many nations, ethnic groups, and backgrounds. We have an amazing amount of resources. Iím totally confident that we can reach out to the higher level and thatís why now Iím inviting one of the professors to the Hawaii conference as well.
SC: In your opinion then, you feel that our efforts in the Middle East are bringing results?
EG: Fantastic results because it starts with dialogue first. It begins with dialogue first and removing those barriers. For instance, I have a Christian students who came to the Jacob Javits and heard True Mother speak. He came back to my office and he was so moved! Heís a Christian and he reads the Bible and knows the Bible.
He was moved emotionally and fell down on his knees and he was just crying, so overwhelmed by the love that he felt in that environment at Jacob Javits Center. I feel he was having a spiritual experience. This school started out as a private school. Itís the only private Hispanic College in America and there are four locations in New York. It really promotes and encourages dialogue, and open mindedness towards all religions and all faiths and all races.
It originally began thirty-three years ago primarily for the Puerto Rican community but now it has completely opened up to Korean, Hispanic, all Latin American countries, Africa - itís changing, the school is become more deep and thatís where the alignment with Unificationism I think is really timely.
SC: Thatís really amazing. The school just naturally progressed into interfaith dialogue.
EG: Yeah it really is. Look at what weíre talking about. Weíre talking about the Afro-American, weíre talking about the Hispanic, weíre talking about Europeans -- where the church and religion plays a key role to the family and thatís where, the students primarily -- this is an adult college. So a lot of the people coming have experience life. Theyíre not just coming right out of high school. They are people who are either parents, or who have themselves, gone on to express a desire to go back to school. There is a maturity there and an experience there; the knowledge they have of religion and spirituality comes from first hand experience that, not just religion per say, but institutional religion and spirituality more so are what they have experienced with interfaith. I feel thereís some high level people here who would believe more now in what weíre doing through United Nations and through a lot of the work we are doing with the Call to Israel and through programs with the International Educational Foundation (IEF). Even STF and what itís doing now, I think a lot of people are now opening their eyes to us and listening to what we are doing and not just to what we are saying.
SC: Iím curious to know what your students want to do once theyíve finished your course.
EG: Itís amazing you should ask that. Iím taking another level in my course: leadership. Itís a learning process. Thatís important, the process of learning. So Iím getting the students involved in the course on leadership and that leadership course is connected to a holistic approach to learning of the person, the community, the family. That includes, then, spirituality. You canít get away from it. Leadership issues of peace, for world peace are right now. I took fifteen of the students to one of our events on the world tour. Now many of them are going to be police officers, counselors; theyíre going to be on the board of education, in human resources, do business; these are people who want to do things.
SC: Thank you for the interview. Are there any last things you would like to add?
EG: Yes. I just want to say that I am grateful to the training that I had that the Unification Theological Seminary. Iíve been here now five years teaching at this college. And now they are opening another college in the Bronx, fourteen floors. What I see now with my three years of training at UTS and with Fatherís training of leadership is that we are now at the forefront. Father wants us to get out there and help to facilitate leadership, you might say, from the community. Not to program and not to come on top of them with an agenda, but to come underneath them. The way Father has taught me to teach and how to make it passionate and how also to resource; for instance, my main text is World Scriptures by Andrew Wilson. I also use Huston Smith and Dr. Young Oon Kim on theology. I am introducing all these texts in my courses. The two course studies are the cognitive science and the colloquium.
When I was hired there, I asked them point blank, would there be a problem with me being a part of my church and they said no. They wanted to know what was my philosophy of education. It was a two hour interview with three professors, four times -- I had to go to all four colleges. I was drilled. They asked me, what have you been doing? What is your philosophy of education? This, that and everything and it was amazing how the doors had opened. Times are so good for us right now to be out in the front.
I had this experience this one time; there was another brother who was teaching at other colleges and he could never say that he was an Unificationist and I have it right there in my office. I have it right there. I have the Ambassador for Peace, I have a picture of True Parents, and I have a picture of Hyo Jin Nim. They ask me openly about it and they know Iím an ordained minister. Maybe Iím a little bit different because the community and the cultural context -- you see poverty around you, and my conclusion is this: we need to be here.
Iím grateful to Father because all this can happen now only because of True Parents, and also to Rev. In Hoi Lee who was the regional director at the time. He encouraged me and gave me his blessing to go and take on this challenge. It is my mission. I told them at the school, they loved it when I they asked, "Why do you want to come here" and I said I felt it was my mission from God. And they said, "youíre hired."
SC: So it is safe to say to our members, that it is not only good the things were are doing, but that what we are doing is in demand.
EG: Thatís right. And be confident. This is your call from God.