The Celie J. Terry Prize, established by Sanford Cloud Jr., Former Chair of Hartford Seminary?s Board of Trustees, is now in its ninth year. This prize is awarded to a student who demonstrates a commitment to academic achievement and excellence in interfaith community work in greater Hartford. This year the prize is awarded to Hans Abdiel Harmakaputra.
Hans Harmakaputra is a Presbyterian Christian from Indonesia, who first came to Hartford Seminary to participate in the International Peacemaking Program. He has also earned a master of arts degree with a focus area of study in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations from Hartford Seminary. Having experienced firsthand the tensions between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia, Hans wanted to learn more about Islam and study with Muslims in order to be a more effective contributor to positive interfaith relations upon his return home to Indonesia.
Before coming to Hartford, as part of his preparation to become a pastor, Hans filled a variety of volunteer roles in his own and other churches, primarily with young people. He has been a teaching assistant and lecturer at seminaries and has published articles on contemporary theology. In May 2013, Hans presented a paper at a peace conference (Nurturing Peace in Contexts of Global Violence) at New York Theological Seminary, entitled, ?Radical Love and Forgiveness as Foundation of Reconciliation.?
It is, however, in his involvement with the First Church of Christ in West Hartford that Hans has most clearly exemplified the qualities which make him a deserving recipient of the Celie J. Terry Prize. There, Hans led a series of book studies focused on interfaith dialogue at the John P. Webster Library for groups as large as 25, often bringing fellow Seminary students with him to provide a firsthand Muslim perspective. Also at the Library, Hans helped review and thin the collection, arranging for textbooks relevant to the Indonesian context to be shipped for use in religious schools there. Hans has been a regular participant and leader in interfaith Taize worship alongside members of the local Muslim community.
Most significantly, Hans has spent the past two years working with the youth of First Church, both with the Confirmation Class and with the youth fellowship group, bringing his multifaith understanding to young people in the course of their own discernment process. Last month, Hans was among the leaders of a youth mission trip to Boston when the bombings took place. Because of his own experience of conflict and violence in Indonesia, Hans was able to provide confident calm for these very distressed young people in the midst of that chaos, and he also helped them interpret their reactions and feelings at that moment and in the days that followed.
The pastor of First Church, Geordie Campbell, says that Hans has emerged as a mentor and significant figure for the congregation?s young people, expressing his own clear Christian faith with a deep respect and appreciation for the faith of others.