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Calvin Profs Take Summer Seminars
July 12, 2005

A pair of Calvin College professors are among the participants in a summer seminar at the college from now through July 22 on the Christian's call to serve the poor within the real-world context of rapidly changing and globalizing rural markets.

The three-week seminar is sponsored by the Seminars in Christian Scholarship at Calvin and it's being taught by Thomas Reardon of Michigan State University and Chris Barrett of Cornell University.

Among the 12 participants are Calvin economics professor Roland Hoksbergen and Calvin business professor Adel Abadeer. Others include professors from such institutions as the University of Georgia, Iowa State, Biola and Grove City as well as a senior economist with the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

Hoksbergen is intimately involved in Calvin's newest program (a major in International Development Studies approved in May 2005) and spent the spring 2005 semester leading a Calvin program in the Honduras.

So the current seminar on serving the poor was one he was happy to see offered at Calvin.

"In Honduras," he says, "we had a lot of opportunities to visit communities where the people are very, very poor. We often went to the places where the people work - to the factories, the banana plantations and the farms. Those experiences were often real eye-openers for my students and for me. When I had the chance to get involved in this summer seminar it was a no-brainer. I'm looking forward to the experience."

Abadeer, whose general research interest is economic justice, signed on for similar reasons.

In fact he plans to take what he's learning this summer and apply it directly to his Calvin courses, using the workshop's discussions, readings and case studies in a variety of Calvin classes, including an upper-level economics course on World Poverty and Economic Development.

"And," he says, "it is also important for students to know of and appreciate the involvement of Christian scholars in all spheres of God's creation, including agricultural economics and rural poverty."

Summer seminars director Jamie Smith says that the whole idea behind the program.

"We want to give scholars a chance to dig deeper into topics they are passionate about," he says," to draw on the resources of Christian thought in their disciplines, and then put their scholarship to work in the world. Both Roland and Adel's experiences, research interests and scholarly passions are the types of things that our summer seminar participants bring to the table. Get a bunch of people like that together for three weeks and amazing things happen."

Hoksbergen likes that some of the reading material for the seminar has a very interdisciplinary feel to it, something that is at the heart of the new International Development Studies major too, which features courses from economics, business, political science, sociology and geography.

Smith says that the question of how best to serve the poor is one Christians of all backgrounds are finding more and more compelling.

He points to a recent open letter to President Bush signed by such people as Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, Billy Graham and British evangelical John Stott where Warren said: "I deeply believe that if we as evangelicals remain silent and do not speak up in defense of the poor, we lose our right to witness about God's love for the world.

And Smith notes that the recent G8 Summit, hosted by Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, July 6-9 at Gleneagles in Scotland, was also the site for a concerted effort called The ONE Campaign, an effort intended to negotiate aid packages and other solutions to global poverty, hunger and disease.

"I'm encouraged that more and more Christians in the United States, including evangelicals, are becoming concerned about global poverty," says Smith. "This seminar provides an opportunity for Christian scholars to serve that goal by thinking about some of the hard questions."