Stories from Oakwood University, Kenya, Andrews University, Zimbabwe, Colombia and Austria.

On Tuesday a special “Town Hall Meeting” television show was broadcast from the campus of Oakwood University on WAAY, the ABC affiliate in Huntsville, Alabama. The purpose of the show was to encourage community leaders, clergy, law enforcement and citizens to be proactive in race relations and prevention of violence. It was a live event hosted by news anchors Demetria McClenton, Justin McFarland and Bill Young from the TV station. The panel members included Dr. Leslie Pollard, president of Oakwood University and an Adventist minister; Kirk Giles, deputy chief of police in Huntsville; Nate Allen, police chief in suburban Decatur; James Russell, Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisor; Brian Davis from Wellstone Behavioral Health; and Pastor Troy Garner of the Fellowship of Faith Church.

A total of 130 prisoners in Shimo la Tewa Prison in Mombasa, Kenya, graduated this week from a three-month educational program provided by the Adventist denomination, reported The Star. Both men and women prisoners took 26 courses by correspondence, including health, personal communication skills, religious education and Bible study. The prisoners are serving terms of seven to 40 years and a goal of the program is to prepare them for successful re-entry into society. Prison Chaplain John Gitau and Pastor Joseph Mwangi and Pastor Rosena Kilimali from the Adventist Church presided at the graduate ceremony where diplomas were handed out. The program is being extended to prisons in Kilifi, Malindi, Kwale and Manyani.

Dr. Ray McAllister is the first Adventist to win the Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind in the United States. It is known as “the Nobel Prize of Blindness.” In 2010 he was the first totally blind person to earn a Ph.D. in Old Testament studies, which he earned from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He is now professor of Hebrew at Anderson University in Indiana and a member of the Semitic Scholars, a group of three blind academics who created a Braille code for ancient biblical languages so that source documents could be independently studied by blind students. This is the achievement for which he and the others were honored.

Princess Simoli Khumalo, one of the last direct descendants of the Ndebele monarchs in Zimbabwe and a “staunch Seventh Day Adventist,” was buried last week, reported the Chronicle. She died at 87 and was remembered as “full of love, a no-nonsense person whose strictness and guidance will be greatly missed,” a family spokesman told the newspaper. The family is well known today because of its connection to the Highlanders Football Club, a professional soccer team. An Adventist minister conducted the funeral.

President Juan Manuel Santos of Columbia signed a decree this week setting aside a National Day of Religious Liberty in the Latin American nation. Pastor Alvaro Nino, religious liberty director for the Adventist denomination in the southern region of the country, was present for the signing along with more than 100 civic and religious leaders. “It brings me great joy to see this accomplishment,” he told the Adventist Review . Ten years ago he brought together an interfaith group called the Colombian Federation of Religious Liberty and Equality which began to work toward this goal.

Dr. Rene Gehring is the new headmaster of Bogenhofen Seminary, the Adventist school in Austria. Dr. Christoph Berger who has served in that role since 2012 has asked to step down as of next summer. Gehring has earned a double doctorate in history and theology from the University of Salzburg. He also graduated from Avondale College in Australia. He has served as a pastor in both Germany and Austria. Bogenhofen Seminary provides a primary and secondary school, as well as a government-recognized BA program in theology and Biblical studies. It serves the 5,000 Adventists in Austria as well as about 3,000 Adventists in the German-language area of Switzerland.