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Colorado pastor, activist to be featured at MLK Day celebration

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday will feature a return engagement by a convocation speaker from last fall.

The event is Monday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium and is free and open to the public.

Caleb Lázaro of Colorado Springs, Colo., a convocation presenter this past November, will be the featured speaker, on “A Burning Love.”

Lázaro was born in Peru and immigrated to the United States with his family at age 6. He currently works with grassroots movements in both the United States and Peru, advocating for economic justice, nonviolence and restoration of human dignity.

He is a founder and co-pastor of El Centro, a Christian church in Colorado Springs involved in advocating for a redefinition of citizenship in the United States. Lázaro travels regularly to educate faith communities and activist groups on themes such as social justice, contemplative Christianity, interfaith dialogue and the Anabaptist tradition. He is a student in the Benedictine spiritual formation program at Benet Hill Monastery near Colorado Springs.

Lázaro’s connection to Bethel College began with President Perry White, who heard him speak last summer at the Mountain States Mennonite Conference meeting and knew he would be well-received at Bethel. Lázaro will be on the Bethel campus Jan. 15-18 as pastor-in-residence, meeting with several classes and being available for informal conversations with students and others, before returning to Colorado to be the resource person for Junior High Snow Camp at Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp, Jan. 20-22.

Like last year’s Martin Luther King Day event at Bethel, this year’s will feature a display of artwork by local elementary school students, in the Fine Arts Center lobby, as well as poetry reading by older students.

There will be a contest in Mojo’s Coffee Shop at Bethel on Sunday evening, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. Any Bethel student, faculty or staff member, high school student in Harvey County or resident of Harvey County is invited to read original work or “published favorite” that celebrates in some way the ideas and values that Dr. King championed. The winner in each category will read again Monday night in the MLK Day program.

The Harvey County Diversity Task Force is co-sponsoring the poetry reading contest and the Jan. 16 celebration. Carlota Ponds, director of the Hesston Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Diversity Task Force, will serve as emcee for the Monday evening event.

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

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