Diego Torres stepped to the lectern and delivered his message with confidence and verve Thursday night, describing his love of Christ and passion for society’s acceptance of all cultures during evening worship.
A member of Iglesia Hispana De La Communidad in Lowell, Mass., Torres was the youth speaker for Thursday's evening worship at the United Church of Christ’s National Youth Event at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
After some lighthearted humor, Torres started his keynote strong and finished strong.
We shouldn't withdraw from others who don’t look or talk like us, he said, but we live in a society that tolerates racism and refuses to live in harmony because we are diverse. "I am concerned that we are a society that cannot tell the difference between tranquility and brutality," he said. "If are living in such a way, then it is clear we are not living by Jesus' example, for Jesus invites us to love one another as God loves us."
Torres told the NYE crowd that as Christians, they have a moral obligation to force change and stop discrimination in ourselves and others.
"I believe that Jesus Christ is the perfect example of the life we should live. We can imagine a world where these acts of malevolence, meanness and biases can end, and we can embrace each other’s differences as gifts from God. Doing this will make us stronger, doing this will help others, doing this will change the world."
Torres closed his speech Thursday by quoting Romans 8:38-39: "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus."
"It's one thing to imagine a world where differences are embraced," Torres said. "But it is crucial to work toward a world where differences are embraced."
God's love is accessible to everyone regardless of cultural background, Torres said.
His church has an active youth group, which on most Sundays is usually twice as large as the number of adults. Torres and other youths sometimes lead worship, so he was very poised speaking to the crowd of 2,500 peers.
"It was really influential. He knew what he was talking about, and funny, too," said Nolan Benner of New Goshenhoppen UCC in East Greenville, Pa. Benner said he's the only person from his church at NYE, but traveled to West Lafayette with members of his conference.