Over the last year, 18 Logos and Cosmos Initiative Catalysts in 15 countries have dedicated themselves to drawing together theology and the sciences in a variety of ways in their campuses and communities, ranging from practical actions and research to dialogue and training. Their projects are at the heart of the LCI, but what do they look like practically? It has been said that a picture tells a thousand words so check out the photo gallery below to see a selection of project snapshots.
You will see that anti-erosion landscaping, a Christian vaccination campaign, free mental health services for students and workshops on peacebuilding are some of the diverse activities that Catalysts have been leading with their national IFES movements. In addition to the photo gallery below, you can read summaries and watch videos about the full range of Catalysts’ projects on our projects webpages.
After studying abroad in the late 1990s, Johnny Ngunza felt called to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to help his country develop. Now an experienced architect, teacher and volunteer with his national movement, Johnny is committed to designing buildings and spaces that glorify God and are good for the environment. In this Catalysts Perspectives blogpost, he raises a question that goes beyond the architecture profession: how can we all live out our faith by caring for and improving our environment? Read on to find out how his LC I project is helping students and residents in his city to take practical action against erosion.
Growing up in the DRC, I always admired my father’s friends who were building and public works engineers. I told myself that in the future I would do similar work to them. I went abroad to study in France and Morocco and began training as an architect. It was through my involvement with a student group in Morocco – part of the IFES family – that I felt called by God to return to my country and contribute to its development.
Today, I seek to do this through my work as an architect and also as a teacher at a university that I founded, which is called Another Sound of Africa (ASAf). ASAf trains Chrisitan men and women in sustainable development, community development and environmental conservation.
Through my work at this university I was already unconsciously engaged in a dialogue between faith and science. But when I joined the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in 2021, the training I received prompted me to completely rethink my commitment to the university and my profession. I’ve learned to consider my two occupations (architect and teacher) as priesthoods. I can express my faith through my architecture and be a witness for the Lord on my campus and through my profession.
God as architect and gardener
The bible describes God as an architect of creation and more specifically of the heavenly city described in Hebrews 11:16 and Revelation 21:2. God is also described as a gardener. In Genesis 2 we learn that “the Lord God planted a garden in the east, in Eden” and that God gave humans the mandate to care for and cultivate the garden.
The question that has arisen for me in recent years is: how can we inhabit the earth in God’s way and care for our garden, the earth?
As an architect, I believe that one of the ways we can do this is through bioclimatic architecture. This type of architecture takes into account the local climate conditions in order to reduce the building’s environmental impact. It is architecture that helps to reconcile humans with their local environment.
What kind of habitat do I think there will be in heaven? I think it will be close to bioclimatic architecture.
As an architect, I have taken up the challenge of introducing questions about our habits and customs in terms of so-called “modern” construction in my city, Beni. For example, in the past, in most traditional societies in Africa, houses were designed in harmony with the local climate and environment. They were often well designed for hot climates, for example by being integrated into their environment and having vegetation all around the house to provide natural ventilation. They were built using locally available materials – a wood or bamboo frame dressed with raw earth – making it possible to build extremely fast with a very limited volume of materials.
But nowadays, everyone wants to have a “modern” house. Most so-called “modern” constructions are not adapted to our local environment. Modern housing has created a real gap between humans and their environment and can even contribute to the destruction of the natural environment.
I am not arguing that we move away from modern methods to return to traditional construction methods. But I believe architects can borrow certain concepts from traditional construction, and we can use things like ceiling height, use of appropriate materials, building orientation and vegetation to make houses more comfortable for residents and better for the natural environment.
Tackling erosion: a scourge in my city
My interest in bioclimatic architecture led me to conduct research on landscapes and how they contribute to the development of peri-urban spaces (where town meets country) in my city, Beni.
Beni is a city with less than one million inhabitants. Most people make a living through agriculture and we have an equatorial climate with a long rainy season. Like many Congolese urban agglomerations, the city has expanded over the years but it has done so in an uncontrolled and unplanned way. The drainage networks and basic infrastructure have not kept pace in the new neighborhoods on the edge of the city.
Natural vegetation is removed during the development of these new quarters, making the bare soil more vulnerable to water erosion, which then leads to pollution, soil degradation, habitat loss and human property loss.
My LCI project mobilizes Christians to fight erosion using innovative, green techniques. It involves a demonstration project on my university campus. The goal is to enhance the soil, improve the quality of the space and raise awareness about low-cost, sustainable methods that could be adopted city-wide.
Over the last year, I have selected and trained 20 students from the local IFES national movement and involved them in a team that has been implementing a range of anti-erosion measures on campus including bioclimatic architecture, landscaping and construction, and planting vegetation to stabilize the soil.
Through a series of workshops and innovation sessions, students have discovered and developed ideas, experimented and then used their new knowledge on the demonstration sites on campus. For example, they have built retaining walls and landscaped five gardens: an orchard and also market gardens planted with vanilla, cabbage, sunflowers, soy and passion fruit. Student volunteers in the project will receive part of the proceeds from the sale of these crops and the rest will be re-invested into small processing units for the university, for example to produce juice from the passion fruits and to make sunflower oil and soy flour.
We are landscaping to fight erosion but all of this work is underpinned by the “cultural mandate” given to us in Genesis 2:15 to be wise stewards of creation. Through simple and practical actions, students have discovered that the gospel is not only about humans. It is about the whole of creation.
It’s been a valuable opportunity for the students because before my project began, staff at the national movement told me they were committed to help their students get involved in creation care, but without practical programs in place, students often did not know where to start.
In January, the students have been doing outreach among 30 families in three neighborhoods near the campus to help popularize our approach to erosion. This outreach culminated in a conference on January 28 in which we shared our approach with local residents and political and administrative authorities in the city.
We want to invite others to discover God through creation, nature and architecture.
Although we are only passing through this earth, this should not prevent us from reflecting on our way of life and our relationship with the environment where we live. This is part of our calling as Christians to take care of the earth and through doing this, it will also strengthen our witness to others.
So I ask you to consider: as a Christian, how can you improve the quality of the space in which you live, drawing inspiration from the Bible?
Find out more:
Watch a 3-minute video of Johnny discussing his project (video is in French, but English subtitles and transcript are provided)
Follow Johnny’s progress with his project on his personal blog (in French but use your browser’s auto-translate function)
What theology and the sciences projects have our Catalysts been leading over the last year? Seventeen newly-published videos provide you with the opportunity to explore the full breadth of our Catalysts’ projects, ranging from the arts and gender to poverty and climate change. Spend a few minutes hearing each Catalyst discuss their project. This new series of short videos can be found on our YouTube channel and on our Francophone Africa and Latin America projects webpages.
As you will see from the videos, many Catalysts are collaborating with their IFES national movements to lead projects that address pressing issues in their local contexts. Economist Dr Albertine Kabou, for example, discusses her project on student poverty in Senegal in her 2-minute video.
“The goal of my project is to equip students to understand the factors that prevent them from moving out of poverty, but also to offer them more solutions,” Albertine said.
Albertine (pictured top left) has made great strides with her project since it began in April 2022. In November, almost 60 participants attended a conference that she organized at her university about the environmental, social, economic and religious factors that contribute to poverty among students. Her conference brought together diverse speakers including experts in economic development and entrepreneurship, a university academic, a Christian pastor and an Islamic Imam. Early in 2023, Albertine will be leading two debates at other universities in Senegal, in which students will discuss ideas and strategies for their own fight against poverty.
As Albertine’s project demonstrates, many Catalysts are drawing together scientific and biblical perspectives in order to better understand and tackle specific problems where they live. In other videos, Isaac Daama explains his project about artisanal mining practices in Cameroon, Sandra Márquez talks about her project on peace and justice in Mexico; and Johnny Patal discusses his project on climate change in Guatemala.
Some Catalysts have taken a different approach with their projects: choosing to focus on training and mentoring in order to have a multiplier effect in their national movement. Their goal is to equip Christian students to engage in dialogue about theology and the sciences, and help them understand how they can integrate their Christian faith with their academic studies or research.
In her video, Deborah Vieira (pictured on the 4th image to the left) explains that she responded to a need that she identified after conducting surveys among students in ABUB Brazil, her national movement.
“One of the needs that students raised the most was the feeling of loneliness at the university,” Deborah said.
“This loneliness is both a product of this post-pandemic period and the lack of peers for students to talk to about their research or their faith or both. That’s why I designed a project called The Emmaus Project, which is a mentoring network. The idea is to have mentors who are further ahead in their academic career … who will walk alongside undergraduate students who are engaged in scientific research.”
In other videos, you can hear Marcio Lima talk about his theology and the arts mentoring program in Brazil; listen to Onesphore Hakizimana discussing his project that is equipping Christian students who are studying animal sciences in Rwanda; and learn about Faustin Dokui’s series of trainings for the national movement in Benin.
Visit our Francophone Africa and Latin America projects webpages to browse all videos by country and topic, and see the videos alongside short project summaries.
All videos have English subtitles. If you view the videos on our YouTube playlist, you will find transcripts in French, Spanish and English (as relevant) beneath each video.
The Logos and Cosmos Initiative celebrated another “first” at the beginning of October when Catalysts, mentors and staff gathered in Santiago, Chile, for the first in-person training workshop in Latin America.
Times of reflection, celebration and interacting with inspiring role models were just a few of the many ways that Catalysts deepened their learning and relationships during the three-day event. Many Catalysts reported that the workshop reaffirmed their calling to the academy and several commented on the beautiful sense of community at the LCI.
“The highlights of the workshop were the encounters that deepened relationships among mentors and catalysts, and the opportunity to share stories around the table,” said Alejandra Ortiz, Co-Coordinator for the LCI in Latin America. “We enjoyed conversations about vocation, worldviews, the academic challenges in Latin America, and life in general. We had a good time celebrating what God has done in our lives through the LCI in terms of formation, maturity and projects that are blessing IFES national movements and ultimately helping to bring God’s kingdom in Latin America.”
Three female speakers shared their personal experiences of working at the interface of science and the Christian faith.
Mexican science writer Ana Ávila(right) spoke about writing at the intersection of science and the Christian faith and encouraged Catalysts to be communicators and influencers at this interface. She also led a practical workshop, sharing tips about writing creatively about science and theology. Ana is a clinical biochemist who works for the Coalición por el Evangelio and the Templeton-funded initiative, Blueprint 1543. She is also one of the LCI’s external advisors. Read more about her work in this BioLogos article.
Dr Rocío Parra, a lawyer who advises the Chilean government on environmental law, spoke about her experience as a woman, a Christian, a mother and a scholar, and led a workshop about Christianity, creation care and public policy.
Dr Elaine Storkey, English sociologist, philosopher and theologian, spoke about her decades-long career as a prominent university academic, author and media commentator. Dr Storkey, who joined the event online, also gave a talk about how the Christian faith helps us to understand and work to overcome violence against women.
New projects video gallery
What does Christianity have to do with erosion? What does the Bible have to say about the development of life-saving technologies? How can student mental health be approached from both a biblical and social science perspective? These are just a few of the issues and questions that Logos and Cosmos Initiative Catalysts are tackling in their theology and the sciences projects.
See our video gallery blogpost to watch a selection of short videos of four of Catalysts discussing the projects that they are leading in their universities in partnership with their IFES national movements. You can also click the image to the left to view the video playlist on our YouTube channel.
Diving deeper into theology and the sciences
Alongside delivering exciting theology and the sciences projects with their IFES national movements, our Tier Two Catalysts are continuing their learning by taking part in month-long academic seminars. The seminars, held online, allow Catalysts and their mentors to dive deeper into theology and the sciences topics that are relevant to their context.
For example, in October, Latin American Catalysts took part in a seminar on epistemology and the history of science and religion, led by two Argentinian academics, Dr Ignacio Silva and Dr Claudia Vanney. Both are external advisors to the LCI.
“This seminar helped me to learn about the complex relationships between science and the Christian faith (and other faiths) in my country and in Latin America,” said Lorena Brondani, a Catalyst from Argentina. “In my own academic work, it has invited me to think in an interdisciplinary way. The session on the ‘most important intellectual virtues for the dialogue between science and religion’ allowed me to reflect on my own intellectual strengths and needs.”
In Francophone Africa, Catalysts and mentors recently took part in a seminar series titled The African Christian Intellectual. The five-week module, led by Dr Augustin Ahoga, was designed in response to the shift in Christianity’s centre of gravity from the West to the Global South. In light of this, the seminar aimed to help African Christian academics to discover themselves and the responsibility that God has entrusted to them, and included comparisons of African, biblical, and scientific views of the world.
As Dr Albertine Bayompe Kabou, an economist and Catalyst from Senegal explains, the seminar gave Catalysts a new perspective on both their LCI projects and their everyday lives.
“Thanks to this seminar, I’ve understood that if I want to reach my potential, I need to take into account my ‘hybridity’ – I’m African and I’m Christian,” Albertine said. “Putting Christ in the centre, I need to embrace my hybridity so that I can understand my context and find solutions to its challenges. For my project in particular, the seminar will help me to analyse more deeply what poverty means to an African so that I can ultimately intervene more effectively.”
After the seminar, Catalysts such as Nou Poudiougo from Mali, felt released to engage more constructively with their culture of origin.
“This seminar has allowed me to remove certain barriers that prevented me from appropriating my culture and benefiting from certain advantages of the African culture,” said Nou, who is from an ethnic people group in Mali called the Dogon. “For example, the Dogon have been organizing the annual Ogobagna Dogon Cultural Festival for seven years. I have never been there because I thought that it was not a place for Christians. Thanks to Dr Ahoga’s course, I’ve changed my perspective and I now plan to go there with my whole family to participate in the festival in January.”
What’s happening now and next?
From workshops and courses to research, our Tier Two Catalysts are now deep into the implementation phase of their theology and the sciences projects. Check out the LCI’s project webpages to read about the full range of Catalysts’ projects.
Meanwhile, our current cohort of Tier One Catalysts continue to progress through the LCI’s training and development curriculum and they are also designing projects that they will submit for consideration for funding and implementation next year. After the excitement of our in-person events, Catalysts will continue to meet for workshops and seminars online for the remainder of the LCI’s year, which concludes at the end of March.
Preparing to welcome another cohort
In February, we will begin accepting applications for a new cohort of Catalysts for the next year of the LCI program, which starts in April 2023. The application portal on the LCI website will open Feb. 1 and close on Feb. 28. Please do spread the word among anyone from Latin America and Francophone Africa who you think may be interested. It is strongly recommended that applicants complete IFES’ Engaging the University (ETU) e-learning course before applying to become a Catalyst. Note that Part 1 of this course can be completed online anytime but Parts and 2 and 3 begin on 30 January 2023. See the ETU website for more information.
Save the date for our project showcase events!
In the New Year, we will be inviting you to the Logos and Cosmos Initiative Projects Showcases. These are two online Gala events that will celebrate the impact of our Catalysts’ projects in their universities, as we mark the half-way point in the LCI’s five-year program.
The Latin America Gala will be on Saturday, January 21 at 4pm GMT.
The Francophone Africa Gala will be on Saturday, January 28 at 6pm GMT.
Email us here if you would like to receive details of how to join in with one of these events.
Thank God for the rich time of learning and connection at the Latin American workshop in Chile
Please continue to pray for our Catalysts’ theology and the sciences projects, many of which include large-scale events in the coming months.
Pray for wisdom for the Tier One catalysts as they plan their projects for next year.
Pray that God would draw the right candidates to apply for the next phase of the program.
What does Christianity have to do with erosion? What does the Bible have to say about the development of life-saving technologies? How can student mental health be approached from both a biblical and social science perspective? These are just a few of the issues and questions that Logos and Cosmos Initiative Catalysts are tackling in their theology and the sciences projects.
Watch the 3-minute videos below to hear four of our Catalysts discussing the projects that they are leading in their universities in partnership with their IFES national movements.
Click the images below to watch each video. English subtitles are provided. If you click on the YouTube logo at the bottom of each video you can watch the video in full screen on our YouTube channel where you will find an English transcript beneath the video.
Erosion in DRC:
Johnny Ngunza’s project
Climate change in Guatemala:
Johnny Patal’s project
Mental health in Côte d’Ivoire:
Nina Ble Toualy’s project
Vaccines, values and truths in Brazil:
Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira’s project
We currently have 18 Catalysts who are leading theology and the sciences projects. Read about all of them on our projects webpages.
It was a rich time of learning and fellowship at the Logos and Cosmos Initiative’s first in-person training workshop in Francophone Africa, which took place in August. More than 30 participants met together in Bujumbura, on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Burundi.
After such a long season of online meetings, our Catalysts (participants) found it valuable to be together in person: connecting with others over a meal, for example, or having conversations that renewed their vision as Christian academics or helped them refine their theology and the sciences projects. They also had the opportunity to learn from – and engage with – eminent scholars from the region, who spoke on such topics as: the ecological dimensions of the Christian faith; how to develop research projects; and project management.
“It was wonderful to see the sense of family that has developed among the Catalysts in the Logos and Cosmos community,” said Dr Albert Chabi Eteka, Executive Director for the LCI in Francophone Africa. “Catalysts have told us that they came away from the workshop feeling equipped, galvanized and spiritually empowered.”
Catalysts were joined at the event by seven LCI staff, several mentors and a number of GBUAF regional staff members, including Regional Secretary Dr Klaingar Ngarial. Many participants stayed on for the regional PANAF’22 conference, which took place in the same location immediately after the LCI workshop.
Looking ahead, our Latin American Catalysts, mentors and staff will come together for an in-person workshop from 29 September – 2 October in Santiago, Chile. Dr Elaine Storkey, the English sociologist, philosopher and theologian, will give the two main talks. The workshop will also feature plenaries by Dr Rocío Parra, a lawyer who advises the Chilean government on environmental law, and Ana Ávila, a Mexican science writer who works for the Coalición por el Evangelio and the Templeton-funded initiative, Blueprint 1543.
In the meantime, our Tier One Catalysts in both regions are currently taking the LCI’s 6-week long e-course, An Introduction to Science and Theology, which has been updated with new content on the importance of the humanities and has been contextualized for our Latin America region. To help them develop their own project ideas, these Catalysts are also starting to conduct analysis and reflection on their national movements, campuses, academic disciplines and the work of God in their own hearts.
Sandra’s project in Mexico: Jesus is our peace and justice
Our Tier Two Catalysts have been busy leading workshops, planning conferences, conducting research and developing new resources as part of their exciting theology and the sciences projects.
In Mexico, graduate student Sandra Márquez Olvera organized her first workshop in July as part of her Opening paths to justice and peace project. Like many Catalysts’ projects, her project aims to tackle a very real problem in her nation: the violence and forced disappearances associated with Mexico’s so-called “war on drugs.” Through workshops, an academic forum and a research paper, Sandra’s project will open up a dialogue among university students about faith, justice and peace in Mexico and will equip them to take active steps as peace-builders.
Sandra’s project blog shares some of these testimonies from the 28 student leaders and workers from Compa Mexico, the IFES national movement, who took part in the three-day workshop in Mexico City:
“I believe that we can do something to change the situation of injustice in the country, and it can be started from small actions,” said one cell group leader who attended.
At the end of the event, participants developed ideas and initiatives to respond to social violence even at the very local level of their university campuses.
“In a gray moment of global violence, Jesus is our peace and justice,” said Compa Mexico staff worker Maritza López. She co-led the workshop with Sandra and has personal experience of losing a university friend who disappeared four years ago. “I take many challenges away from this workshop to share with my students, professional friends, church and family. It has made me ask myself how we could replicate actions to build justice and peace in my state – Tabasco, Mexico. Thank God for the Logos and Cosmos Initiative and for the researchers who make the space in their life agendas to add to the lives of the students of our national movement.”
Meet our Catalysts and explore their projects
LCI Catalysts are currently leading 18 projects in 15 countries across our two regions. You can now read summaries of all of their projects on our new project webpages. There are also plenty of opportunities to hear from Catalysts themselves.
Also in Latin America, Lorena Brondani from Argentina is interviewing remarkable Christian women academics and will tell their stories through videos and printed materials. Read her Catalyst Perspectives blogpost to learn more.
In our Francophone Africa region, watch this short video from geologist Isaac Daama to learn more about how his project is drawing together scientific and Christian perspectives on occult mining practices in Cameroon.
Please pray with us:
Thank God for the connections and learning that took place at the workshop in Burundi and pray for the upcoming workshop in Chile.
Praise the Lord for the positive reception that Tier Two Catalysts’ projects have had so far from students and leaders in their IFES national movements and from others in their local contexts.
Pray for sustenance and energy for Catalysts as they continue to implement their projects. Many of them are juggling their role as a Catalyst with many other responsibilities.
Pray for good partnerships and favor from authorities and collaborators as Catalysts continue with their projects.
Pray for the mentoring relationships that Catalysts have with their LCI “advocates,” that trust will be developed, insights shared and friendships built.
Projects are at the heart of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI). We equip young Christian academics to lead projects in their universities that spark curiosity and wonder about theology and the sciences. Many of our Catalysts’ projects tackle pressing issues and challenges in their local and national contexts, such as environmental sustainability, poverty and violence. In Cameroon, geologist and LCI Catalyst Isaac Daama is leading a project about animist mining techniques.
Science tells us that the distribution and location of mineral deposits is a function of geological processes that took place over millions of years ago. But in mineral-rich Cameroon, occult practices are often part of the artisanal mining process. Artisanal miners, who are usually poor, disadvantaged individuals, use hand-tools to dig for gold, diamond and other precious stones. Many of them believe that daily piety and sacrificing animals to the gods will lead them to success in their mining.
Isaac is collaborating with GBEEC Cameroon, the IFES national movement, to lead a project that will draw together scientific and Christian perspectives on these controversial beliefs and practices.
Watch the 4-minute video below to hear Isaac explain more about his project. The video is in French but English subtitles are available. An English transcript can also be found below.
English-language transcript of Isaac’s video
Welcome to this video! I’m Isaac Daama, Tier 2 Catalyst for the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in Francophone Africa.
My topic is about beliefs and practices among artisanal miners in northern Cameroon. This topic started from a simple observation during multiple opportunities to go on field trips with mining companies that were looking for gold. I realized that there was a group of artisan miners who base their prospecting on a firm belief in deities, who they believe are the gods of these metals and that sacrifices always have to be made in order to access these metals. Many questions have been raised about their practices because even if these rituals that they do are controversial according to scientists – or even according to the local Christian population – one cannot deny that sometimes their methods are still profitable. Miners who employ this technique find a lot of minerals, on the scale of the gold content in the province, in general.
And at the university, we have a lot of debates about their methods because we know that today, with the methods of mining geology, we can’t necessarily achieve the results that these miners have. But shouldn’t we question their methods to know whether, perhaps, their method can be a scientific method? But perhaps, let’s say, it is not like modern science, in the sense that it is not formal science, it is not theorized knowledge. And so, we decided to focus on this question. But then it was a matter of collecting data in the field.
The data consisted of doing interviews with the miners, even when we were not able to do video interviews with them because the miners think that filming would discredit their methods. In addition, they work in an illegal context. Despite these obstacles, we were able to collect a set of data that will now help us to analyse these practices through workshops and public conferences, where many experts will also contribute their views on this.
But our ultimate goal is to give a Christian perspective on this activity because it is becoming the most popular activity because of the fact that on the agricultural level and everything, these are areas that are very disadvantaged, so today it is this mining activity that is much more popular.
The miners I have interviewed worship these gods instead of the God who created everything. It’s a bit like the experience of the apostle Paul in Greece. In their idolatry, Paul was able to find the “unknown god”. Maybe we should ask ourselves today: what are these metal gods the miners are talking about?
So here are so many questions, reflections that we want to carry out within the framework of this project. In the long run, if my project is accepted onto Tier Three of the LCI (next year), I plan to develop my findings into a scientific publication in which experts – theological, anthropological, sociological, and geological, contribute their expertise and help us to better define this practice. Thank you for watching.
Equipping young Christian academics to lead theology and the sciences projects is at the heart of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative.
We currently have 18 “Tier Two” Catalysts who are collaborating with their IFES national movement to lead projects in 15 countries across two regions: Latin America and Francophone Africa.
Each project is designed to spark curiosity and wonder about theology and the sciences and how they complement one another. Many of the projects tackle immediate challenges in Catalysts’ local and national contexts, such as student mental health, poverty, climate change, food security, and gender-based violence.
Current projects are taking place from April 2022 to April 2023. At the end of this period, Tier Two Catalysts may apply to advance to Tier Three, in which they will have the opportunity to scale up their projects for an even greater impact at the regional/national level.
Click below to see short summaries and videos of all our Tier Two Catalysts’ projects:
Equipping animal scientists to be agents of change in Rwanda
Feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population is one of the global challenges of the 21st century. Global food insecurity currently affects more than a billion people. Animal science—the study of domestic livestock care and breeding—plays an important role in meeting this challenge. It can help find innovative and efficient farming methods which are much needed in the face of land, water and energy scarcity, especially in developing countries.
Graduate student Onesphore Hakizimana’s project aims to create awareness among students, academics and professionals in the animal science field about the mutually enriching relationship between their discipline and Christianity. He will work with GBUR Rwanda, the IFES national movement, to lead a series of discussion groups, debates, and workshops on his university campus and will also develop a toolkit containing written materials and videos. All the project activities will combine scientific, theological and development perspectives with an African perspective on animals so that students and researchers are equipped to promote food security and fight poverty in Rwanda.
— Onesphore Hakizimana is a graduate student in animal sciences at the University of Rwanda.
Watch a 3-minute video about Onesphore’s project:
Scientific and Christian perspectives on animist mining techniques in Cameroon
Science tells us that the distribution and location of mineral deposits is a function of geological processes that took place over millions of years ago. In contrast, in mineral-rich Cameroon, many artisanal miners hold occult beliefs about where minerals can be found. Artisanal miners are usually poor, disadvantaged individuals who use hand-tools to dig for gold, diamonds and other precious stones. It is risky, dangerous work and they sell their finds on the black market.
Animist beliefs are common among the miners, for example, the belief that there are ancestors who plead with the gods to open the earth for you so that you can find precious stones. Daily prayers and animal sacrifices are part of these practices.
These practices are a matter of debate among university researchers: some believe it is a cheap technique and that it is an “African science.” But the animist approach to mining has an environmental cost. Ecosystems are destroyed as miners move from site to site, following the will of the gods.
Geologist Isaac Daama will work with GBEEC Cameroon, the IFES national movement, to lead a science, culture, and theology group for students and researchers. Through lectures, workshops and discussions, the group will promote dialogue among Christians and those who hold other beliefs about scientific and biblical perspectives on these controversial mining techniques.
— Isaac Daama recently completed a PhD in petrology and metallogeny at the University of Ngaoundere in Cameroon.
Watch a 3-minute video about Isaac’s project:
Public engagement with a Christian approach to erosion control in the DRC
Soil erosion is one of the problems that accompanies Africa’s urban transition—the development of peri-urban areas where the city meets the countryside. Erosion leads to pollution, soil degradation, habitat loss and human property loss.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Johnny Ngunza will use his expertise as an architect, academic and founder of a local university to lead a project about the prevention and control of erosion in the city of Beni. During his pilot project research, Johnny found that GBU DRC, the IFES national movement, wants to help its students follow the biblical mandate to care for creation. But without practical programs in place, Christian students often don’t know where to start.
Johnny’s project will involve a demonstration project on his university campus, involving bioclimatic architecture (buildings designed for the local climate), anti-erosion construction techniques and fast-growing vegetation with strong roots.
The goal is to enhance the soil, improve the quality of the space and raise awareness about innovative, low-cost, sustainable methods that could be adopted city-wide. Workshops, field trips and a conference will train students and local residents in these techniques. The trainings will also promote the Christian perspective on creation-care and foster engagement with theology and big environmental questions.
— Johnny Ngunza is an architect, working as a lecturer and researcher at a university he founded in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Watch a 3-minute video about Johnny’s project:
Empowering Senegalese students to be actors in their escape from poverty
Senegal is poor partly because of its reliance on agriculture, vulnerability to climate variations and failed development policies, but religious attitudes also play a role. Research conducted by economist Albertine Bayompe Kabou suggests that religious beliefs (Islamic, animist and Christian) have a significant influence on poverty in her nation, and can be an important lever in supporting people to be agents of change in their own exit from poverty.
University campuses are a microcosm of Senegal’s economic challenges. Albertine conducted a survey to determine the root causes of poverty among students. In terms of theological beliefs, 25 percent of students believed in the animist belief that one can’t escape poverty unless a curse is undone, 60 percent of students believed in the “theology of begging” (some traditional Islamic schools in Senegal encourage students to beg) and more than 50 percent of students believed in prosperity theology (faith will increase your wealth).
In collaboration with GBU Senegal, the IFES national movement, Albertine will organize a conference that will bring together biblical and social science perspectives on poverty. The goal is to help students understand the factors that perpetuate poverty, and equip students with ideas and strategies that will help them exercise their human agency in their own fight against poverty.
— Albertine Bayompe Kabou recently completed a PhD in economics at Cheikh Anta Diop University, the leading university in Francophone Africa.
Watch a 2-minute video about Albertine’s project:
Promoting dialogue on theology and the sciences among students and researchers in Benin
Graduate student Faustin Dokui conducted a survey of graduate students, teachers, and staff – from various faith backgrounds – at his university and found that all respondents believed that science and religion are important topics that the academic life of the university must address.
Faustin will work with GBEEB Benin, the IFES national movement, to promote dialogue on theology and the sciences on his university campus. His project aims to encourage academics from all faith backgrounds to understand how theology and the sciences work together, and to equip Christian students and researchers to connect their Christian faith with their academic discipline.
The project includes five training sessions for students in the national movement, with material drawn from the Logos and Cosmos Initiative training curriculum. Alongside this, each small group bible study group on Faustin’s campus will be equipped to run regular multi-faith, science and theology dialogue events.
— Faustin Dokui is completing a doctorate in animal resource management at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin.
Watch a 3-minute video about Faustin’s project:
Harnessing science and theology to tackle student mental health in Côte D’Ivoire
In Côte D’Ivoire, there are many pressures that contribute to mental health problems among university students: poverty, unemployment, and the experience of having grown up with the violence and human rights violations that came after that nation’s 2011 political crisis. In addition, the diversity among the student population (socio-economic, ethnic and religious) has led to divisions between students that accentuate mental health challenges.
Mental health has taken its toll on students yet there is little awareness about it, according to the results of a pilot survey of students conducted by graduate student Nina Ble Toualy. She found that 80 percent of respondents had at least one symptom of a mental health disorder without realizing it. Many students admitted that they thought mental health disorders were about madness. Eighty percent of those surveyed could not afford to seek counselling and many had never considered it as an option.
Nina will collaborate with GBUCI Côte D’Ivoire, the IFES national movement, on a project with a three-fold purpose: to take stock of the mental health situation among students in her country; to raise awareness about mental health issues; and to highlight the complementarity between science and theology in addressing mental health challenges.
Nina will conduct a more in-depth survey of students and a study of the existing mental health care available, and document her findings in a scholarly article.
For students in her university department, she will organize an awareness-raising conference about mental health as well as mental health screenings, counselling sessions and Bible studies. In the longer term, she may organize mental health awareness-raising workshops for leaders of local churches and Christian organizations.
— Nina Ble Toualy is a doctoral student in criminology at The University of Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte D’Ivoire.
Watch a 3-minute video about Nina’s project:
The origin of humankind: interactions among scientific, biblical and African cultural perspectives
Understanding the origins of humankind and our place in the cosmos has been one of society’s big questions since ancient times. The debate about whether Christianity and biological evolution are compatible is well known but in Africa, there are also cultural perspectives on these big questions.
In Mali, the Dogon are an ethnic people group with their own languages, religious beliefs and knowledge about the cosmos. According to Dogon creation mythology, the god Ama created all matter in the universe. Today, some Dogon have become Christians or Muslims.
Working with GBEEM Mali, the IFES national movement, biologist Nou Poudiougo will conduct a research project that will improve our understanding of the origin of humankind from a biblical, scientific and cultural (Dogon) perspective. Nou’s study will explore the similarities, differences and interactions between these three areas of knowledge. The project includes a literature review and surveys of cosmologists, anthropologists, pastors and other professionals. A seminar with GBEEM students will gather Christian students’ perspectives on the origin of humankind and also equip them to engage in constructive dialogue on this topic. Nou will present his findings in a scholarly article.
— Nou Poudiougo is an assistant professor of ecology at Bamako University in Mali.
Year Two of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative began in April and we are excited to now be working with even more young change-makers from across Francophone Africa and Latin America.
We have welcomed a new cohort of 23 Catalysts into Tier One (our training and development year). Meanwhile, 18 of last year’s Catalysts have had their theology and the sciences projects selected for implementation and are now in Tier Two.
Catalysts’ projects have begun
Catalysts’ projects are now well underway. Many of their projects tackle pressing issues and challenges in Catalysts’ local and national contexts, such as environmental sustainability, poverty and violence.
Geologist Isaac Daama is leading a project about animist mining techniques in Cameroon. Occult practices are often part of the artisanal mining process, in which individuals use hand-tools to dig for gold, diamond and other precious stones.
“I have been conducting field work at mining sites in northern Cameroon, interviewing miners about their beliefs,” Isaac said. “This mining is risky, dangerous work and they sell their finds on the black market.”
“What is interesting is that some of these miners believe that there are ancestors who plead with the gods to open the earth for you so that you can find precious stones. Daily piety and animal sacrifices are part of these practices. This approach is very controversial for modern science (mining geology), and requires a structured discussion and analysis in order to bring a Christian perspective to the understanding of this phenomenon and its issues.”
Isaac’s findings will inform the next stage of his project. He will collaborate with GBEEC Cameroon, the IFES national movement, to lead a science-culture-faith group for students and researchers on his university campus. Through lectures, workshops and discussions, the group will promote constructive dialogue among Christians and non-Christians about scientific and biblical perspectives on these controversial mining techniques. The aim is to explore how both approaches can lead to an integrated management of mining resources and the environment.
In Brazil, Deborah Vieira is planning to launch a science and theology mentoring network in which students from ABUB Brazil, the IFES national movement, will be connected with a mentor who is further along in their academic journey, for example Christian graduate students, professors and researchers. Deborah is selecting a series of readings, gathered mostly from her experience at the LCI, which will then be shared among the mentors and students in a series of six training sessions.
Workshops, in-person gatherings and staff news
We began the year with online workshops in April in both regions. In Latin America, Dr Jorge Sobarzo, a Christian psychiatrist from Chile, spoke about mental health and faith (watch his talk – in Spanish – here). In Francophone Africa, Dr Augustin Ahoga, former regional secretary, spoke about African religions (which includes approaches to culture, history and science) as the foundation for science and theology dialogue.
We are honoured that Dr Ahoga, who has degrees in economics, theology, anthropology and pedagogy, has joined our Francophone Africa team to lead our mentoring program for Catalysts.
Looking ahead, we are thankful to be planning some in-person meetings this year. In April, our Latin American staff team (see left) met together in person for the first time in Tijuana, Mexico. Both regions are planning in-person workshops for Catalysts in August and September/October this year.
Pray with us
Thank God for the new Catalysts who have joined us and for the Tier Two Catalysts who are starting their projects
Pray for Catalysts’ projects to have a transformative impact on students, universities, national movements and wider societies – all for God’s glory
Pray for the Francophone Africa staff team and Catalysts as they gather for their first in-person training workshop in August. They will meet for the three days prior to the regional (GBUAF) Pan-African conference, PANAF’22, taking place in Burundi.