Projects in Latin America

Working towards human flourishing amid the climate crisis in Guatemala

Guatemala is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change1. A nation in environmental crisis cannot flourish. Graduate student Johnny Patal believes that solutions will arise by approaching the issue from multiple different knowledge perspectives.  

Photo of Johnny Patal

His 2021 pilot project explored Christian university students’ perspectives on climate change. He found that they acquire their information on this topic from academic sources and through their Christian communities, but their understanding is incomplete and largely relates to their personal experience. 

Johnny’s project will equip Christian students to bring together perspectives from the academy and their Christian worldview to discover ways to positively tackle climate change. 

Working with GEU Guatemala, the IFES national movement, the project will convene a multidisciplinary group of students who will participate in discussion groups, reading circles and practical projects in the university and wider communities. The project will develop resources such as: video interviews with Christians who have implemented climate change adaptation and mitigation projects, interviews with Christian academics sharing their position on climate change; and a written training guide for students in GEU Guatemala. 

— Johnny Patal is from Guatemala and is studying for a master’s in economics, development and climate change. 

Vaccines, truths and values: promoting dialogue between science, biotech and theology

The growing rejection of scientific facts among evangelical Christians in Brazil and Latin America has been a significant factor in vaccination rates in the region, especially for the Covid-19 vaccine. At the same time, there is very little academic literature in Portuguese on the dialogue between the biomedical sciences, biotechnology and theology.  

Photo of Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira

Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira’s project will provide an innovative and relevant response to this issue. Students and professionals in ABUB Brazil, the IFES national movement, will be provided with tools to help foster reflection and dialogue between technology, health and theology. The project will help students explore big questions about ethical principles and profound social issues, and help them recognize how vaccines and other life-saving technologies can be tools in God’s restorative work in the world.  

Regional workshops aimed at students and researchers will include lectures on such topics as “Science and Denialism” and “Technologies and Theology”. A series of electronic fliers on “Vaccines, Truths and Values” will be disseminated through the social networks of ABUB Brazil and its students and staff. The project will also develop an eBook for students, containing a series of bible studies on the subject.  

— Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira is a biologist, teacher, and PhD student in tropical medicine at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation. She lives in Brazil. 

Exploring how spirituality and virtues impact the scientific profession in Chile

The perceived conflict between science and spirituality is still prevalent in academia and the wider society in Chile. Physicist Pablo Gutiérrez conducted field research in 2021 and observed two specific observations: Christian students and academics in Chile need role models and “companions along the way”; and the academy could benefit from a more integrated perspective on the sciences.  

Photo of Pablo Gutierrez

Pablo’s project will tackle these needs by exploring how spirituality (the root of our virtues) impacts academic life. This area will be explored both in personal stories and from theoretical perspectives. 

Working with GBUCH Chile, the IFES national movement, Pablo will develop a supportive network of Christian students and professionals working in academia. Through this network, he will capture and share audiovisual interviews with Christian academics discussing the points of connection between their Christian faith and academic careers. Finally, he will organize a scholarly seminar about the relevance of faith perspectives and spirituality on academic work – an aspect which is frequently excluded from academic conversations in Chile. 

— Pablo Gutiérrez is a physicist who teaches and conducts research at the University of O’Higgins, Chile.  

Equipping students to be agents of peace and justice in Mexico

Mexico is the 3rd most violent country in Latin America2, largely due to the “war on drugs3” between the government and drug cartels. Yet among Mexican evangelical Christians, there is little talk about justice and peace. In her pilot project, Sandra Márquez Olveradiscovered that many at her university believe that justice is purely about laws, and that peace is only about the absence of wars. 

Photo of Sandra Marquez

Sandra’s project aims to forge a dialogue among university students about faith, justice and peace in the Mexican context. As “dual citizens” of both the Kingdom of God and their academic communities, students in COMPA Mexico, the IFES national movement, have the potential to bring to bear creative actions of hope, peace-building and transformation in their nation.  

This project will have an impact through three elements: a workshop will equip Christian students to take an active position on peace-building, and an academic forum will bring together experts from theology and the social sciences to discuss teachings of the bible, justice and peace in Mexico. Lastly, Sandra will expand her preliminary study of students’ religious beliefs and attitudes about war, peace and justice into a research paper that will be submitted to a scholarly journal for publication   

 – Sandra Márquez Olvera is a graduate student pursuing a PhD in community psychology at the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos, Mexico. 

Science and theology mentoring network in Brazil

A pilot project conducted in Brazil by Deborah, in 2021, found that 60 percent of evangelical students surveyed believed that Brazilians are ill-equipped at understanding how science and theology overlap; 25 percent believed that people do not understand the compatibility of science and theology at all. Many students also reported feelings of isolation and loneliness as Christians in the university, and a lack of Christian peers in their academic environment.  

Photo of Deborah Vieira

Deborah Vieira’s project will establish a 7-month science and theology mentoring network to help foster dialogue about science and theology. Eight students from ABUB Brazil, the IFES national movement, will be connected with a mentor who is further along in their academic journey. Together, they will exchange experiences in the face of similar challenges and think through possibilities of how to better connect their faith with their academic discipline.  

Mentors will be Christian researchers or teachers from the same or similar discipline as the mentee. The mentors will receive training, and will meet monthly with their mentee to discuss a series of assigned readings, many of which will be drawn from the Logos and Cosmos Initiative’s training curriculum.  

— Deborah Vieira recently completed a master’s in literature and is a volunteer with several arts and culture initiatives in ABUB Brazil. 

Combining theology, history and philosophy to tackle Mexico’s challenges

In the northeast region of Mexico, problems such as migration, gender violence, and young people being victimized by drug traffickers converge to affect university students and the general population. In order to know how to respond to these challenges, Christian students need to understand their place in history and how the Bible speaks about the difficulties of their context. 

Photo of Areli Cortez

Areli Cortez’s project will create a learning space for students in COMPA Mexico, the IFES national movement. She will develop a course in which the biblical framework of creation, fall, redemption and restoration will help students understand their personal and social history. The course will bring together perspectives from  theology, history and philosophy to equip and encourage students to respond to the challenges around them from a science and theology perspective.  

The project includes curriculum development and training for COMPA staff and volunteers who will deliver the course. In parallel, Areli will explore the same themes in an academic article that will be presented at a colloquium at her university.  

— Areli Cortez is a history and anthropology of religion student at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)., and a staff worker with COMPA Mexico. 

Fostering a Christian response to gender-based violence in El Salvador

Tackling gender-based violence (including physical, sexual, psychological and economic) in El Salvador needs to involve all of society, including the Christian community. But the evangelical church in El Salvador has often been silent on such issues and in some cases, complicit. 

Photo of Remy Ocon

Initial research through Remy Ocón’s pilot study on women’s experiences in evangelical churches in El Salvador found that many of the women said they had experienced inequality, lack of access to leadership roles, conflict in male/female relationships and the use of biblical interpretations to support violence towards women.  

The interdenominational nature of MUC El Salvador, the IFES national movement, provides an opportunity to promote frank dialogue between the Bible and gender studies. Remy’s project will provide a formative process and practical tools to train students, professionals and church members to be able to understand and respond to the challanges of gender-based violence in El Salvador from a Christian perspective.  

She will extend her 2021 pilot project research into a full study. This will inform the development of a manual that will bring together perspectives from social sciences and the bible. It will be disseminated through workshops for students, a podcast and printed materials.  

 – Remy Ocón is a sociology student at the University of El Salvador (UES), the only public university in the country. 

Theology and the arts research program in Brazil

Our perception of God and reality impacts how we relate to the world and how we represent it through artistic expression. The biblical narrative arc of creation, fall and redemption is the lens through which Christians see the world. 

Photo of Marcio Lima

Looking at this biblical narrative through the arts, and vice versa, is a way in which we can understand more about God, the world and what it means to be human. For theologian David Taylor, “the arts lead us to an intentional and intense participation in the physical, emotional, and imaginative aspect of our humanity.”  

Marcio Lima’s project is a theology and the arts research program for Christian students who are involved with ABUB Brazil, the IFES national movement. It will promote the production of new research and meaningful artistic productions that are related to the biblical narrative arc. The program consists of a Fundamentals Course, followed by a public call for research/artistic production proposals, of which three will receive funding, mentoring and academic support. 

– Marcio Lima is a Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. 

Sharing inspiring stories of Christian women academics in Argentina

Many women are successful in academic careers but little research has been published specifically on the experiences of Christian women in academia. A pilot study conducted by Lorena Brondani in 2021 in Argentina raised many questions on the intersections among women’s spirituality, their academic work and their gender and family roles (marriage, motherhood, singleness). 

Photo of Lorena Brondani

Lorena Brondani’s project will be an exploratory study which captures and shares the life stories of 13 Argentinian women academics who have built bridges between their Christian faith, their academic discipline and their family life (marriage, motherhood, singleness and divorce). The goal is to create a selection of narrative stories and develop inspiring resources that will demonstrate how these three areas can complement and enrich each other, and to encourage young Christian, female students who hope to pursue academic careers.

In-depth interviews will be developed into a printed book, an eBook, a short film and a series of short audiovisual clips.

All of the women who will be profiled have been involved with ABUA Argentina, the IFES national movement, and the resources produced will be disseminated through the movement’s leaders and students. They will also be shared with a wider audience across Latin America via social media.  

– Lorena Brondani is a PhD student in social communication at the Graduate School of Communication at University Austral and lives in Argentina. 

Art and Word in Ecuador

Most of the students in CECE Ecuador, the IFES national movement, understand that there is a symbiotic relationship between art and the Christian faith. The movement has held events on this topic for the last five years. However, many students lack the theological and theoretical elements to represent this relationship in a rich and concrete way. In the aftermath of the global pandemic, there is also a need to help students connect with each other in new ways. 

Photo of Isabela Pineda

Isabela Pineda’s project has three axes: theology, aesthetics and artistic production in community. She will develop and deliver a free, digital learning module on the dialogue between art and theology in the Latin American context, and students will contribute to its production.  

The module will be launched with two special events on a local university campus: an academic conversation in which panelists will discuss themes from the module, such as art, imagination and decolonization; and an exhibition of eight works of art, each produced by a student under the mentorship of a volunteer artist from CECE. 

— Isabela Pineda is an architecture student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. 

Footnotes:

2 Global Peace Index Report (2021), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace: https://www.economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/GPI-2021-web.pdf