VIDEO: Moving students to act and reflect on the environmental crisis 

The global environmental crisis can seem unsurmountable. It’s a worldwide issue, yet it is developing countries such as Guatemala that are already suffering the worst impact. Guatemala is among the top 10 countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In the last few years, climate chaos has caused droughts, floods, and landslides, increasing food and water insecurity in this nation where 59 percent of people already live in poverty.   

How can Christians respond?  

Husband and wife team Venuz and Johnny are both Catalysts with the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. Together they are leading a project titled “Moving students to act and reflect on the environmental crisis.” Learn more in the 5-minute video below. 

Venuz and Johnny are among 19 Catalysts who are receiving funding, mentoring and training in 2023-2024 to lead theology and the sciences projects in collaboration with their IFES national movements. Many of these projects are tackling pressing challenges in the Catalysts’ nations such as food security, student mental health and poverty. Explore our full range of projects on the LCI projects webpages.

This video is in Spanish, but English subtitles are provided. An English transcript can be found below the video.  

English transcript: 

[Text on screen] The global environmental crisis can seem unsurmountable. How can Christians respond?  

Johnny: Globally, climate change is causing changes in climate conditions, mainly in temperature increases and changes in precipitation patterns. Guatemala, because of its geographical location and the lack of social conditions adequate for human development, is considered one of the countries with the greatest vulnerability to climate change. 

[Text on screen] Catalysts in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative are leading projects that are tackling pressing challenges.  

[Text on screen]  Married couple Venuz and Johnny’s project: “Moving students to act and reflect on the environmental crisis.” 

[Text on screen] Guatemala 

Johnny:  My name is Johnny Patel Gomez, I live in Guatemala, and I have participated in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative for two years and I studied agronomy and recently completed a master’s degree in economics. development and climate change.  

I believe that all of us in society have a responsibility for our relationship with nature, especially Christians. If we believe that God is the creator of everything, we must reflect Him and be consistent in the way we live.  

Venuz: “To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it.” Deuteronomy 10:4 

My name is Venuz Pérez López, I am from Guatemala, I am a Catalyst of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in Latin America. I am an agronomist and I recently finished a master’s degree in integrated water management in hydrographic basins. 

My project brings theology closer to the social sciences in understanding the environmental crisis, but also the disconnection of humans from nature or creation. 

What we intend in this project is to understand this issue from different perspectives: from science, from theology, and ecotheology and also from the perspective of the indigenous peoples and how they have responsibly managed creation, and what we can learn from them as well. 

My project has two main activities. The first one is hosting a forum where we can reflect on the environmental crisis from the scientific perspective, from ecotheology and from indigenous peoples, in order to reconnect our faith and learn to listen. 

The second activity is a course I will develop with students who are particularly within the national movement, and also non-Christians. We will be using a guide from Biologos on how to see God within creation. This reflection will allow us to stimulate students to generate ideas from their disciplines that they can implement in their university fields, in the short medium term. 

Johnny: In 2022, I started implementing a project called “Understanding mission in the face of climate change: perspectives of Christian students in Guatemala.” 

The aim of this project was to reflect from our local group about the responsibility of society but mainly of Christians in their relationship with the environment in a context of climate change. 

I think it’s difficult to generalise about the opinion of our youth in Guatemala but I think the tendency is that, despite the fact that there is greater access to information and greater awareness, the problem is still not being tackled at its deepest roots. 

This, I think, has an impact on the lack of energy for generating a counterculture in the way we use the resources of our environment.  

Venuz: I’m very motivated to see a new generation of students see God in creation, but also connect their academic discipline with the care of creation. I hope that this project will motivate them, encourage them to reflect and to take action. 

Johnny: I believe that the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, from the start of the training on how to relate science and theology, helped me develop a perspective on this but also motivated me to think about how this applies to my discipline. 

Also, the mentoring received and the conversations with other people, I think it has motivated me a lot to strengthen my commitment to this topic and it has motivated me to have a more active attitude towards this issue. 

And also, the economic support I received provided me with the necessary inputs to implement my project. 

Latest news: Year 3 projects launched, new cohort welcomed 

Year Three is now well underway. After a rigorous selection process – involving internal and external reviewers – 23 of last year’s Catalysts have been chosen to advance to the next tier of our program which means they will receive funding and support to implement their theology and the sciences projects. In April and May, they spent time carefully refining their projects based on feedback received as part of the selection process.   

Screengrab from an online workshop showing participants'' faces

Catalysts in Tier Two are now launching their very first projects. Meanwhile, those in Tier Three are scaling up their projects from last year, aiming to have an even greater impact at the regional and national level. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, Johnny Ngunza, whose anti-erosion project was covered in our last newsletter, has widened the scope of his project to include food security (see photo of one of Johnny’s volunteers above). In an effort to take the university out into rural communities, the project will mobilize students from the IFES national movement there to provide agronomy trainings to help residents develop small gardens that will increase the quality and quantity of their food supply.   

In April, we were excited to welcome a new cohort of 20 Catalysts: 10 from Latin America and 10 from Francophone Africa. They began their theology and the sciences training with online workshops (see photo above) in April and are now progressing through their personal development plans. This foundational year is designed to develop the potential of these young academics, continuing to build their skills, character and knowledge, preparing them to lead future projects in their universities.  

Our Catalysts range from graduate students and university researchers or teachers to national movement staff and professionals. You can meet a few of them by reading this short interview with new Catalyst Mónica, a forestry engineering and agriculture student from Costa Rica, and by reading this glimpse of two new projects: human genome editing in Ecuador and researching the role of oral tradition in Burundi. Also, see the end of this blogpost to see the titles of all of our Catalysts’ current projects.    

Graphic with numbers about the LCI

Sharing learning worldwide   

Our program may only be active in two regions but one of our goals has always been to raise up a new generation of  thought leaders who will have a catalytic effect, stimulating new discussions about the relationship between theology and the sciences, particularly in the Majority World. This August, some of our Catalysts will have a unique opportunity to live out this call when they attend World Assembly, the IFES quadrennial conference.   

Photo of LCI staff member Alejandra Ortiz speaking at World Assembly 2019
LCI staff member Alejandra Ortiz speaking at a past World Assembly

More than 25 Catalysts and LCI staff will join approximately 1,000 participants at this global gathering in Indonesia. Delegates will include students, staff, graduates, board members and supporters from more than 150 countries and territories.  

Several Catalysts have been invited to lead seminars or appear in videos during the conference, sharing practical examples and ideas of how they are engaging with their discipline to address pressing needs in their contexts. Catalysts will also be on hand at the Engaging the University booth in the exhibition space to share what they are learning at the LCI with interested delegates.    

All current projects at a glance 

Francophone Africa 

New projects 

  • Climate change and biodiversity: understanding perceptions, promoting creation care (Burkina Faso) 
  • Psychosocial and theological approaches to the mental health of students traumatized by war (Democratic Republic of the Congo) 
  • Biblical perspectives on the Mousgoum people’s approach to ecology and construction (Cameroon) 
  • Investigating the role of religion in the geography and development of central Benin 
Photo of a student volunteer inspecting sunflowers growing as part of Johny Ngunza's project
Sunflower harvest in DRC
  • Making E-learning work for Francophone Africa: anthropological and theological reflections (Cameroon) 
  • Researching the role of oral communication in the transmission of science, faith and culture (Burundi) 

Expanded projects continuing from last year

  • Architecture, culture and creation: landscape recomposition strategies for habitat improvement (Democratic Republic of the Congo) 
  • Empowering students to escape from poverty through entrepreneurship (Senegal) 
  • Harnessing science and theology to tackle student mental health (Côte d’Ivoire) 
  • Christian and scientific perspectives on controversial mining techniques (Cameroon) 

Latin America 

New projects 

  • Breaking bread: exploring the relationship between theology, food and nutrition security (Brazil) 
  • The environmental crisis: moving students from reflection to action (Guatemala) 
  • Chronic diseases, science and religion: developing resources, promoting dialogue (Mexico) 
  • Mental health and faith: new tools and training for student ministry (Mexico) 
  • Theological, scientific and bioethical approaches to human genome editing (Ecuador) 

Expanded projects continuing from last year

  • Empty truths and values: forging a dialogue between theology and life-serving technologies (Brazil) 
  • Equipping students to be agents of peace and justice in Latin America (Mexico and El Salvador) 
  • Developing a network to equip Christian researchers for theology-science dialogue (Brazil) 
  • Launching a research and mentoring group for mothers at the intersection of science and theology (Latin America) 
Image of health promotion poster in Brazil
Health promotion poster in Brazil

Please pray with us:  

  • Thank God for the 43 Catalysts that have committed to being part of the LCI in Year Three and for all the advisors, consultants and mentors who have provided input on their projects  
  • Pray that Catalysts’ projects would be fruitful: stimulating new conversations about theology and the sciences, strengthening campus witness and helping bring God’s kingdom on earth.  
  • Pray for safe travels for those attending World Assembly and for an enriching time of fellowship and learning for all.   
  • Pray that at World Assembly Catalysts would inspire others to take their next steps in engaging with their discipline and transforming their universities, disciplines, churches and societies for the glory of Christ. 

From genome editing to oral tradition: A glimpse of two new projects  

Human genome editing: moving the conversation from rightness to righteousness 

In recent years, scientists have developed faster, cheaper, and more precise methods to edit genes of living organisms including humans. Gene therapy has gained support as a promising way to treat a wide range of diseases. But some Christians have taken a stand against it, arguing that scientists are trying to “play God.” 

Catalyst Álvaro Pérez, a biotechnologist from Ecuador, has a different view:

“I believe gene editing is the exercise of our God-given human creativity to love our neighbor as ourselves,” he explains. “Humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), so we have the ability to design. Understanding how nature works and modifying it allows us to have an active role in creation and not just be spectators.” 

Nevertheless, the bioethical and theological aspects of this type of research should not be ignored. And Alvaro noticed there is a particular vacuum of research on the topic in the Latin American context. 

Álvaro’s project will promote dialogue about bioethical and Christian perspectives on human gene editing, aiming to move the conversation from “Is gene editing right?” to “How can it be done righteously?” Understanding that Christians are called to live righteously and justly, the project will include discussions about what faith communities can do to ensure equitable access to these new advances in medical treatment. 

Aimed at students and professionals – inside and outside of the IFES national movement in Ecuador –  the project will include an academic forum; a scholarly article; and the production of a video interview with an expert in the field. 

Photo of Álvaro Pérez
Álvaro Pérez

Researching the role of oral communication in the transmission of science, faith and culture 

Photo of Laurent Kayogera
Laurent Kayogera

“Oral tradition still plays a big role in Burundian culture today,” explains Laurent Kayogera, a Catalyst who graduated with a bachelor’s in communications. “We express our feelings through music. Life lessons and advice are passed down to the younger generation through songs, riddles, fables and tales.” 

One reason why oral tradition is so important in Burundi is that only 75 percent of the adult population is literate, and there is still a gender gap in literacy rates. But that’s not the full story, says Laurent: “Even educated people just don’t like to read that much. We do not have many libraries, even in big cities. People still enjoy listening to people sharing stories. They’d rather quote what someone else said rather than something they’ve read themselves.” 

Laurent’s project will investigate the contribution of oral communication in the transmission of science, faith and culture in Burundi. His research will explore the advantages and limitations of how oral communication has been used in order to extract lessons for improved communication in such areas as university teaching, churches and the IFES national movement. 

“University students spend a lot of time listening to lectures but most of them don’t take the time for extra research using books, articles and the internet,” shares Laurent, who works as the training coordinator for UGBB, the IFES national movement in Burundi. “I hope my project will encourage students to adjust their learning style and conduct more independent research.” 

Laurent’s study will involve surveys among students and staff at the University of Burundi and a one-day workshop. He will also interview experts in culture and anthropology and representatives from organizations which seek to promote and preserve the Burundian language and culture. Finally, he will interview church leaders to explore how oral communication was used by missionaries during colonial times to share the gospel with Burundians and how pastors are trained today, particularly in rural areas which have lower literacy levels. The results of the study will be published in a scholarly article. 

For more information about all of our Catalysts’ projects, visit the LCI projects webpages or see a list of all current project titles listed in our July 2023 Latest News blogpost.

Q&A with a new Catalyst: Meet Forestry Expert Mónica Cortés

Mónica Cortés has a bachelor’s degree in forestry engineering and is studying for a master’s in organic agriculture. She also works as an assistant in the forestry engineering research unit at the National University of Costa Rica and as a staff worker with ECU, the national movement in Costa Rica.  

Photo of Mónica Cortés
Mónica Cortés

What made you decide to apply to the LCI? 

Since I started university in 2016, I have been asking myself how I can link my profession with the mission of the Lord. I saw the LCI as an opportunity to learn, grow, continue questioning, and take action to link these two passions of mine.  

How have the first few months at the LCI been?  

It has been an introductory walk into the deep and diverse forest of encouraging learning and challenges, but I believe that even when it’s hard work we will carry each other’s burdens by being in this community together.  

Has anything stood out to you? 

One day, I was feeling overwhelmed by the various things I had to do for my master’s, my paid work and my LCI assignments. In the midst of this I decided to do an LCI devotional on Ecclesiastes 12: 9-14. Verse 12, which says ” Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body,” really spoke to me.

The scripture described exactly what I was feeling. But as I continued reading, I had a change of mindset. I was confronted by the words of verse 13: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” It reminded me of the characteristics I must develop in order to share the relationship between science and faith in my context. Virtues such as wisdom, being investigative, communicating well, writing with honesty and truthfulness. I felt encouraged to live by these characteristics. 

What is the situation like among Christians in your country regarding science and Christianity? 

The idea of integrated mission, which promotes the well-being of all, is not recognized as a Christian responsibility. For many Christians in Costa Rica, the issue of environment and faith is not paramount and creation care is not really considered as part of Christianity. I hope the LCI will help me open spaces for dialogue between science and faith in Costa Rica. 

For more information about all of our Catalysts’ projects, visit the LCI projects webpages or see a list of all current project titles listed in our July 2023 Latest News blogpost.

Photo credit: forest photo by Sebastian Unrau on Unsplash

Awe and wonder: science, humanity and Jesus 

What theological clues does Psalm 8 provide about the creator, the creation, the dignity of humans, the value of science and the person of Jesus?  

Gustavo Sobarzo explains more in this blogpost, which has been adapted from a talk he gave to young scholars at the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI). A veterinary doctor by training, Gustavo has spent more than 15 years as a professor of veterinary microbiology while also serving with the IFES national movement in Chile, first as a staff worker and later as General Secretary. He now serves as the Tier One Training Coordinator for the LCI in Latin America. He lives in Santiago, Chile. 

I have always loved Psalm 8. It is one of the psalms that I learned by heart from a very young age. It helps me express the feelings of awe and wonder I experience when I think about God and his relationship with us. 

We know that this psalm was written by David but we don’t know much about the circumstances. However, it certainly tells of a king who recognises God’s lordship over his own authority. It gives us some interesting theological clues about the creator, creation and how we can understand them both.  

Awe and wonder at God and his creation 

What strikes you most about God’s creation? Have you ever seen something that simply blew your mind and made you marvel at the immensity of God? 

It has happened to me many times. But there are three memories that stand out: 

Once I was flying from the north of Chile to the capital, Santiago. It was night, and out of the window I could see the mountain range, the altiplano or Andean plateau, illuminated by the lightning of a thunderstorm. I was overwhelmed by my smallness and the beauty of the spectacle. 

Photo of Gustavo Sobarzo
Photo of baby feet

The second time was during the birth of my three daughters. As I held them in my arms, I was moved by the beauty of each little creature coming into the world, knowing that she was first born in the very heart of God.  

The third was when I studied to become a veterinarian and microbiologist. My studies involved unravelling God’s truth written in life itself. I praised God as I learned about genes, protein synthesis, the functions of bacteria and animal cells, and so on. And I continue to be amazed by my discipline as I teach microbiology and work in the lab.  

What are your moments of awe and wonder? When have you seen or understood something that prompted you to praise the Lord for what he has done? 

David gives us voice here, and sings in verse 9, “how majestic is your name in all the earth!” 

The glory of the Lord is spread throughout the earth, throughout the universe, in all that we see and all that we do not see. 

Believers and atheists alike are perplexed as they observe creation. What a blessing it is for those of us who have the gift of faith to be able to give an explanation, or rather a face, to the one who allows us to witness so much wonder. 

Science as a way of knowing God 

For David, in verse 3, what triggers his praise is the observation of the heavens, the moon and the stars. It reminds us how important it is to observe creation! It tells us about God. The author clearly distinguishes the creation from the creator and is not tempted to praise the creation itself.  

One of the central ideas that Catalysts (participants) learn about in their LCI training is that to do science is to know and to better understand the world created by God. God likes us to be involved in scientific research and discoveries. Scientific research is not contradictory to believing in God. 

Over the last century or so, an artificial struggle has been proposed between science and faith, as if the two were incompatible. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Psalm 8 – A psalm of David 

1Lord, our Lord, 
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! 
You have set your glory 
    in the heavens. 
2 Through the praise of children and infants 
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies, 
to silence the foe and the avenger. 
3 When I consider your heavens, 
    the work of your fingers, 
the moon and the stars, 
    which you have set in place, 
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, 
    human beings that you care for them? 
5 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honour.  
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: 
7 all flocks and herds, 
    and the animals of the wild, 
8 the birds in the sky, 
    and the fish in the sea, 
    all that swim the paths of the seas. 
9 Lord, our Lord, 
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! 

There are many of us scientists who are Christians, and for us, being involved in science is a way to honour our creator.  The scientist and the theologian have much in common. While the theologian performs an exegesis of the scriptures, to know God and his work better, many Christian scientists performs an exegesis of creation, for the same purpose.  

Photo of gloved hands holding petri dish

The dignity of humans 

This psalm addresses a central, very relevant question: What are human beings?  In verse 4, David asks the Lord: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” 

When we look at the universe, we are nothing but specks of dust. Have you ever felt this way when you were a child? David’s question is a fair one. And I love the way he answers himself through his dialogue with the Lord. 

Even if human beings are so insignificant in appearance, there is something special about us as God’s creation. God made humans a little lower than an angel. Other versions of the bible say that the Lord has made humans a little lower than a god.  

People are the reflection (image) of God on earth. What does that mean? A physical image? No. It refers to how God has invested men and women with authority over all the rest of creation. To be stewards.  

Unfortunately, the mandate to “rule over” creation has often been misunderstood.  Sin has made us into broken images of God. Instead of stewardship and care we have destroyed creation. In addition, we have dehumanised our fellow humans in every way, forgetting that we are all images of God. 

The world pressures us to depersonalise ourselves. To transform us into numbers, into consumers, into possessable objects. Children in their mothers’ wombs are reduced to mere cells. The elderly are thought of as burdens. The imprisoned are deprived of all hope. 

That is why it is a tragedy that in our Latin American countries, children are turning into criminals, into beings trained to kill and to get whatever they want at any cost. It is a tragedy because they are also the image of God. They are also the ones for whom the Lord paid with blood on the cross. In allowing this, our sin – as a community is very great.  

A prophetic psalm 

Psalm 8 also has a prophetic dimension. In verse 2, David says “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” 

This speaks a great truth. Children, the very ones that today our society is displacing and forgetting, were of no value in biblical times. What a child said would be of little or no importance, yet it is from the children that deep praise arises.  

And then the psalm speaks about the Lord’s enemies. This psalm was fulfilled when Jesus triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Matthew 21:15-16 describes how the chief priests and teachers of the law were indignant when they saw children shouting praises to Jesus in the temple courts. In response, Jesus quoted verse 2, saying: “Have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?’” 

Just as the psalm foretold, it was the children who put the educated to shame.  

Later, the author of Hebrews refers to verses 6-8 of this psalm as well, to highlight the sovereignty and the humanity of Jesus: 

In the second chapter of the book of Hebrews, the author also quotes Psalm 8, saying: “…we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” 

The author of Hebrews uses the passage to affirm Jesus as the quintessential human being. Jesus, then, is the prophetic fulfilment of Psalm 8.  

Questions and projects 

  • Are you in awe of God’s power in creation or in your own life? Do you recognise him as Lord of all? 
  • Do you perceive yourself as “a little lower than an angel”? Are you aware of how valuable you are to God, or do you find it hard to believe this truth? 
  • Do you perceive those around you as images of God? Are you able to see the dignity and value of each person? What would help you do it better? 

Many of the realities discussed above are reflected in the projects that young scholars in the LCI are leading in their university in partnership with their IFES national movements. These Catalysts are bringing together theology and the sciences in projects which aim to aid our understanding of God’s creation, while also promoting the dignity of every human being and helping creation – including our societies – to flourish. Find out more about last year’s LCI projects here and view our projects photo gallery here. Look out for more details coming soon about new projects starting in June.  

Photo credits: Lightning storm photo by Josep Castells on Unsplash; Baby feet photo by Marcel Fagin on Unsplash; Petri dish photo by Adrian Lange on Unsplash

Latest news: Project showcases and preparing for Year 3

In January, the Logos and Cosmos Initiative’s project showcases were a wonderful opportunity for friends and supporters to meet LCI Catalysts, ask questions and hear about the theology and the sciences projects that they have been working on for the past year. We were delighted to welcome approximately 100 people at each of these two regional online galas. The centerpiece of each showcase were the Catalysts’ project presentations, which brought their projects to life through live progress updates, photos, graphics and quotes. If you weren’t able to join us, you can watch the project videos that were shared at the events on our YouTube channel and you can see many of the photos shared at the event on our project snapshots photo gallery.

A screengrab from the Latin America gala held on zoom
Latin America Showcase

Deborah Vieira, for example, spoke honestly about the highs and lows of Emmaus, the theology and the sciences mentoring network that she has established in Brazil. She shared encouraging feedback from one of the participants: Bruna Gonçalves, a physiotherapy student, who has been mentored by Rafaela Roberto Dutra, a professional physiotherapist.  

“This project has been wonderful, I already knew it would be good, but it has surprised me positively,” Bruna said. “The studies are very deep and apply perfectly to what we have been experiencing in our daily lives. Rafaela is an excellent mentor. She always has wise words and is provocative and encouraging as well.” 

Deborah’s mentoring program links undergraduate students with mentors who are further ahead in their academic careers. She has trained the mentors and designed a curriculum based on what she learned last year at the LCI.  

A screengrab of Deborah Vieira presenting a slide at the Gala about her project

“It isn’t always an easy journey,” Deborah said. “We had some challenges because of the context of students nowadays: their schedules, the pressures of time, the impact of the pandemic and hybrid learning. Students are very tired and they don’t want to be in front of a screen anymore, so we are trying to provide alternative methods. And for some students, the articles and books we provided were too heavy. They couldn’t keep up so we have to rethink some of the material we will be using.” 

But as Dr Ross McKenzie, Leader of the LCI, pointed out in his address to the showcase events in both of our regions, experimentation, testing and revising is a natural part of the LCI projects.  

“We believe that the most effective learning and training happens when done in conjunction with doing,” said Ross. “Projects provide a means for Catalysts to apply what they are learning in their own contexts. The world is complex and producing positive change requires creativity, insight, experimentation, learning, and adapting. Projects provide a means to find out what works or does not work in specific contexts. This will help decide what projects might be scaled up to a national or regional initiative.” 

In the Francophone Africa event, Onesphore Hakizimana, a graduate student in animal sciences at the University of Rwanda, discussed his project titled Seeing God through animal sciences. 

“After being equipped at the LCI, I wanted to help other students in my field understand how to use animal sciences to answer big questions,” said Onesphore. “And I want to help them understand that the purpose of our academic studies is not just to get good marks or earn a degree but to learn about the wisdom of God through his creation.” 

Onesphore has designed and led a series of monthly Bible studies and debates at his university. In one Bible study, students studied the role of animals and human responsibility in Genesis 1:28. In another, they looked at the prophet Ezekiel’s inaugural vision (Ezekiel 1) and saw how important animals are in the sight of God. They also studied Genesis 2 and considered Adam’s role as “the first veterinarian” and creator of the first taxonomy of animals. 

Photo of students sitting around a table studying the bible
One of Onesphore’s Bible study groups

Each regional showcase also featured special guests who shared their wisdom and reflections on the relationship between theology and the sciences.  

At the Latin America showcase, Argentinian Catalyst Lorena Brondani interviewed Dr Paul Freston, Professor of Religion and Culture at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada and former professor of sociology at the Universidade Federal de São Carlos, Brazil. Dr Freston is a native of England and a graduate of Cambridge University. He is also a naturalized Brazilian, has lived and worked in Brazilian universities for many years and has been involved with the Brazilian IFES national movement.  

A screengrab of Lorena Brondani interviewing Paul Freston on zoom

Dr Freston shared pearls of wisdom for the young Christian academics who were gathered at the event. Reflecting on his long career, he discussed how he sought to integrate his academic work with his Christian faith:  

“I thought it was important to ‘walk with both legs’, for example by reading both Christian and non-Christian books and resources,” he said. “If we want to be a bridge between academia and faith then we need to make sure that both sides of the river on either side of the bridge are flowing at the same level in order to make the river flow. Many people don’t grow in both their knowledge of their academic discipline and their Christian faith, and some don’t develop a knowledge of faith that goes beyond Sunday school level. We must have a healthy combination of both. We must go forward in both areas.” 

A screengrab of attendees' faces at the Francophone Africa gala
Francophone Africa showcase

At the Francophone Africa showcase, Dr Klaingar Ngarial, Regional Secretary for this IFES region, spoke on the topic, The African University: From liberation to spirituality. Dr Ngarial discussed the need for African universities to be liberated from the grip of western models of training as well as the important role of the university as a place of spiritual liberation and transformation. 

He discussed Jesus’ mission of liberation (Luke 4: 18 – 19), the promise that “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21), and the command for Christians to “go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:18-20).  

Reflecting on these scriptures, Dr Ngarial said:

“I suggest we see in the liberation by the Messiah a cosmic liberation, universal and therefore integrated into the university. Christ sends us back to promote this freedom in our universities. Through us, the Christian faith must come and inhabit the disciplinary spaces of our African universities to contribute to the liberation of these universities. To say it another way means that theologically we must know how to ‘speak God’ in and through our academic disciplines.” 

Preparing to scale up for Year 3 

Photo of the LCI Francophone Africa staff team
Francophone Africa staff team meeting in Benin

We are facing a number of transitions as the third year of the LCI program begins in April. Many of our Tier Two Catalysts who have completed projects this year have submitted proposals to continue their projects next year. Those who are selected to advance to Tier Three will have the opportunity to scale up their projects for an even greater impact at the regional and national level, and we are excited to see how some Catalysts will be forming teams to work together on these larger-scale projects. 

Meanwhile, our current cohort of Tier One Catalysts are finishing the final stages of the LCI’s training and development year. This month, many of them will be submitting projects for consideration for funding and implement from April onwards. At the same time, we are looking forward to welcoming a fresh cohort of Catalysts into Tier One in April.  

Please pray with us: 

  • Thank God for all the positive impact that our Catalysts’ projects have had on students, researchers, staff workers and members of the university.  
  • Pray for wisdom for the Catalysts and good partnerships as they plan projects that they will implement next year.  
  • Pray for wisdom for the selection committees as they decide which of the current Catalysts will advance to Tier Two and Three of the program, and review applications for our incoming third cohort, which starts in April. 

Photo gallery: theology and the sciences project snapshots

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.  

Explore Catalysts’ projects through 17 new videos

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.  

Screengrab from LCI project videos playlist on Youtube

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.  

Screengrabs of Latin American project videos on Youtube

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.” 

Screengrabs of Latin American project videos on Youtube

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.  

Latest news: Another “first”, project videos and diving deeper

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.  

Photo of a woman speaking informally at the workshop

“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. 

Ana Avila

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.

Prayer points: 

  • 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. 

Projects video gallery: 3 minutes with a Catalyst 

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.