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. 

Catalyst Perspectives: weaving faith and science to build peace and justice in Mexico 

In the face of terrible violence in her home country of Mexico, Sandra Márquez believes that no action is too small when it comes to working towards true peace, the shalom of God. In this Catalyst Perspectives blogpost, Sandra shares how her Logos and Cosmos Initiative project is equipping students to be agents of peace and justice. Sandra is a university professor and is currently finishing a doctorate in social psychology. 

“Many small people, in small places, doing small things, can change the world,” said Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano. In the face of great challenges right now in my home country of Mexico, this phrase reminds me that no effort is too small, no effort should be ignored, all are necessary.   

Since 2006, the Mexican government has embarked on a “war on drugs1” waged against the drug cartels. Since then, the violence that has taken root in my country has brought with it much suffering. Homicides, femicides, shootings, extortions, kidnappings and the “disappearances” of more than 130,0000 people has given rise to a climate of mistrust and social disintegration. These crimes are provoked by organized crime operations in complicity with different levels of government and are widely publicized in the media.  

Each of these crimes has a profound impact. It is like a shockwave that expands, first affecting the direct victim, but also their family, their circle of friends, their place of study, their work and the community in which they live. So, for every crime there are many people living with the effects of this pain. 

Photo of Sandra Marquez
Sandra Márquez

If we learn anything from Ecuadorian theologian René Padilla’s concept of “integral mission”, it is that every human need is a field of Christian mission. Therefore, the church is immersed in a society and cannot ignore society’s dynamics. Understanding that we cannot separate theology from context, we must walk with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other (as theologian Karl Barth once said).  

Mexico is the 3rd most violent country in Latin America, according to the Global Peace Index Report 20222, which measures the level of peace and the absence of violence in 163 countries around the world.   

If we start from the absence of peace, we must think about the meaning of the concept. Peace, at least in the West, is often linked to the Roman idea of pax romana that was conceived as the absence of war. So, for many people peace represents calm or even a sense of a quiet existence and passivity. In contrast, the Hebrew concept of shalom, which translates as a state of wellbeing, for the Hebrew people meant complete peace. In its deepest sense, it means integral wellbeing and can be used as a synonym for prosperity and security (Psalm 85:8-10).  

This shalom means having healthy relationships with God, with other people and with the earth. This peace is a gift from God (Isaiah. 52:7). It would not be appropriate to reduce it to the idea of passivity but of action and proactive good works. It results from living in harmony and with right relationships.  

In Psalm 85:10 we find a very interesting model, as it states, “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed3“. This affirmation starts from the relational components such as mercy (love) and truth as part of human coexistence and in the end, establishes a relationship between justice (sometimes translated as righteousness) and peace as broader social conditions. If the concept of Hebrew shalom is understood then an intrinsic dimension to this peace is wellbeing that stems from justice.   

If peace is linked to justice, we must also analyze this concept. From the biblical text we understand that God’s justice is different from human justice. From the human perspective, in ancient times the law of retaliation was the rule when it came to responding to a crime, to give to each one according to their deeds.  

Jesus delves into this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” 

In this way Jesus asks his disciples to see the contrast between injustice and just actions and to have an attitude other than revenge. God’s justice is a justice that restores and transforms. It moves us from being sinners to being justified by grace and called to be righteous. 

A project for peace and justice that is like a mustard seed 

The LCI came into my life at just the right time. I am currently a university professor. I work in the area of planning and I am finishing a doctorate in social psychology. I am married to Erick Araiza, whom I met at Compa Mexico (my IFES national movement), and we have a 3-year-old daughter named Constanza.  

Throughout my years at the university, I believed I had already integrated my academic knowledge with my Christian faith, especially when working on issues related to justice. My doctoral thesis concerns the effects and dynamics of the disappearance of people by organized crime, as well as the development of guidelines for accompanying the families of people who have disappeared in order to provide psychological and social support for them.  

However, at the LCI I discovered that faith that is linked to reason must truly integrate psychological knowledge with theology. Through this initiative, I found a place to bring these reflections to student ministry and to encourage students to see their profession as a tool to work for justice and peace, regardless of their academic discipline. I want to help students and young academics to approach their context from their dual citizenship – that of the Kingdom of God and society linked to their professional training. 

This is how my LCI project “Opening Paths of Justice and Peace” came about (see video above). It will bring together perspectives on justice and peace from both the social sciences and the Christian faith.  

My project is based on the belief that students from Compa Mexico are fundamental to change the situation of violence in our country. They can detonate creative actions of hope and transformation.  

From the inception of the project, the idea of collaborating with a local staff worker was raised, so I began to work with Maritza López Osorio. She has personal experience of losing someone who “disappeared.” In her student years, Maritza lost a good friend from her Bible study cell group who disappeared because of organized crime. Maritza has taken on the challenge of participating in this project. She has shared her gifts and her story, sharing her own reflections on the subject and inspiring students.  

Photo of Staff Worker Maritza and students at a workshop
Maritza (centre) and students at a workshop

In 2022, my project has involved the following activities: 1) Two training workshops for students and workers, in which they created initiatives to work for peace and justice in their own contexts and campuses; 2) a day-long academic-theological forum on justice and peace; and 3) an investigation into Mexican university students’ attitudes about war, justice and peace, with the aim of developing a scientific publication. 

Most recently, the theological forum was held on November 12 and was attended by more than 75 people including students, staff workers and also professionals and people interested in the subject from other organizations and churches in Mexico. Expert speakers analyzed the problem of violence from the perspective of the bible, social sciences and civic initiatives. All eight of the presentations are available to watch on my blog and on YouTube.  

A screengrab from Sandra's online forum showing an introductory slide
A slide from Sandra’s theological forum

Encounters in the Global South and reflections on violence against women with Dr Elaine Storkey 

The LCI has also allowed me to meet other Christian researchers who also seek to integrate their multiple academic and faith experiences in a serious and profound way. In September I participated in the LCI Latin America workshop held in Santiago, Chile. We were able to meet in person after 18 months of working together virtually. It was opportunity to broaden our reflections, be trained by workshops and to enjoy valuable time in community. 

During the workshop, we were challenged by the lectures of sociologist, philosopher and theologian Dr Elaine Storkey. She shared with us her vision, and a biblical and social reading of violence against women, which occurs at all stages of life and in all cultures and societies. She led us to reflect on how violence against women manifests itself in crude and unjust ways in different places, pointing out that it is important to talk about this issue and to develop projects that can respond to this type of violence.  

Sadly, in Latin America, violence against women is a very real issue, with a large number of femicides, among other crimes. I really identified with what she shared about how these problems are not usually a topic of analysis in faith communities. I thank God that she brings her experience and reflections on violence against women to different spaces.  

As I said at the beginning, remembering Galeano’s words, no action is too small in the face of violence to show the world the shalom of God, from biblical reflections, books, projects, ideas to take to campuses, research, forums, as well as all the work from the LCI.  

I invite you to pray for the construction of peace from faith, for Mexico and Latin America, so that believers can bear witness to the gospel of peace, restoring, reconciling and weaving hope from interpersonal relationships, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the cultural, political and social dimension in the region. 

Find out more: 

  • Watch a 2-minute video of Sandra discussing her project (video is in Spanish but English subtitles and transcript are provided) 
  • Follow Sandra’s progress with her project on her personal blog (in Spanish) 
  • Read about all 18 of our Catalysts’ projects on our project webpages 

ENDNOTES:

1Mexico’s “war on drugs”:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_drug_war 

2Global Peace Index Report (2022), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace: https://www.economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/GPI-2022-web.pdf 

3 New King James Version 

Latest news: meaningful connections and projects picking up pace 

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. 

Photo of a female workshop participant asking a question with a miccrophone

“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.   

Photo of students and national movement staff presenting ideas at a workshop

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. 

Photo of students and national movement staff sitting on the floor brainstorming ideas

“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.  

In this 2-minute video, Marcio Lima, an architecture professor from Brazil, talks about his theology and the arts research program for students in ABUB Brazil. You can also read his thoughts about how the arts and the Chrisitan faith enrich one another in his Catalyst Perspectives blogpost. Lastly, you can listen to his interview on the recent Voices of IFES podcast episode about the LCI.  

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.  

Screenshot of a video of Marcio Lima talking

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.

Screenshot of a video showing Isaac Daama talking

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.