New video: What does integrating faith and academia look like?  

Watch our new video and discover how the Logos and Cosmos Initiative is equipping students and scholars to live out the good news of Jesus by integrating their faith with their academic discipline. Hear the perspectives of Catalysts who are leading theology and the sciences projects, LCI staff and IFES General Secretary Tim Adams.   

“Catch a glimpse of our Catalysts’ passion and energy by watching our new five-minute video,” says Professor Ross McKenzie, Leader of the LCI. “The stories featured remind us of the LCI’s core mission: equipping students and young academics to connect the Word to their worlds. I pray that you will be encouraged and challenged by it.” 

For resources and ideas on how to integrate your faith and your academic discipline, visit the LCI Get Involved webpage or the IFES Engaging the University webpage.  

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. 

Seeds of transformation: LCI featured on podcast 

Brazilian Catalyst Marcio Lima and the LCI’s Latin America co-coordinator Alejandra Ortiz were recently interviewed for a Voices of IFES podcast episode all about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. It was a Spanish-language episode but read on for the English transcript. 

During the conversation, Marcio shares about both his career path and spiritual journey, and how his faith nourishes his academic work and vice versa. Marcio is a Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Sao Paulo. You can also learn about his LCI project: a theology and the arts research and mentoring project for students from his IFES national movement. 

Alejandra, Co-Coordinator for the LCI in Latin America, explains more about LCI’s vision, how the program is strengthening IFES national movements and what’s on the horizon. We are grateful to Jorge “Toto” Bermudez, General Secretary of CBUU Uruguay and Regional Communications Coordinator, for hosting this episode.  

Listen to this episode of the Voices of IFES podcast wherever you usually get your podcasts. For example, it can be found here on Spotify. 

Watch the video of the podcast recording below (video is in Spanish with English subtitles). 

Read the English transcript of the podcast below. 

English-language transcript of the Voices of IFES podcast episode about the LCI: 

Toto: Welcome to Voices of IFES. I am Jorge “Toto” Bermudez. Today I will be the host. I serve as general secretary of the movement in Uruguay, Comunidad Bíblica Universitaria, and I also coordinate Communications for the IFES Latin America regional team.  

Today we are joined by Alejandra Ortiz and Marcio Lima Junior. Both are part of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. Ale is the Co-Coordinator of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in Latin America, and Marcio is a Catalyst at the LCI and a professor of architecture and urban planning. 

Welcome, Ale, Marcio. Thank you for joining us on Voices of IFES. We wanted to have you on the podcast to talk about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, which is one of the ministries of IFES, and which is quite recent. 

Ale, Marcio… Could you please introduce yourselves quickly? Then we will have more time to go deeper with each of you. Ale? 

Ale: Of course. It’s a pleasure to be here with you…  

My name is Alejandra Ortiz. I live in Tijuana, Mexico. I serve with COMPA part-time, the national movement here in Mexico, and with the LCI as co-coordinator. I am married to Abdiel and have two girls. 

Toto: Thank you very much Ale. Marcio? 

Marcio: Hello everyone. It’s a pleasure to be with you. I am Marcio. I live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I am an architect, professor of architecture, and I am earning a doctorate in History and the Foundations of Architecture. I also participated as a student of the national movement University Bible Alliance of Brazil (ABUB) and… I am a volunteer advisor. 

Toto: Great. Thank you very much for joining us today. We are going to have a really interesting talk, getting to know each other a little bit more, and especially about the LCI. So… Ale, you are a member of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative team, can you tell us a little bit more about this initiative? And why was it created? 

Ale: Sure, yes, gladly.

The Logos and Cosmos Initiative equips young Christian academics from the national IFES movements to carry out projects that awaken and provoke wonder in both the sciences and theology and the relationship between the sciences and theology.

Then, through the LCI, we offer Catalyst training, mentoring, funding also for their own personal formation and to lead initiatives at the university and in collaboration with the national IFES movements. The Logos and Cosmos Initiative is largely funded by the John Templeton Foundation, which provided the funding for five years of this initiative in Latin America and French-speaking Africa.  

Toto: How nice! 

Ale: Well, the projects that are being developed bring together theological and scientific perspectives to address challenges, well, very pressing challenges that we have like… mental health, poverty, climate change, this dissociation that exists between academic disciplines and Christian faith within universities and movements, and it’s the Catalysts that are carrying out these projects.  

Toto: How interesting, how necessary it sounds for our context here in Latin America! Now… You have mentioned Catalysts more than once. Who are these Catalysts? 

Ale: Yes, yes, yes, yes. “Catalysts” is the name we use to designate the people who participate, that is, those who have applied to a year of the initiative and have been selected to be part of a cohort.

We call our participants Catalysts because we believe that they are key people who are producing changes in thinking about science and faith within their movements, their universities… And also, generating seeds of transformation for good processes in our mission contexts.

Toto: Yes… Very appropriate, very appropriate. And… Speaking of Catalysts… Marcio, you are one of those Catalysts! Can you share with us what led you to participate in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative? 

Marcio: Yes, of course. I am a Catalyst. I heard about the LCI through the national movement, and when I saw this opportunity to further develop knowledge about science and theology, I said to myself that it would be very interesting, very nice all this, because I knew something from the national movement, from the student community, but I saw this opportunity to further develop these issues within the university.  

Toto: That’s good! That’s great. And tell me Marcio, in this last year participating in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, how has it been for you? Is there anything that impacted you in a special way? 

Marcio: Yes, of course.

The first year was a very good experience. The intellectual formation we received allowed us to be introduced to different authors, to explore the dimensions of science and theology. To learn how these two areas need not be opposed and disconnected. Because we understand that the reality of God impacts all things and Christ is reconciling all these things to himself. 

Toto: Uh-huh. 

Marcio: So, we understand that as Christian academics we have to look for these interfaces, to show that our worldview has a lot to contribute to the world… And I think one thing that impacted me a lot is from the point of view of developing a broader anthropology of the human being. 

Toto: Aha. 

Marcio: And another aspect that was very striking to me. The care of the program in developing a Christian life and a wise spirituality, since we are not only a brain, but a complete being that has feelings, and we were created to relate with God. So, the program encouraged us to listen to God’s voice to guide us on this path of research, work and personal relationships. We were also challenged to see our work as scholars as part of God’s action for the renewal of the world and as agents of God’s kingdom and participants in its history. In this sense, I am reminded of a class offered to us by Professor Sarah Williams, which dealt with the dimension of spirituality in academic work, and it was very impactful! 

Toto: How interesting, isn’t it? This question of academic life as work, but the academic as a spiritual person, also needing to cultivate his spirituality. How nice to be able to think about the development and challenges of both! This question throughout your life, right? Thinking about the space where you grew up, in the church… Also, in the space where you were formed, Marcio, in the university and even in the student ministry, the concepts about science, academia, and about religion, about faith and how they were linked, not always, I imagine, went in the same direction as the way they are working in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. Have you noticed any difference, in that sense, in what you had heard in your formative years and the proposal of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative?  

Marcio: Yes, I think I can speak from two points of view. One from the formation in the national movement. I see the Logos and Cosmos program as a continuation of my formation within the evangelical student community, right? Because I already knew how our life should not be dichotomous, but that we should integrate everything as knowledge and reality of God. However, in my religious upbringing, as a child, I grew up in an environment where there was a distinction between secular or material life and spiritual life. We were presented with a gospel in which these two dimensions of human life are separated and where these two spheres need no connection with each other. It was like this dualistic view, more Platonic than Christian really, between the material world and the spiritual world, between the body and the soul.

In my religious upbringing, although there was no opposition to science, to academic study, faith and science were treated as two distinct areas, one of secular life and one of spiritual life. However… What we are developing in the Logos and Cosmos program is quite the opposite, it is the understanding that there is no secular life and a religious life. The reality of God permeates the whole cosmos, our whole life in its various manifestations. Since we are indivisible, it is sin that fragments us. Therefore, we do not need to have a dualistic vision, but a holistic vision, connected to this reality between science and university. 

Toto: How reassuring I imagine it is for academics, for those of us who develop the intellectual life, to be able to think about our lives in this way, in a holistic way! It is liberating, it is hopeful because it also makes us think of all the things that God can redeem in us and through us. As you were saying before, Marcio, you are a professor of architecture, of urban planning. You are doing a doctorate in history and fundamentals of architecture and urbanism at the prestigious University of Sao Paulo. What is it that led you to train in this area? 

Marcio: Yes… I think it is a sense of vocation, and… Before studying architecture and entering the university, I had a previous training in pedagogy. So, when I entered the university to study architecture, I also intended to dedicate myself to teaching. That became clearer to me, when I came to understand that God distributes gifts and talents so that we can serve the Kingdom and people. Based on this, I understood that this would be my way of acting, considering my personal inclinations, my academic background… It is an opportunity to serve the kingdom of God and people. 

Toto: That’s good, that’s good! Because at times we may have some tensions that are not necessary, don’t we?  
When the Lord really wants to strengthen that for which we feel a vocation, for which we have an inclination and that which really makes us feel fulfilled also in the development of our work and our intellectual work. Now Marcio… Thinking of you as a professor in your field, I am interested in knowing a little more, that you go a little deeper in this that has already been mentioned, in how your faith nourishes your work and also now, vice versa, how academic work can nourish faith.  

I guess… Not everything is a garden of roses. In some moments tensions appear, conflicts appear, what are those tensions, those conflicts that you have had as a Christian in your context? 

Marcio: Yes… Of course, it’s never a [rose] garden [a piece of cake]. But we keep cultivating this garden so that things can be seen. But… I think I can speak in two different ways. I see faith as shaping my work as a teacher and as a scholar.  

The first is related to social injustices. In Brazil and in Latin America we see a large number of people who have no house to live in or they live in their homes without light or structural stability, for example. In that sense, my work focuses on stimulating and sensitizing students about the need to get involved in, for example, popular housing projects, in the qualification of degraded areas, in providing decent spaces for human existence, not only structures and sanitary facilities but also in the existential and human aspect.  

Just today… I was reading a phrase of a contemporary architect, an Uruguayan, who said that: “some houses do not have a single sign of having been made as a whole, thinking that they could be inhabited by men capable of talking to the stars”. In this sense, the second aspect to which I have dedicated myself most in recent years is to understand architecture and the arts as a manifestation of what the human being is in all its depth. Our goal is to understand how the existence and essence of the human being is manifested through artistic languages and how they can be privileged means to understand the mystery of life. I understand the arts as something that leads us to participate intentionally and intensely in the physical, emotional, and imaginative characteristics of the human being. And I also believe that architecture is a written book and that there is a profound relationship between architecture and worldview, how those who built [those structures] understood the world.

The question I ask myself is whether architecture and other artistic languages can point us in a unique way to knowledge of God or the world or ourselves. Whether these languages can speak to us about these issues. And… the difficulties that I see in the university is that many times this topic of faith is a topic that is thought of as an intimate, private, subjective forum… And that it should not be dealt with in the university. But I see that it is totally the opposite because the university is the environment to ask all the discussions, questions, even questions related to faith and worldviews.  

So… sometimes there is blockage in people, but when you talk in a way that you can understand, that gives you an academic form, it is possible to dialogue. 

Toto: How interesting, thank you very much, Professor Marcio Lima, because we can really see your passion! This way of looking at architecture, one, as someone outside this area would say “the purpose of architecture is to provide us with sustainable housing and little else”. But how much more there is in this approach between architecture and the arts! I loved what you were saying about seeing them as a language and listening to what they can tell us about God, that we can also say through them to our fellow human beings, to other human beings… That we talk about things that have to do with the kingdom of God. What a beautiful vision! We are getting into this Logos and Cosmos Initiative, we are beginning to understand that it is a vision that encompasses the whole university, the way of linking ourselves with the academic work.  

 Ale… I would like you to tell us a little bit more about the current status of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, what is coming up in the short and medium term. 

Ale: Of course. Look… In March 2022, we started the second year of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, and in April a new cohort of Catalysts for both level 1 and Catalysts for both level 1 and the Catalysts that advanced to level 2. So now… We are now with Catalysts who are in their first year training and developing a project at this first level, and the Catalysts who are in level 2, in their second year, are carrying out projects that link their own academic discipline with the needs of the national movement. And [they] are in full action, in this second level, second year. And well…  

This year we will also have our first face-to-face meeting, in September, in Chile. A consultation for all the Catalysts of both levels, for the mentors, for those of us who work in the initiative… Very excited to see each other, to learn together, to listen to each other. And well… Again, in February of next year we will be calling for the third year of the initiative, to start again with a cohort and some Catalysts from level 1 and level 2 would advance to the next level if that were the case. 

Toto: Uh-huh. How nice, how nice the prospect of meeting face to face, of being able to embrace, to put body to those faces that one sees in Zoom or in other conference media! But above all to be able to share the table, to be able to continue generating links, friendships! And undoubtedly enhancing, without a doubt, what the different works are, right?  

You mentioned the link between the Catalyst and the national movement because listening to the experience, one could get the idea that this is something developed by some in the academic world, something very separate, right?  

How have the Catalysts been working in this sense with the national student movements of IFES? How can we see the benefit of the Logos and Cosmos initiative for the movements as a whole, beyond the Catalysts? Has there been any experience, any reaction from the national movements in this sense, Ale? 

Ale: Yes. I love your question Toto because… Actually, this has been one of the most important things for us at the moment we have been carrying out the initiative.

From the very inception of the projects, from the moment of thinking about them, we have tried to ensure that the Catalysts are in dialogue with their national movement, with their local movement, in conversation with regional workers, with the general secretary, with student leaders and also trying to see how the Catalyst’s own academic discipline, their own concerns also respond to the needs of the movements, how to enter into dialogue with this.

We have sought that the projects respond to the needs of the national movements, very specifically and in accordance with each national movement…  We have seen very nice things, for example… Some student movements are entering into conversation with things that are happening in the university or even with some authors who talk about issues of interest, based on the initiative of the Catalysts to bring issues to the table! 

Toto: That’s good. 

Ale: One example here, in Central America, is a Catalyst that is working on climate change and care for creation and is going to do this together with the students of their national movement. Also… We are seeing, for example, in Chile, that a network of Christian professors and academics is being generated from the Catalyst’s initiative, and it is something that the national movement itself had wanted to reactivate and had not been able to. So, we are seeing these type of projects and initiatives of the Catalysts that are directly benefiting the national movements.  

An Ecuadorian Catalyst who is developing a training module for her movement on the arts, which is her area, her academic discipline… These are some of the examples of how national movements are benefiting through the LCI. 

Toto: That’s great! That’s great, Ale! Well… And since we have a Catalyst here with us, we will take the opportunity to ask you Marcio: what is the project you are carrying out? Can you tell us a little more about it? 

Marcio: Yes, of course.

My project aims to develop a research program in theology and the arts for students of the national movement. The program consists of training, mentoring and support for the students’ own research. It will then feature a foundation course that will focus on the relationship between the arts and the basic Christian motif of creation, fall and redemption. This is intended to provide further theological, historical, and philosophical foundations to the links we find between the Christian faith and the arts.  

I am now in the final phase of compiling the bibliography, which will allow me to begin the process of writing the theoretical framework of the course that will be offered for the entire movement, for all those interested. After the course, we will have a mentoring program for the students. They will have to develop their own research project in which they will relate arts, architecture and theology. At this moment, I am also preparing a workshop for our national ABUAB congress that will talk about an aesthetics of the eschaton: arts, justice and the kingdom of God. 

Toto: That’s great, that’s great! I thought I understood that this workshop that you will be giving in September will be open to students from the neighbouring country, Uruguay, who would like to participate… But we’ll talk about it later, Marcio. Don’t get nervous, it’s not necessary to clarify it now [laughs Marcio and Ale].  
But how interesting! Are you going to be doing those tutorials yourself, or how will that part of the project implementation be? 

Marcio: Yes, of course, Toto, we can talk… and open this workshop for all Latin America. And yes… We will continue to talk about this. So, yes… I am going to teach this course on the fundamentals, and I am going to do the mentoring. This year the tutoring will be limited because we only have one tutor, which is me… So we have a call for students to submit their projects for me to do an evaluation and those that are selected will get these tutorials with me. 

Toto: That’s good. Marcio, how could we be praying for you, thinking about this project? 

Marcio: I am glad Toto that we are all a community that continues to pray for each other. For this, I ask you to help me in prayer, asking God to give me grace and wisdom to develop this proposed project, and to pray for my health. I need health to continue with all this, with this agenda. 

Toto: Very well. We take note and we will be accompanying you…  
And our friends who are listening, surely also, so that this project may have an impact and be of great blessing for many, without a doubt. And Ale, how can we be praying for you? For the team? For the ministry of Logos and Cosmos? 

Ale: Yes, thanks for the question. Well, for me…. In a particular way, for wisdom and strength and reactivity also, to be co-directing this project with Josué Olmedo here in Latin America… For the beautiful challenge we have, and in particular for life here with two small daughters while I continue working in the ministry… And for the team, well… As I said, we are co-directing this project with Josué, here in Latin America, and also in the executive team are Gustavo Sobarzo in Chile and Jouseth Moya from Ecuador. So, pray for us and for the face-to-face consultation that we are organizing in Chile, in September of this year, for all of us who will be there both as mentors and Catalysts. 

Toto: Very good. We take note and ask the Lord for health, wisdom and grace for Marcio and for wisdom for you and Josué as coordinators of the project in Latin America, for family life, that it may continue to be sustained, for the teamwork, the work in COMPA’s ministry, and of course for Gustavo, for Jouseth, we ask the Lord to strengthen them, to bless them. And in a very special way, we pray for this face-to-face consultation in Chile, which we are sure will be a celebration and a celebration. But, to tell the truth, I am a little envious that I will not be able to be there in September with you. But well… I hope to see photos, videos… and to be able to follow this meeting.  

Hey… One last question for Ale: how can the friends who are listening to us get involved with the work of science and theology that the Logos and Cosmos initiative is doing? 

Ale: Sure. Well look… You can visit our LCI website which is lci.ifesworld.org/en. There you can check our blog, you can click on one of the registration forms also to subscribe to the Maravillas newsletter. And well… In February 2023, we will open another cohort of Catalysts, there will be another selection process stay tuned! And… Finally… Very important also, you can take the “Engaging the University” course that opens now in October because this is one of the requirements, for example, to be able to apply to the LCI next year in 2023.  

Toto: This course is an online course, free of charge, which is on the IFES platform, right? 

Ale: That’s right! This same course that opens in October of this year and that opens every year really.  

Toto: A course that, if you’re not interested in participating and going deeper into the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, it’s worth doing anyway because it’s going to give you a platform or at least help you to start thinking about this how to connect academic life with spirituality, with your area of science and how to serve from there. Thanks for joining us! It was so interesting to hear a little bit more and learn about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative! I hope you have a good idea, or now at this point, a little more information about the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, the people involved, the dreams, the challenges. If you want to be part of it, don’t hesitate to go to the website that Ale told us about: lci.ifesworld.org/es. It is in Spanish, there you will be able to read the blog and also subscribe to the Maravillas newsletter that will update us, four times a year, a little of what is happening. Thank you Ale, thank you Marcio, thank you friends for listening to us! Don’t forget to subscribe to hear more about Voices of IFES and share this episode with anyone you think might be interested in the Logos and Cosmos initiative. God bless you! 

Projects in Latin America

New projects for 2023 – 2024

Moving students from reflection to action on the environmental crisis  

The environmental crisis is a global problem, but it is developing countries such as Guatemala that are already suffering the worst impacts. 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 a nation where 59 percent of people live in poverty.   

Photo of Venuz Perez Lopez
Venuz Perez Lopez

Climate change, as well as pollution, biodiversity loss and land degradation may seem like insurmountable problems but agricultural engineer Venuz Pérez López believes small actions can make a difference. Her project will sow the seeds of change, starting with students.  

Working with GEU, the IFES national movement in Guatemala, Venuz will organize a one-day forum for Christian and non-Christian students, providing a space for dialogue about the environmental crisis through the lenses of science, theology and indigenous peoples’ knowledge. Following this, she will design and deliver a five-month-long course to help students connect their faith with creation care and equip them to be protagonists in tackling the environmental crisis. Students will be guided in the development of their own socio-environmental projects to be implemented on their university campuses. 

–Venuz Pérez López is a lecturer in agronomy at the University of San Carlos of Guatemala and also works on creation care projects with a Christian ministry called The Ezra Centre. She is collaborating on this project with her husband Johnny Patal, who ran an LCI project in 2022 – 2023, which is described in the concluded projects section at the end of this page. 

New tools and trainings to equip student ministry to tackle mental health  

The mental health crisis among young people is a global problem that has been flagged by the World Health Organizaton, as well as by IFES in its Global Trends Report. The pandemic has only made the crisis more acute. In developing countries, such as Mexico, mental health is aggravated by poverty, violence and human rights violations. 

Photo of Moisés Elías Coreas Soto
Moisés Elías Coreas Soto

Dr Moisés Elías Coreas Soto is a Christian clinical psychologist who works with university students in Mexico. He believes that COMPA, the IFES national movement in Mexico, is at the frontlines of the mental health crisis and is strategically placed to respond. His project will equip COMPA staff with new resources that encourage a critical and integrative dialogue between psychology and faith, and ultimately aim to improve student wellbeing.  

The project will involve a survey to better understand student and staff attitudes toward mental health and their own experiences. Based on the findings, Moisés will develop a theoretical and practical manual for COMPA staff, equipping them to provide better pastoral accompaniment to students, including psychological first aid and an understanding of when to make referrals to mental health professionals. The manual will be coupled with a five-part, hybrid training program for COMPA staff, taught by Moisés and a team of psychologists and counsellors. 

— Dr Moisés Elías Coreas Soto holds a PhD in neuropsychology and is a clinical psychologist at the Polytechnic University of Querétaro. 

Human genome editing: moving the conversation from rightness to righteousness  

As scientists have developed faster, cheaper, and more precise methods to edit the human genome, 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.” 

Photo de Álvaro Pérez
Álvaro Pérez

Álvaro Pérez, a Christian biotechnologist from Ecuador, believes that gene editing is the exercise of our God-given creativity to love our neighbor as ourselves. Understanding how nature works and modifying it allows humans to play an active role in creation and not just be spectators. Nevertheless, the bioethical and theological aspects of this type of research needs further investigation and there is a vacuum of research on the topic in the Latin American context.  

Alvaro’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 CECE, 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. 

– Álvaro Pérez works in a research lab at the University of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador, and volunteers with CECE. 

Breaking bread: exploring the relationship between theology and food and nutrition security  

Access to food is a basic human need and a powerful lever for development. Yet projections show that the world is not on track to achieve the UN’s second Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030.  

Photo of Liliane Alcântara Araújo
Liliane Alcântara Araújo

Local faith communities often play a key role in knowing who is hungry and why and are well placed to meet these needs, according to a report for the UN World Food Programme. However, Liliane Alcântara Araújo, says that churches and Christian ministries need to go beyond emergency food give-aways and should gain a deeper understanding of food security (having enough to eat) and nutrition security (consistent and equitable access to healthy, safe, affordable foods).  

In 2022, she conducted a pilot study and found that church and student ministry leaders had difficulty connecting their faith with these issues. In response, Liliane’s project will help Chrisitan students learn more about the relationship between Christian theology and food and nutrition security and equip them to respond biblically. 

Working with ABUB, the IFES national movement in Brazil, the project will involve workshops at the regional and national level, exploring food production systems, the use of natural resources, economic systems and the physiological aspects of food. The workshops will be followed by a four-month-long mentoring program in which selected students will be guided through theoretical foundations, bible studies and the development of their own project proposals to respond to this problem in their context.  

— Liliane Alcântara Araújo is a regional staff worker with ABUB, the IFES national movement in Brazil and is also a secondary school teacher.  

Expanded projects continuing from last year (2022 – 2023):

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

The growing rejection of scientific facts among evangelical Christians in Brazil and Latin America has been a significant factor in low vaccination rates in the region, especially for the Covid-19 vaccine. At the same time, there is very little academic literature in Portuguese on the dialogue between the biomedical sciences, biotechnology and theology. Biologist Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveria’s project aims to promote dialogue between these three areas.  

Photo of Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira
Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira

In 2022 – 2023, Prisciliana launched a social media campaign linking biblical values with scientific information on vaccination. She also developed an eBook for students, containing a series of Bible studies on this subject, and led two courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students about theological approaches to vaccine development and other life-saving technologies. 

In 2023 – 2024, Prisciliana will train a network of Christian researchers in Brazil who will be “multiplier leaders.” They will be equipped to engage in dialogue between theology, and bioethics and vaccinology through health education and to communicate their research and career paths to Christian communities. Prisciliana will develop the eBook and awareness-raising materials that she created last year into a health education course about vaccines titled “Vaccines, values and truths,” and the “multiplier leaders” will be trained to deliver this course to national movements and churches. 

For a global impact, Prisciliana will produce two scientific articles: a review article about the role of Christian scientists in the control of infectious diseases, and an article presenting the findings of her project and the impact of the training and health education courses on vaccination rates.  

— Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira is a PhD student in tropical medicine at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and teaches immunology on a consultancy basis.

Watch a 3-minute video about Prisciliana’s project from 2022:

Equipping students to be agents of peace and justice in Latin America

Mexico and El Salvador are both listed in the top 10 countries with the lowest peace indexes in Latin America (Global Peace Index; 2022). Mexico is the 3rd most violent country in Latin America1, largely due to the “war on drugs2” between the government and drug cartels. Yet among Mexican evangelical Christians, there is little talk about justice and peace. A pilot study conducted by graduate student Sandra Márquez revealed that many students believe justice to be purely about law, and that peace is only about the absence of wars. 

In 2022 – 2023, Sandra collaborated with COMPA, the IFES movement in Mexico, to foster dialogue about faith, justice and peace, and empower Christian students to take active steps as peacebuilders. She led workshops to equip student leaders and ministry staff to develop initiatives to respond to social violence at the local and campus level. She organized an online academic forum, bringing together experts from theology, social sciences and civic initiatives to discuss violence in Mexico. Finally, she conducted a survey to understand student beliefs about war, justice and peace, and shared the findings in a scientific article.  

In 2023 – 2024, Sandra is collaborating with LCI Catalysts Areli Cortez and Remy Ocon on an expanded project that focuses on social and gender-based violence in both Mexico and El Salvador. Last year, during her project, Sandra identified a need to understand more about Christian attitudes towards gender to develop strategies to prevent gender-based violence in relationships among university students.  

The project will develop a peace-building training seminar for students and staff of the national movements in these countries. Students will also be invited to take part in two service projects in conjunction with NGOs working on issues of injustice and violence. The team will conduct a study on attitudes towards gender equity, gender violence and biblical perspectives on gender among those involved in the two national movements. The results will be shared in an academic journal article.  

Photo of Sandra Márquez Olvera
Sandra Márquez Olvera
Photo of Areli Cortez
Areli Cortez
Photo of Remy Ocón
Remy Ocón

 — Sandra Márquez Olvera is studying for a PhD in community psychology at the Autonomous University of the State of Morelos, Mexico and is also a university lecturer. Areli Cortez is a history and anthropology of religion student in Mexico and Remy Ocón is a sociology student in El Salvador. 

Watch a 2-minute video about Sandra’s project from 2022:

Developing a network to equip Christian researchers for theology-science dialogue 

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

Photo of Deborah Vieira
Deborah Vieira

In response to this, in 2022 – 2023, Deborah worked with ABUB, the IFES movement in Brazil, to establish a 7-month-long theology and the sciences mentoring network called Emmaus. The mentoring program connected Christian undergraduate students with mentors who are further ahead in their academic careers. Participants exchanged experiences in the face of similar challenges and explored how to better connect their faith with their academic discipline. Deborah trained the mentors and designed a curriculum based on what she learned at the LCI. 

In 2023 – 2024, Deborah will continue her project by launching a network of Christian researchers connected with ABUB, equipping them to promote dialogue and aim for a long-term impact on the way Brazilian Christians understand science. 

Taking the learning from her successful mentoring program, Deborah will organize a 3-day conference to kick-off the development of the researcher network. Held at a public university, the first two days of the conference will be open to Christian and non-Christian students and researchers and will focus on cultivating intellectual virtues and building bridges between one’s discipline and faith.

On the final day, Deborah will convene a working group to launch the researcher network. Videos of conference sessions will be published on the national movement’s social media channels and Deborah will produce a booklet about the conference themes which will be available on the national movement’s website. 

— Deborah Vieira holds a master’s degree in literature and has worked in publishing. She is a volunteer with several arts initiatives at ABUB Brazil. 

Watch a 2-minute video about Deborah’s project from 2022:

Launching a research and mentoring group for mothers at the intersection of science and theology 

Many women have successful academic careers but little research has been published specifically on the experiences of Christian women in academia. A pilot study conducted by Lorena Brondani in 2021 in Argentina raised many questions on the triangular intersection among women’s academic work, Christian faith and their gender and family roles. 

Photo of Lorena Brondani
Lorena Brondani’

In 2022 – 2023, Lorena partnered with the IFES movement in Argentina to conduct an exploratory study which captured and shared the life stories of six Argentinian women academics through a series of short audio-visual clips, an e-book and a short film. The goal was to demonstrate how academic work, faith and gender roles can complement and enrich each other, and to encourage young Christian, female students who hope to pursue academic careers. 

During the project, Lorena identified a need for further research specifially on the needs and contributions of Christian female academics who are navigating motherhood and academia.

She also identified a need for a space in which Latin American Christian mother-scholars can share stories, skills, resources, achievements and challenges and be equipped through training, resources and mentoring. 

In 2023 – 2024, her project will take on a regional scope with the creation of a mutual mentoring and research network for approximately ten Latin American mother-scholars. The goal is for the women to be encouraged and equipped to reflect and write about their academic performance, family, motherhood and rest – a topic that has received very little research attention in Latin America. Over a ten-month period, they will meet to explore the intersection between motherhood, spirituality and academia. They will participate in online meetings and book clubs, and will be offered mentoring, funding for training and funds and resources for an individual spiritual retreat.  

Alongside this, Lorena will develop a database of Christian women academics (not only mothers) who are connected to national movements in the region in order to explore the beginnings of a wider scholarly support network.  

— Lorena Brondani is a PhD student in social communication at the Graduate School of Communication at University Austral. 

Watch a 2-minute video about Lorena’s project from 2022:

Concluded projects from 2022 – 2023

Working towards human flourishing amid the climate crisis in Guatemala

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

Photo of Johnny Patal
Johnny Patal

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

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

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

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

Watch a 2-minute video about Johnny’s project from 2022:

Exploring how spirituality and virtues impact the scientific profession in Chile

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

Photo of Pablo Gutierrez
Pablo Gutierrez

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

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

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

Watch a 1-minute video about Pablo’s project from 2022:

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

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

Photo of Areli Cortez
Areli Cortez

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

The project included curriculum development and training for COMPA staff and volunteers who  delivered the course. In parallel, Areli explored the same themes in an academic article that was presented at a colloquium at her university.  

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

Watch a 1-minute long video about Areli’s project from 2022:

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

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

Photo of Remy Ocon
Remy Ocón

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

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

She extended her 2021 pilot project research into a full study. This informed the development of a manual that brought together perspectives from social sciences and the bible. It was disseminated through workshops for students, a podcast and printed materials.  

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

Watch a 2-minute video about Remy’s project from 2022:

Theology and the arts research program in Brazil

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

Photo of Marcio Lima
Marcio Lima

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

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

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

Watch a 2-minute video about Marcio’s project from 2022:

Art and Word in Ecuador

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

Photo of Isabela Pineda
Isabela Pineda

Isabela Pineda’s project had three axes: theology, aesthetics and artistic production in community. She developed and delivered a free, digital learning module on the dialogue between art and theology in the Latin American context, and students contributed to its production.  

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

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

Watch a 2-minute video about Isabela’s project from 2022:

Footnotes:

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

Pilot projects explore some of the world’s most pressing challenges 

Environmental issues, poverty, war and public health were among the topics explored as Catalysts conducted pilot projects in January. 

The pilot projects are an important stepping stone toward the larger projects that Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI) participants are planning to lead on their university campuses in conjunction with their IFES national movement. Their projects are diverse in scope but share a common thread: to spark curiosity and wonder about theology and the sciences, and how they complement each other. The Catalysts’ projects will help students and scholars to connect the good news of Jesus with their academic disciplines, and inspire these young people to bring gospel-centred change to their universities, disciplines, the church and society.   

In Latin America, Sandra Marquez wanted to find out more about young people’s views on war, peace and justice in Central Mexico. Sandra said:  

“It’s a dangerous region. I surveyed more than 100 students and analyzed their responses based on their faith background and their level of involvement in the national student movement. The results raise questions such as: how we can work towards peace if we have no opinion on war and violence? How do different groups define justice and peace?” 

She plans to run workshops for university students that will draw together social science and theology around these issues that are so prevalent in central Mexico.     

Photo of Sandra Marquez
Sandra Marquez

Elsewhere across Latin America, other Catalysts’ pilot projects focused on ideas such as an online game to help bridge the perceived gap between science and faith, and the development of resources to help students make wise decisions about getting vaccinated. Another Catalyst is planning workshops that would bring together Christians and non-Christians to explore faith, science and sustainable development.  

Photo of students having lunch after cleaning up their campus
Students share a meal after cleaning up their campus

The pilot projects were a useful opportunity for Catalysts to test and refine their ideas. They will also be used in the selection process as Catalysts apply to advance onto the second year of the LCI program, which starts in April. Those who are successful will receive funding and support to run their full-scale projects over the next year. 

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Johnny Ngunza ran a pilot project to help students in GBU, the IFES national movement, reflect on the biblical mandate for creation care (Genesis 2:15). He wanted to help them explore how this relates to health and erosion control within the university that he founded (Another Sound of Africa University, which was previously covered in Prayerline). After reflecting on Scripture, the students took part in a two-day gardening and clean-up project on the campus grounds. Johnny said:  

“I want to encourage students that nothing prevents us from thinking in the light of the Scriptures to find solutions to our problems and to show that major environmental issues can be dealt with in the light of Scripture without taking away from scientific rigor.” 

In Senegal, Albertine Bayompe Kabou surveyed 12 students to help understand the causes of poverty among students. The results revealed many factors: social-cultural, environmental, economic, psychological and religious reasons. Her results will guide the development of her upcoming project, which aims to help fight poverty while also sharing the light of the gospel. 

It’s no accident that some of the big issues that Catalysts have chosen to tackle are some of their countries’ most pressing challenges. A central pillar of the LCI’s mission is to equip young scholars and their national movements to bring theological and scientific perspectives together to address these kinds of challenges, and ultimately to help bring God’s kingdom here on earth.  

Before they designed their projects, many Catalysts took inspiration from the IFES Global Trends Report,  published in 2020, which identifies eleven global trends that are most likely to affect student ministry over the coming years. Last November, Catalysts worked in groups to explore one of these global trends and presented their findings at one of the LCI’s online workshops. 

Over the last few months, Catalysts have received valuable training in project management, collaboration with stakeholders and monitoring and evaluation – all designed to help them turn their vision into reality. But the emphasis has always been on both careful and prayerful planning.  

“In addition to all the training they have received, we have reminded the Catalysts not to forget to pray,” said LCI Curriculum Manager Dr Stephen Ney. “As with all our projects, we can put the blueprints for these projects into God’s hands and ask Him to refine them and use them to shape us.” 

Laying the foundations for catalysts to bring change

A diverse cohort of students and scholars– all of them passionate about applying their Christian faith to their academic discipline – joined IFES’ new Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI) in April. Since then, these 36 “catalysts” have benefited from a transformational program of mentoring and training. 

So far, the catalysts have taken part in three online workshops, two e-courses and journeyed together through an online training platform that connects participants from 22 countries across Latin America and Francophone Africa. The goal is to equip these young leaders to run projects that will foster dialogue between theology and the sciences in their universities and local contexts. 

For seismologist Jonás De Basabe, who you may remember from this October edition of IFES Prayerline, the Introduction to Science & Theology e-course was particularly impactful this year.  

“The course gave me the tools to understand the relationship between my faith and academic work, and challenged me to analyze this relationship from a biblical perspective,” said Jonás, who is from Mexico.  

“It left me with a sense that we can meaningfully contribute as Christian scientists to our church and society,” Jonas said. “It also encouraged me to let my academic research be more inspired by the values of the kingdom of God.” 

Photo of Jonas De Basabe
Catalyst Jonás De Basabe from Mexico

For some, it was being part of a learning community that has been most powerful. 

“Being part of the LCI made me realize (as Elijah did) that I am not alone in this journey,” said Deborah Vieira. She recently completed her master’s in literature and now volunteers with several art initiatives with ABUB, the national student movement in Brazil.  

“I was encouraged that there are other Christian students desiring to delve into the Word of God and science in such an intense way so that not only the testimony of their work and experience can testify to Jesus, but the scientific production itself too.” 

In addition to learning about theology of science and biblical hermeneutics, the Logos and Cosmos Initiative is an integrated program. It trains catalysts in the knowledge, skills and character needed to thrive in whole-life discipleship, which includes their academic lives.  

Photo of Deborah Vieira
Catalyst Deborah Vieira from Brazil

Photo of Isaac Daama in graduation regalia
Catalyst Isaac Daama at his recent graduation

Isaac Daama, a geologist from Cameroon, says his studies through the LCI helped him succeed in his recent, six-hour-long PhD defence: it helped him to be a good listener. John Stott’s advice about attentive listening in his book The Contemporary Christian stayed with Isaac long past the assignment he did on this book in May.  

“This chapter taught me how to really listen to what my questioners and respondents were saying,” Isaac said. “It helped me be fully open to them and to not be quick to defend myself or stress my point.” 

Isaac now plans to apply to be a researcher and teacher at his university. “I believe this is where God is calling me for mission,” he said. “My training at the LCI has equipped me sufficiently to engage there as an academic, ready to fully interact with the university for its transformation.” 

His PhD may be complete but, Isaac continues to progress through a personal development plan as part of his training as a catalyst. Top of his list is developing his English skills since Cameroon’s official languages are English and French.  

“If I want to be excellent in my discipline, English is a must,” he said. “My university environment is more and more bilingual so it will also help me to better dialogue about my Christian faith.” 

The catalysts are now on the cusp of an exciting new phase: planning their first projects. Most recently, the catalysts have been conducting field research, pilot projects and consultations with their national movement. Their projects, which could take the form of conferences, publishing initiatives and scholarly networks, will launch in Spring 2022.  

Isaac, for example, wants to start a science and theology group on his university campus. “This ‘cell’ will incubate Christian students for an inclusive, prophetic, constructive dialogue for the glory of Christ,” he said.  

While the current catalysts will apply to progress onto the second year of this five-year program in Spring, the LCI will also be accepting applications for more catalysts. Applications open on 1 February 2022 on the LCI website.   

Please pray with us for the Logos and Cosmos Initiative and the catalysts: 

  • Thank God for the catalysts and their passion to live as disciples of Jesus in their academic communities 
  • Pray for wisdom for the catalysts as they plan their projects and for fruitful collaborations with their national movements 
  • Pray that God would draw the right candidates to apply for the next phase of the program  

The apologetic scientist

God had the answers. Jonas just knew it.  

Though he came from a family of atheists and agnostics, he could never quite deny the existence of God. At 15 years old, he heard the gospel in a small church in Tijuana, Mexico and gave his life to Christ. 

As he grew in his faith, he started to have questions. He did not carry the same skepticism as his family, but he was very interested in apologetics. Frustratingly, he had no one to share this interest with. In his church, they considered having questions as evidence of a lack of faith. Jonas learned to keep his concerns to himself. 

Jonas found peers when he went to university. He helped begin the first student movement in Baja California, which soon became part of the Mexican national student movement, COMPA. 

His friends from COMPA encouraged him to search the Bible for answers. Through their influence he also discovered apologetic authors like C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. Jonas says, 

Photo of Jonas De Basabe

“It gave me great enthusiasm to know that faith is not irrational. On the contrary, I understood that we must include the mind in our devotion to God in order to love Him with all our being.” 

Since leaving university in 1998, he has helped countless students address similar questions. He served as a student leader with COMPA, then as a volunteer. He has also started new apologetic groups around the region. Now working as a researcher, he wants to help students develop an integrated view of science and faith. He became a “Catalyst” in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI), a program from the IFES Engaging the University ministry, receiving mentorship, resources, and support to bring his ideas to fruition. 

“With the help of Logos and Cosmos, I would like to be able to get in touch with Christian and non-Christian students who are struggling with scientific or pseudo-scientific questions about faith and help them find answers and harmonize university knowledge with what they learn in the Bible. I believe it is possible to have an integrated view of reality by doing justice to the Bible and science.”   

Jonas hopes to start small groups and reading circles to discuss issues of science and faith. He is also interested in using his research to explore the theological implications of mathematics, hoping that it will give him opportunities to share his faith with his colleagues and students.  

Pray with us for Jonas and the other LCI Catalysts integrating their faith with academics. 

  • The university where Jonas works is mainly focused on research and graduate studies. This means that it can be difficult to find undergraduate students. Pray that God will lead Jonas to undergraduates who are seeking spiritual answers.  
  • Pray that Jonas will have many spiritual conversations with his colleagues through his research.  
  • Pray for students who have big questions about faith. Pray that they will meet someone like Jonas who can guide them towards answers in Scripture.  

Want to meet Jonas for yourself? Watch this video and hear him explain why he was excited to join the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. 

INTRODUCING YOU TO ONE OF OUR CATALYSTS: Jonás from mexico

Jonás De Basabe is a professor in Earth Sciences and a researcher in the Seismology department at his university in Mexico. He has been involved with COMPA (the IFES movement in Mexico) since he started as a student in 1996, and has kept in touch, staying committed to what COMPA does and acting as a supporter.

Jonás struggled with the disconnect between faith and science as a teenager where questioning one’s faith was viewed as spiritual doubt and was discouraged. He has discovered that faith answers many questions that science raises and vice versa and his hope is to bring these discussions into normal academic life to give both Christian and non-Christian students an integrated view of reality. 

Here he shares how he is benefiting from being a Catalyst in the Logos and Cosmos Initiative.