Latest news: tackling food insecurity, GEARING UP for CAMPUS events

Photo of Liliane Alcântara Araújo
Liliane Alcântara Araújo

Year Three is well underway, and Catalysts are forging ahead with their theology and the sciences projects.

In July, Brazilian Catalyst Liliane Alcântara Araújo led a workshop about faith and food security at her national movement’s regional holiday course. She was energized by the positive response from the 30 students and professionals who attended.  

“It was encouraging to see people from different backgrounds showing an interest in the intersection between food and nutrition security and faith,” Liliane says. “They asked a lot of questions and were very curious to know more about it.” 

The workshop (see right) was just the first step in her project. Liliane is now preparing to lead a four-month-long mentoring program in which she will guide selected students through theoretical foundations, Bible studies and the development of project proposals that respond biblically to the problem of food and nutrition security in their own contexts. Brazil is one of the world’s leading agricultural producers, but income inequality and the high inflation of food prices means that food insecurity has plagued millions of poor Brazilians, causing suffering and loss of life. 

Photo of workshop in Brazil
Liliane’s workshop

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Johnny Ngunza, is taking the university out into rural communities. He is mobilizing students from his national movement and community members to provide agronomy training to residents. The training will help residents develop small gardens outside their homes that will increase the quality and quantity of their food supply.  This is crucial in the DRC’s insecure environment where fighting continues, and it is often not safe for residents to travel to their fields far from their homes.    

Demonstration gardens have already been planted in two villages; 150 households have been selected to participate in the project; and GBU staff have been trained and have selected student volunteers. One important aspect has been the cultural sensitivity with which they have initiated the project.  

Photo of residents receiving gardening supplies
Residents receiving supplies
Photo of a gardening demonstration plot in the DRC
Demonstration plot

“To train the target households, we selected local facilitators who serve as our interface with the local communities,” Johnny explains. “These are people such as teachers and local intellectuals who live in the villages, who speak the local language perfectly and who act as ‘transmitters’ during the training sessions. At the residents’ request, the work in our demonstration gardens is being monitored by local agronomists who live in the villages. We also made a point of contacting the traditional authorities to explain our vision for the communities.” 

While some Catalysts have already held events and activities, others have spent the last few months building the spiritual and scientific foundations of their projects, for example by conducting research, planning events, developing partnerships and taking training courses. All of this has helped them gear up for the coming months when their plans will come to fruition in the form of workshops, conferences, courses and mentoring schemes, as well as the development of scholarly articles. 

In Senegal for example, economist Dr Albertine Bayompe Kabou has taken a course in entrepreneurial mindset and transformational leadership that will equip her to coach a group of students in entrepreneurship as part of her project. She has also developed a partnership with a local NGO that will help the students in her project develop business plans that will turn their ideas into reality.  

Meanwhile, the new cohort of Catalysts that are progressing through the LCI’s training and development year have been busy conducting pilot projects in preparation for the full theology and the sciences projects that they may lead next year.  

Remember to check out our projects webpages for short summaries of all our current projects. 

Please pray with us: 

  • Pray for peace and stability in Catalysts’ countries and universities. A number of Catalysts’ universities have been closed recently due to political unrest.   
  • Pray for Catalysts’ projects, many of which have large events in the coming months, that they will transform students, universities, national movements and societies for the glory of Christ. 
  • Pray for wisdom for the Tier One Catalysts as they plan their projects for next year. 

Projects in Francophone Africa

New projects for 2023 – 2024

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

Oral traditions are part of the African way of life but they’re particularly important in Burundi, where only 75 percent of the adult population is literate, and there is still a gender gap in literacy rates. Burundi has a rich oral tradition in which history, culture and life lessons are passed down through the generations through tales, fables, riddles, dances and music. 

Photo of Laurent Kayogera
Laurent Kayogera

Laurent Kayogera’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 is used in order to extract lessons for the future, for improved communication in such areas as university teaching, churches and UGBB, the IFES national movement in Burundi.  

Laurent’s study will involve conducting surveys among students and staff at the University of Burundi and a one-day workshop on the contribution of oral communication in scientific, theological and cultural training. 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 with lower literacy levels. The results of the study will be published in a scholarly article. 

— Laurent Kayogera holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and is the training coordinator for UGBB. 

Learning from the Mousgoum people’s approach to ecology and construction 

Finding more sustainable construction methods in the face of the global environmental crisis has never been more relevant. In Cameroon, traditional building methods using mud and straw have often been rejected in favour of “modern” methods using imported concrete. But graduate student Bernard Kola argues that the Mousgoum people’s dome-shaped mud huts could be an environmentally savvy model for Cameroon more broadly.   

Photo of Bernard Kola
Bernard Kola

Soil is an abundant, affordable, locally available and renewable building material which helps regulate the temperature and humidity inside the building, leading to a more comfortable home and increased energy efficiency.  

Bernard’s project will raise awareness about the advantages of these traditional construction methods and promote the idea of Christian creation care. He will conduct a research study to learn more about these building techniques. The results will then be shared in a series of workshops and conferences on his university campus, provoking dialogue about science, faith and culture.  

— Bernard Kola is a PhD student in mechanics, materials and energy at the University of Manoua in Cameroon. He also works at a renewable energy research centre and volunteers with GBEEC, his IFES national movement. 

Investigating the role of religion in the geography and development of central Benin 

Religion affects people’s lifestyles, symbols and rhythms, which, in turn, are inscribed upon the landscape. Yet geographers have often paid little attention to the role of religion. 

Photo of Camille Yabi
Camille Yabi

Christian geographer Camille Yabi says that in his home country of Benin, Christians and Muslims coexist peacefully, but little research has explored how religion has structured the territory. National development policies and strategies fail to mention the role of religion. In addition, Camille says that the way that black Africans were evangelized in the past has left them with a form of Christianity that is “ghettoized.” Christians are discouraged from engaging in dialogue between their faith and their environment and culture (including traditional African religions).  

Camille will conduct a cultural geography research project at the intersection of faith and environment. Through fieldwork, literature reviews and archival research, he will explore how Christians have had an imprint on the design and development of space in central Benin. The area of study includes communities with many places of pilgrimage and Christian worship. Camille will be assisted in the research by a group of students from GBEEB, the IFES national movement, who will receive training in research ethics and methods. 

The results will be shared with the scientific community, churches and the national movement through two public conferences, and will be developed into an article for a scientific journal.  

— Camille Yabi is studying for a master’s in geography and environmental management. He is also an advisor to GBEEB and formerly served as General Secretary. 

Making E-learning work for Francophone Africa: anthropological and theological reflections 

Online and hybrid courses became mainstays of education across the world during the pandemic. And even before Covid, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) had become popular in higher education. Despite e-learning’s advantages in terms of accessibility, flexibility and cost, educators are beginning to research its advantages and disadvantages, but so far these studies have only been in a western context. Few studies have examined e-learning in the African context. Those that have done so have focused only on the technical difficulties and not on the cultural and anthropological aspects.  

Photo of David Mouandjo
David Mouandjo

Training expert David Mouandjo aims to find out how e-learning can be made to work effectively for French-speaking African students. He is interested in such questions as: how can e-learning be used for discipleship and character formation? How can e-learning take into account diverse learning styles? And how can e-learning be brought in line with African anthropological approaches to training? 

David will conduct a research study which will provide an anthropological and theological reflection on e-learning within GBUAF, the IFES Francophone Africa region which includes 19 national student movements.  

His study will involve theoretical research as well as an evaluation and review of IFES’ existing online courses in the region, including interviews and surveys with instructors and participants. The findings will inform the production of guidelines which will be shared with regional and national leaders. The results will also be applied to IFES’ French-speaking Engaging the University course.  

 
— David Mouandjo is the national manager for training, leadership development and scripture interaction for GBEEC, the IFES national movement in Cameroon. He is also studying for a PhD in theology. 

Psychosocial and theological approaches to the mental health of students traumatized by war 

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has experienced decades of conflict and violence since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960. Today, fighting continues among more than 100 armed groups in the east of the country where United Nations forces are struggling to keep the peace.  

Photo of Sarah Obotela
Sarah Obotela

Catalyst Sarah Obotela estimates that more than 80 percent of the population is impacted by the conflict, either directly or indirectly. Many have migrated to more stable areas of the country but are left with the scars of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  

Through interviews and surveys, Sarah will conduct a research study investigating how the trauma of war has affected the mental health of students in her city, Kisangani. The city has been a hub of higher education and research since the 1950s, but experienced violence from 1960 until the early 2000s. Her study will include such issues as gender differences and intergenerational trauma.  

Affected students will be offered a listening session with a psychologist and will also be invited to a debate for victims and their families to discuss the issues and challenges around coping and integrating into society. Sarah will publish her results in a scientific journal article and will also organize a conference with African experts in conflict, psychiatry and sociology. At the national level, her findings are expected to help the national movement to minister to students in a more holistic way.  

— Sarah Obotela is studying for a master’s degree in sociology, works as an assistant to a sociology lecturer and works part-time for her IFES national movement.  

Climate change and biodiversity: understanding perceptions, promoting creation care 

Climate change induced by human activity is now a global reality, recognized by the vast majority of scientists and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). One of the major consequences of climate change is the loss of biodiversity. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), climate change is a threat to almost one fifth of species that are under threat of extinction and are included on the IUCN’s “Red List.”. Biodiversity is currently being lost at a rate 1,000 times the natural rate (UNESCO).   

Photo of Sambo Ouedraogo
Sambo Ouedraogo

Christian ecologist Dr Sambo Ouedraogo says that in Africa, it’s not just scientists and politicians that have a key role to play in tackling climate change: culture and religion are also important forces to be considered. He believes many Christians need to understand that their faith is rooted in the earth and that Christians can honour God by valuing and preserving creation.  

The goal of Sambo’s project is to promote a Christian approach to creation care. He will conduct a study, surveying leaders of churches, Christian organizations and UGBB, the IFES national movement, to understand more about Christian values and attitudes towards climate change and biodiversity conservation. He will work with a master’s student and several undergraduates who will receive training in theology and science. He will publish his findings in a scientific journal article.  

Finally, Sambo will promote Christian approaches to creation care by organizing a national conference on this topic, in partnership with UGBB, and publishing a best practice guide.  

Dr Sambo Ouedraogo recently completed a PhD in plant biology and ecology and is now a teacher-researcher at the Norbert Zongo University in Burkina Faso. He also serves on the board of directors of his national movement. 

Expanded projects continuing from last year (2022 – 2023)

Christian and scientific perspectives on controversial mining techniques in Cameroon 

Science tells us that the distribution and location of mineral deposits is a function of geological processes that took place over millions of years ago. In contrast, in mineral-rich Cameroon, many artisanal miners hold traditional African religious beliefs about where minerals can be found. Their practices involve animal sacrifices and prayers to plead with the gods to open up the earth for them. Artisanal miners are usually poor, disadvantaged individuals who use hand-tools to dig for gold, diamonds and other precious stones. It is risky, dangerous work and they sell their finds on the black market.  

Photo of Isaac Daama
Isaac Daama

These practices are a matter of debate among university researchers: some believe it is a cheap technique and that it is an “African science.” But this approach to mining has an environmental cost: ecosystems are destroyed as miners move from site to site, following the will of the gods. 

In partnership with GBEEC, the IFES national movement, geologist Dr Isaac Daama is leading a project that draws together scientific and Christian perspectives on these controversial mining techniques. 

In 2022-2023, Isaac interviewed artisanal miners as part of his fieldwork for this project. His research informed his series of lectures, workshops and discussions at his university campus to promote dialogue about these traditional methods.  

In 2023 – 2024, Isaac is continuing his research by interviewing miners and university-training geologists about their beliefs about these mining practices. He will publish his findings in a journal article. Isaac and his team will also conduct a campaign to raise miners’ awareness of the risks of their work to their health and the natural environment. At his university, Isaac will host a training course to equip students in science-theology dialogue and will organize two discussion workshops to encourage students and researchers to have a balanced and respectful view of the traditional African beliefs they have grown up with whilst also recognizing their limitations.  

— Dr Isaac Daama is assistant professor of geology and mining at the University of Ngaoundere in Cameroon.   

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

Architecture, culture and creation: landscape recomposition strategies for habitat improvement 

Soil erosion is one of the problems that accompanies Africa’s urban transition—the development of peri-urban areas where the city meets the countryside. Erosion leads to pollution, soil degradation, habitat loss and human property loss.  

Photo of Johnny Ngunza
Johnny Ngunza

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2022 – 2023, Johnny Ngunza used his expertise as an architect, academic and founder of a local university to lead a project to prevent and control of erosion in the city of Beni. In partnership with GBU, his IFES national movement, Johnny mobilized students and residents to implement anti-erosion techniques, inspired by the Christian call to creation care.  

The project trained 20 student volunteers who transformed a demonstration plot on Johnny’s university campus. They built retaining walls, landscaped the plot and planted cash crops, such as vanilla and cabbage, that stabilized the soil and provided a source of income for the volunteers and for the future of the project. Through community outreach events, these low-cost, sustainable erosion-control methods were shared with residents and civic leaders. 

While working with local residents, Johnny discovered that their most pressing priority was poverty and lack of food. So, in 2023 – 2024, he has shifted his project’s focus to food security. In an effort to take the university out into rural communities, the project will mobilize students from the national movement to provide agronomy trainings to help residents develop small gardens outside their homes that will both prevent erosion and increase the quality and quantity of their food supply. This is crucial in this unsecure environment in which it is often not safe for residents to travel to their fields far from their homes.  

Johnny will also host workshops at his university to promote dialogue on science, Christianity and culture and will write an article for a theology journal about how these three perspectives relate to the issue of landscape development.  

— Johnny Ngunza is an architect, working as a lecturer and researcher at a university he founded in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

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

Empowering students to escape from poverty through entrepreneurship 

Senegal is poor partly because of its reliance on agriculture, vulnerability to climate variations and failed development policies, but religious attitudes also play a role. Research conducted by economist Dr Albertine Bayompe Kabou suggests that religious beliefs (Islamic, animist and Christian) have a significant influence on students’ mindset and actions related to poverty and can be an important lever in supporting people to be agents of change in their own exit from poverty.  

Photo of Albertine Bayompe Kabou
Albertine Bayompe Kabou

Albertine is working with GBU Senegal, the IFES national movement, on a project which is empowering students to be actors in their own escape from poverty.  

In 2022 – 2023, she organized a conference in which students learned about the environmental, social, economic and religious factors that perpetuate student poverty and discussed strategies for their own fight against poverty.  

Based on her expertise in economics and her own personal experience, Albertine believes that entrepreneurship is a key tool in fighting poverty and preparing students for life after university. Throughout her own student career, Albertine was involved in entrepreneurial activities including beekeeping and market gardening. Yet many university students mock those who get involved in such activities and believe that work that isn’t office-based is only for the less educated.   

In 2023 – 2024, Albertine’s project will seek to change attitudes about student entrepreneurship and empower students to use their God-given talents and training through entrepreneurship. She will conduct a study investigating the role of religious education in inspiring entrepreneurship and exploring which models of entrepreneurship are best suited for students who need to balance this work with their studies. She will coach a group of students in entrepreneurship. Lastly, she will share the results of her study with students in a conference at her university.  

— Dr Albertine Bayompe Kabou holds a PhD in economics and is a university lecturer in Senegal. 

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

Harnessing science and theology to tackle student mental health 

In Côte D’Ivoire, there are many pressures that contribute to mental health problems among university students: poverty, unemployment, experiences of violence and human rights violations during the nation’s 2011 political crisis; and divisions among students due to socio-economic, ethnic and religious differences.    

Mental health has taken its toll on students yet there is little awareness about it. In 2022, graduate student Nina Ble Toualy conducted a pilot survey of students and found that 80 percent of them had at least one symptom of a mental health struggle without realizing it.  

Nina is collaborating with GBUCI, the IFES movement in Côte d’Ivoire, on a project that draws together biblical and scientific perspectives to promote good mental health among students at her university.  

In 2022 – 2023, Nina conducted a study to better understand the situation; organized awareness-raising seminars and a conference for students and churches; and partnered with mental health NGOs to provide free counselling and mental health support to students. Alongside this professional support, Nina trained Christian students to provide peer support and equipped volunteers to lead Bible studies and debates about mental health.  

In 2023 – 2024, Nina is continuing her project and is collaborating with two other LCI Catalysts: Eustache Hounyèmè and Geneviève Guei. This year’s activities include a study on anxiety and depression, exploring how genetic and environmental factors contribute to these conditions. The findings will be developed into a scientific article. Nina and her collaborators will work with professionals and students to provide free mental health support that takes into account the African and university cultural context and helps students build resilience. Lastly, she will organize a conference in which the national movement and university authorities and groups can explore how to create a culture of prevention.  

Photo of Nina Ble Toualy
Nina Ble Toualy
Photo of Eustache Hounyèmè
Eustache Hounyèmè
Photo of Geneviève Guei
Geneviève Guei

— Nina Ble Toualy is a doctoral student in criminology at The University of Félix Houphouët-Boigny in Côte D’Ivoire. She is collaborating on the project with Tier Two Catalysts: Eustache Hounyèmè, a PhD student in genetics and molecular biology and Geneviève Guei, a PhD student in Conflict and Peace Management. 

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

Concluded projects from 2022 – 2023

Equipping animal scientists to be agents of change in Rwanda 

Feeding the world’s rapidly expanding population is one of the global challenges of the 21st century. Global food insecurity currently affects more than a billion people. Animal science—the study of domestic livestock care and breeding—plays an important role in meeting this challenge. It can help find innovative and efficient farming methods which are much needed in the face of land, water and energy scarcity, especially in developing countries. 

Onesphore Hakizimana

Graduate student Onesphore Hakizimana’s project aimed to create awareness among students, academics and professionals in the animal science field about the mutually enriching relationship between their discipline and Christianity. He worked with GBUR Rwanda, the IFES national movement, to lead a series of discussion groups, debates, and workshops on his university campus and developed a toolkit containing written materials and videos. All the project activities combined scientific, theological and development perspectives with an African perspective on animals in order to equip students and researchers to promote food security and fight poverty in Rwanda.   

— Onesphore Hakizimana is a graduate student in animal sciences at the University of Rwanda. 

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

Promoting dialogue on theology and the sciences among students and researchers in Benin 

Graduate student Faustin Dokui conducted a survey of graduate students, teachers, and staff – from various faith backgrounds – at his university to understand what  common questions they have about how religious and scientific fields interact. 

Photo of Faustin Dokui
Faustin Dokui

Building on his findings, Faustin worked with GBEEB Benin, the IFES national movement, to train students on Benin’s university campuses as dialogue leaders in theology and the sciences. The training explored the value of university studies and the specific contributions of each discipline from a Christian theological perspective,  

The project included five training sessions for students in the national movement, with material drawn from the Logos and Cosmos Initiative training curriculum. Alongside this, Faustin developed materials to equip each small group bible study group on his campus to run regular bible studies about science and theology.  

— Faustin Dokui recently completed a doctorate in animal resource management at the University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin. 

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

The origin of humankind: interactions among scientific, biblical and African cultural perspectives 

Understanding the origins of humankind and our place in the cosmos has been one of society’s big questions since ancient times. The debate about whether Christianity and biological evolution are compatible is well known but in Africa, there are also cultural perspectives on these big questions. 

Photo of Nou Poudiougo
Nou Poudiougo

In Mali, the Dogon are an ethnic people group with their own languages, religious beliefs and knowledge about the cosmos. According to Dogon creation mythology,  the god Ama created all matter in the universe. Today, some Dogon have become Christians or Muslims. 

Working with GBEEM Mali, the IFES national movement, biologist Nou Poudiougo conducted a research project that helped improve our understanding of the origin of humankind from biblical, scientific and cultural (Dogon) perspectives. Nou’s study explored the similarities, differences and interactions between these three areas of knowledge. The project included a literature review and surveys of cosmologists, anthropologists, pastors and other professionals. A seminar with GBEEM students gathered Christian students’ perspectives on the origin of humankind and also equipped them to engage in constructive dialogue on this topic. Nou will present his findings in a scholarly article. 

— Nou Poudiougo is an assistant professor of ecology at Bamako University in Mali. 

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

Catalyst Perspectives: Are Christianity and science opposed? 

In the first blogpost in our new Catalyst Perspectives series, PhD student Albertine Bayompe Kabou from Senegal shares how her perspective on the relationship between Christianity and science has evolved.

Albert Einstein once said that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind1.” But for me, I grew up with the idea that science and religion are opposites. My father is a retired teacher and I’m from a Catholic family so my studies were always on one side and going to church was on the other side.  

This dichotomy was reinforced when I went to university. Academics there said that Christians didn’t like science, based on the trial of Galileo2. The Italian astronomer was tried and condemned by the Catholic Church for promoting the theory that the earth revolves around the sun. I later discovered that Galileo was a believer and his discoveries were not a contradiction between science and the bible but between science and interpretations of the bible. 

Evidence was another issue that came up at university. People said: “Have you seen God? Do you have evidence?” Science is based on the observation of things. But those things did not appear by chance. They are created by God. And I have come to believe that God is the master of science. 

“Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?”
(Job 37: 16)

The Bible tells us that God is the one whose science is perfect. The book of Job says: “Stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37: 14-16) 

Should we say that the one who has perfect science (God) is also against it? No! On the contrary, the Word of God encourages us to seek understanding by relying on Him. Proverbs 8:10-11 says: “Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” 

I came to Christ as an undergraduate but everything changed for me during my PhD when I encountered Impact, the IFES group for researchers in Senegal. Here, I was finally told that I could glorify God by serving him with my studies. As an economist, I had always wanted to honour God with my research but I didn’t know how. 

My perspective on faith and science changed even more when I joined the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI) in 2021 as a “Catalyst.” It was a love affair right from the very first course we did, called “Engaging the University.” The course caused me to review my position vis-à-vis the university and life on campus.  

It’s important to understand that in my context when a young person says they want to go to university the first thing they hear is “Be careful!”. University is a synonym for corruption and parents worry that their children will be corrupted by bad influences. 

Photo of Albertine Bayompe Kabou
Albertine Bayompe Kabou

So when I started university, I had this attitude that I would just go to my classes and then go back home. And that’s it. I tried not to be in contact with anyone else. 

When I read a John Stott book3 as part of my LCI studies and learned about his idea of “double listening” – listening to both scripture and the world around us – it was a huge change for me. I said to myself: “Albertine, you have to start listening to the university, you have to be in contact with the university and start making your contribution. You have something to give to the university.” 

John Stott’s idea of double listening inspired the topic of my project for the LCI, which is about poverty. 

Photo of Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar
Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar

In collaboration with my national student movement, GBU Senegal, I plan to conduct a study to help understand the root causes of poverty among students. There are a lot of struggles students face at my university – Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar (pictured left). These include poverty and delays in scholarship payments, and a recent report4 found that some poor students prostitute themselves to cope with poverty. 

In the development of many poverty eradication strategies, the state does not involve the people concerned. So I want to consult the students themselves and then equip them to be agents of change in their own exit from poverty.   

My study will include questions about students’ economic situation and also about their life and religious beliefs. In Senegal, Islam is the main religion and traditional Quranic schools called “Daaras” are known to encourage a culture of begging5 among their students.  

I will also examine attitudes towards poverty that are part of the African ancestral tradition, in which people engage in rituals to worship their ancestors or other deities. For example, I will see if there are students who believe that their poverty is caused by a curse and that they can’t change their situation unless the curse is undone.  

I believe we need to understand other people’s faith traditions: if we are called to be light, then first of all we have to understand the darkness around us. 

After I have completed my study, next year I plan to organize a conference that will bring together students as well as experts on theology, economics, sociology and entrepreneurship, to discuss strategies to combat student poverty. 

The bible talks about both economic and spiritual poverty. My project will aim to fight poverty while also sharing the light of the gospel. God says he is the refuge of the poor. I believe this reality will be a way of comfort for people who are poor, to know that someone – that a big God – is taking care of them. 

ENDNOTES

1 Einstein, Albert (1950) “Out of My Later Years” Philosophical Library Inc. https://books.google.com/books?id=Q1UxYzuI2oQC&pg=PA26#v=onepage&q&f=false 

3 Stott, John (1992) “The Contemporary Christian: Applying God’s Word to Today’s World” Chapter 6: The Listening Ear. 

4 Maïmouna, Ndiaye (2021) “The sources of student prostitution” (Report at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal) 

5 Human Rights Watch report (2010) “Off the backs of the Children: Forced Begging and Other Abuses against Talibés in Senegal”https://www.hrw.org/report/2010/04/15/backs-children/forced-begging-and-other-abuses-against-talibes-senegal#; Wikipedia article on “Daaras” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daara 

PHOTO CREDITS

Clouds Photo by Stephanie Klepacki on Unsplash

Photo of Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar: Rignese, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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.” 

INTRODUCING YOU TO ONE OF OUR CATALYSTS: albertine from senegal

Albertine Bayompe KABOU is a doctoral student in Senegal studying Economics. She is particularly interested in the impact of rice policies on technical efficiency and food security in Senegal. She is studying at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar where she is also the committee secretary of Impact University Senegal (the IFES movement in Senegal).Albertine wants to be able to link her theological understanding with her economic studies, especially in developmental policies. She is also passionate about music and worship.

Video only available in French