Catalysts who attended IFES World Assembly described it as “an embrace from God,” “a space of rest and renewal,” and an opportunity to be “filled with energy and motivation to continue with my project.” Approximately 30 LCI staff and Catalysts travelled to Indonesia in August to attend IFES’ quadrennial conference. They joined more than 800 delegates – students, staff, board members and guests – from 162 countries who came together to be inspired and equipped to be resilient witnesses in the university and beyond.
World Assembly was truly a unique opportunity for learning and exchange – both between our two regions and with the rest of the global IFES fellowship.
During the five-year lifespan of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, meeting in Jakarta was the first – and probably the only – occasion when a selection of Catalysts and LCI staff from Francophone Africa and Latin America could come together in-person. Many Catalysts found it helpful to hear different perspectives on common challenges, find synergies among their projects and discuss the seeds of ideas that may grow into future collaborations.
“I was encouraged to know a little more about how Catalysts from Francophone Africa understand creation care, how they contextualize it in their universities and how they use their academic skills for it,” says Johnny Patal.
Johnny is assisting with an environmental project in Guatemala and you can find out more in this 5-minute video)
Beyond the LCI, Catalysts were able to make valuable connections with a diverse range of people from across the world. Many came away with new perspectives and ideas that may transform how they implement their theology and the sciences projects.
Deborah Vieira from Brazil, for example, had an enriching meeting with Dr Denise-Margaret Thompson, a professor and entrepreneur from Trinidad and Tobago, who delivered a plenary talk. They discussed the upcoming conference on theology-science dialogue which Deborah is hosting in November in partnership with ABUB, the IFES national movement in Brazil.
“Denise had many rich ideas and was a source of inspiration,” shares Deborah. “She encouraged me to set aside a session in our conference for a celebration among black students and academics. I have planned this into the program and it will be led by Fabiana Alves, who is a staff member with ABUB and a Tier One Catalyst.”
Dr Sambo Ouedraogo, a Catalyst and ecologist from Burkina Faso, also gained new insights for his project.
“Ed Brown’s talk about creation care gave me a boost for the subject I’m tackling in my project, which is the conservation of biodiversity from a Christian perspective,” Sambo explains. “His talk, and the discussion he had with me after my presentation on the creation care panel discussion, gave me a picture of other challenges linked to this theme that I need to consider in my current and future investigations.”
Finally, World Assembly was an opportunity for Catalysts to fulfil the LCI’s goal for them to serve as thought leaders who stimulate new discussions about theology and the sciences, particularly in the Majority World. Both current and former Catalysts spoke at panel discussions, seminars and plenaries, were featured in videos or engaged with delegates who visited the LCI booth in the exhibition space. This gave them plenty of opportunities to share concrete examples of how they are engaging their faith and their academic discipline, and to inspire others to do the same.
“We thank God for the contribution that Sandra Marquéz was able to make on issues of peace and justice at World Assembly through the different spaces she participated in,” says Mary Olguin, General Secretary of Compa, the IFES national movement in Mexico. “It was undoubtedly a significant contribution and an opportunity for growth for her as well.”
Another Mexican Catalyst, clinical psychologist Dr Elías Coreas Soto, was invited to share a testimony about his project, which will equip Compa staff with new trainings and resources to help them care for students’ mental health. (Watch his testimony in this video at the 4:25 mark).
“It was an incredible experience,” Elias reports. “Never in my life have I spoken in front of such a large audience. I received good feedback from people from other regions. I hope I have contributed to an awareness of God’s interest in blessing us in all areas of our lives, including our emotions.”
In addition to Catalyst contributions, several LCI staff were invited to speak at plenaries and seminars, providing biblical teaching and big picture perspectives on how to engage with the university. For example, Timothée Joset delivered a plenary talk, together with Prarthini Selveindran from FES Singapore, titled: The university as our context. And Josué Olmedo, unpacked Psalms 105 and 106 at a morning plenary talk (in Spanish).
More than 25 people attended a seminar in which LCI staff Innocent Niyongabo and Josué Olmedo presented the LCI as an expression of God’s mission in the university and a model that could be adapted by other IFES regions or national movements. Participants learned about the vision, approach and structures that underpin the support that the LCI provides to its Catalysts. There were also opportunities to take part in small group discussions about integrated mission and to ask questions about how the LCI works.
“The LCI is just one small part of IFES,” said Professor Ross McKenzie, Leader of the LCI. “World Assembly provided a collage of the beauty, diversity, and vision of the people and programs in the global fellowship. It was valuable for members of the LCI to have this experience so we can have greater synergy with the wider IFES community. I believe this is key to lasting impact.”
Continuing his reflection on the event, Ross shares: “Personally, attending World Assembly gave me greater clarity about the strengths and weaknesses of the LCI, and how we can work towards increasing its effectiveness in enhancing discussions about theology and the sciences among university students in the Majority World.”
For more information about all of the projects mentioned in this blogpost, visit our projects webpages.
Read an overview of World Assembly in this IFES Conexión blogpost.