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.  

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

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

How can Christians respond?  

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

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

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

English transcript: 

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

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

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

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

[Text on screen] Guatemala 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIDEO: Harnessing theology and science to improve student 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 as one of the major challenges of our time. The pandemic has only made the crisis more acute. In developing countries such as Côte D’Ivoire mental health is aggravated by poverty, violence and human rights violations. 

How can Christians respond?  

Nina, a graduate student from Côte D’Ivoire, is now in her third year as a Catalyst with the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI). She is leading a project that draws together biblical and scientific perspectives to promote good mental health among students at her university. Learn more in the 5-minute video below. 

In 2023 – 2024, a total of 19 Catalysts are leading theology and the sciences projects in collaboration with their IFES national movements. Each of them receives funding, mentoring and training from the LCI and many of their projects seek to tackle big issues in their communities such as biodiversity, gender-based violence and health education around vaccinations. Explore our full range of projects on the LCI projects webpages.

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

English transcript:

[Text on screen] The world is facing a global mental health crisis among young people. 

[Text on screen] How can Christians respond? 

Nina: In Ivory Coast there are many people with mental health problems. This year, in the third trimester we became aware of three students who committed suicide. There were also two cases of failed attempts. 

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

[Text on screen] Nina’s project: “Harnessing theology and the sciences to improve student mental health.” 

[Text on screen] Ivory Coast 

Nina: My name is Nina Ble Toualy. I am a doctoral student in criminology. My interest in the subject of mental health arose from various meetings that we have had on the university campus. Last year, we had ten people, ten students who were committed to psychiatric institutions.  

There are many factors. There’s the pressure of achieving well in your studies, lack of housing, lack of food. In addition, there is the diversity within the student population, whether it’s socio-economic, ethnic or religious, which often leads to divisions. 

Not to mention that we’ve been through a political crisis that has led to a lot of divisions, a lot of deaths, a lot of violence as well. 

The Bible tells us that human beings are body, soul and spirit and theology allows us to see that for human beings to thrive they need to remain in touch with both their environment and with God. 

Theology allows us to provide treatment in a holistic way. 

Mental health disorders are inner wounds that have been memorized in the unconscious and in the cells of the individual. And it is this inner being, through theology, that we can holistically treat individuals.  

The aim of the mental health project is to promote the health and psycho-social well-being of students. Specifically, we studied the contributions of theology to the issue of mental health problems. 

We also studied the contributions of our African culture as well as the various taboos associated with this subject. It is important to understand that in Africa there is little awareness about this subject. And we have tried to do assessments and set up a psychological unit to be able to help students who suffer from these kinds of problems. 

I have received, through the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, training, follow-up, and funding, human and material support. The LCI was at the heart of this project. 

In terms of activities, we had a conference. After the conference, we held a seminar on mental health and we also held a seminar with churches.  

The impact of this project was massive. 

We were able to reach more than 45 people through the distribution of brochures and through seminars and conferences. 

At the psychological level, we were able to support 14 people who continue to be supported by a psychologist and a pastor who helps them. 

Our universities have an opportunity to help students, to be able to give them social and psychological help. 

But we have to admit that there is a lot of work ahead of us. 

There’s still a long way to go. 

Now, at the university level we want to find out how these disorders are transmitted, and how we can put in place a program for building resilience to help students acquire the ability to adapt based on their relationship with the Lord. And to be able to overcome difficult situations. 

The fight for mental health is a commitment both civic and theological to join God’s plan which is to care for creation in all its dimensions, to bring his creation closer to him.

For the Lord has challenged me on this mission of caring for vulnerable people, people troubled with mental health problems, people who need to be listened to, who need to be supported and people who need to be loved. 

Explore Catalysts’ projects through 17 new videos

What theology and the sciences projects have our Catalysts been leading over the last year? Seventeen newly-published videos provide you with the opportunity to explore the full breadth of our Catalysts’ projects, ranging from the arts and gender to poverty and climate change. Spend a few minutes hearing each Catalyst discuss their project. This new series of short videos can be found on our YouTube channel and on our Francophone Africa and Latin America projects webpages.  

Screengrab from LCI project videos playlist on Youtube

As you will see from the videos, many Catalysts are collaborating with their IFES national movements to lead projects that address pressing issues in their local contexts. Economist Dr Albertine Kabou, for example, discusses her project on student poverty in Senegal in her 2-minute video.  

“The goal of my project is to equip students to understand the factors that prevent them from moving out of poverty, but also to offer them more solutions,” Albertine said.  

Albertine (pictured top left) has made great strides with her project since it began in April 2022. In November, almost 60 participants attended a conference that she organized at her university about the environmental, social, economic and religious factors that contribute to poverty among students. Her conference brought together diverse speakers including experts in economic development and entrepreneurship, a university academic, a Christian pastor and an Islamic Imam. Early in 2023, Albertine will be leading two debates at other universities in Senegal, in which students will discuss ideas and strategies for their own fight against poverty. 

As Albertine’s project demonstrates, many Catalysts are drawing together scientific and biblical perspectives in order to better understand and tackle specific problems where they live. In other videos, Isaac Daama explains his project about artisanal mining practices in Cameroon, Sandra Márquez talks about her project on peace and justice in Mexico; and Johnny Patal discusses his project on climate change in Guatemala.  

Some Catalysts have taken a different approach with their projects: choosing to focus on training and mentoring in order to have a multiplier effect in their national movement. Their goal is to equip Christian students to engage in dialogue about theology and the sciences, and help them understand how they can integrate their Christian faith with their academic studies or research.  

Screengrabs of Latin American project videos on Youtube

In her video, Deborah Vieira (pictured on the 4th image to the left) explains that she responded to a need that she identified after conducting surveys among students in ABUB Brazil, her national movement.  

“One of the needs that students raised the most was the feeling of loneliness at the university,” Deborah said.

“This loneliness is both a product of this post-pandemic period and the lack of peers for students to talk to about their research or their faith or both. That’s why I designed a project called The Emmaus Project, which is a mentoring network. The idea is to have mentors who are further ahead in their academic career … who will walk alongside undergraduate students who are engaged in scientific research.” 

Screengrabs of Latin American project videos on Youtube

In other videos, you can hear Marcio Lima talk about his theology and the arts mentoring program in Brazil; listen to Onesphore Hakizimana discussing his project that is equipping Christian students who are studying animal sciences in Rwanda; and learn about Faustin Dokui’s series of trainings for the national movement in Benin. 

Visit our Francophone Africa and Latin America projects webpages to browse all videos by country and topic, and see the videos alongside short project summaries. 

All videos have English subtitles. If you view the videos on our YouTube playlist, you will find transcripts in French, Spanish and English (as relevant) beneath each video.  

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

The Logos and Cosmos Initiative celebrated another “first” at the beginning of October when Catalysts, mentors and staff gathered in Santiago, Chile, for the first in-person training workshop in Latin America.  

Times of reflection, celebration and interacting with inspiring role models were just a few of the many ways that Catalysts deepened their learning and relationships during the three-day event. Many Catalysts reported that the workshop reaffirmed their calling to the academy and several commented on the beautiful sense of community at the LCI.  

Photo of a woman speaking informally at the workshop

“The highlights of the workshop were the encounters that deepened relationships among mentors and catalysts, and the opportunity to share stories around the table,” said Alejandra Ortiz, Co-Coordinator for the LCI in Latin America. “We enjoyed conversations about vocation, worldviews, the academic challenges in Latin America, and life in general. We had a good time celebrating what God has done in our lives through the LCI in terms of formation, maturity and projects that are blessing IFES national movements and ultimately helping to bring God’s kingdom in Latin America.” 

Three female speakers shared their personal experiences of working at the interface of science and the Christian faith. 

Mexican science writer Ana Ávila (right) spoke about writing at the intersection of science and the Christian faith and encouraged Catalysts to be communicators and influencers at this interface. She also led a practical workshop, sharing tips about writing creatively about science and theology. Ana is a clinical biochemist who works for the Coalición por el Evangelio and the Templeton-funded initiative, Blueprint 1543. She is also one of the LCI’s external advisors. Read more about her work in this BioLogos article. 

Dr Rocío Parra, a lawyer who advises the Chilean government on environmental law, spoke about her experience as a woman, a Christian, a mother and a scholar, and led a workshop about Christianity, creation care and public policy. 

Ana Avila

Dr Elaine Storkey, English sociologist, philosopher and theologian, spoke about her decades-long career as a prominent university academic, author and media commentator. Dr Storkey, who joined the event online, also gave a talk about how the Christian faith helps us to understand and work to overcome violence against women.

New projects video gallery 

What does Christianity have to do with erosion? What does the Bible have to say about the development of life-saving technologies? How can student mental health be approached from both a biblical and social science perspective? These are just a few of the issues and questions that Logos and Cosmos Initiative Catalysts are tackling in their theology and the sciences projects.  

See our video gallery blogpost to watch a selection of short videos of four of Catalysts discussing the projects that they are leading in their universities in partnership with their IFES national movements. You can also click the image to the left to view the video playlist on our YouTube channel.   

Diving deeper into theology and the sciences 

Alongside delivering exciting theology and the sciences projects with their IFES national movements, our Tier Two Catalysts are continuing their learning by taking part in month-long academic seminars. The seminars, held online, allow Catalysts and their mentors to dive deeper into theology and the sciences topics that are relevant to their context.  

For example, in October, Latin American Catalysts took part in a seminar on epistemology and the history of science and religion, led by two Argentinian academics, Dr Ignacio Silva and Dr Claudia Vanney.  Both are external advisors to the LCI. 

“This seminar helped me to learn about the complex relationships between science and the Christian faith (and other faiths) in my country and in Latin America,” said Lorena Brondani, a Catalyst from Argentina. “In my own academic work, it has invited me to think in an interdisciplinary way. The session on the ‘most important intellectual virtues for the dialogue between science and religion’ allowed me to reflect on my own intellectual strengths and needs.” 

In Francophone Africa, Catalysts and mentors recently took part in a seminar series titled The African Christian Intellectual. The five-week module, led by Dr Augustin Ahoga, was designed in response to the shift in Christianity’s centre of gravity from the West to the Global South. In light of this, the seminar aimed to help African Christian academics to discover themselves and the responsibility that God has entrusted to them, and included comparisons of African, biblical, and scientific views of the world. 

As Dr Albertine Bayompe Kabou, an economist and Catalyst from Senegal explains, the seminar gave Catalysts a new perspective on both their LCI projects and their everyday lives.  

“Thanks to this seminar, I’ve understood that if I want to reach my potential, I need to take into account my ‘hybridity’ – I’m African and I’m Christian,” Albertine said. “Putting Christ in the centre, I need to embrace my hybridity so that I can understand my context and find solutions to its challenges. For my project in particular, the seminar will help me to analyse more deeply what poverty means to an African so that I can ultimately intervene more effectively.” 

After the seminar, Catalysts such as Nou Poudiougo from Mali, felt released to engage more constructively with their culture of origin.  

“This seminar has allowed me to remove certain barriers that prevented me from appropriating my culture and benefiting from certain advantages of the African culture,” said Nou, who is from an ethnic people group in Mali called the Dogon. “For example, the Dogon have been organizing the annual Ogobagna Dogon Cultural Festival for seven years. I have never been there because I thought that it was not a place for Christians. Thanks to Dr Ahoga’s course, I’ve changed my perspective and I now plan to go there with my whole family to participate in the festival in January.” 

What’s happening now and next? 

From workshops and courses to research, our Tier Two Catalysts are now deep into the implementation phase of their theology and the sciences projects. Check out the LCI’s project webpages to read about the full range of Catalysts’ projects.   

Meanwhile, our current cohort of Tier One Catalysts continue to progress through the LCI’s training and development curriculum and they are also designing projects that they will submit for consideration for funding and implementation next year. After the excitement of our in-person events, Catalysts will continue to meet for workshops and seminars online for the remainder of the LCI’s year, which concludes at the end of March.  

Preparing to welcome another cohort 

In February, we will begin accepting applications for a new cohort of Catalysts for the next year of the LCI program, which starts in April 2023. The application portal on the LCI website will open Feb. 1 and close on Feb. 28. Please do spread the word among anyone from Latin America and Francophone Africa who you think may be interested. It is strongly recommended that applicants complete IFES’ Engaging the University (ETU) e-learning course before applying to become a Catalyst. Note that Part 1 of this course can be completed online anytime but Parts and 2 and 3 begin on 30 January 2023. See the ETU website for more information. 

Save the date for our project showcase events! 

In the New Year, we will be inviting you to the Logos and Cosmos Initiative Projects Showcases. These are two online Gala events that will celebrate the impact of our Catalysts’ projects in their universities, as we mark the half-way point in the LCI’s five-year program.  

  • The Latin America Gala will be on Saturday, January 21 at 4pm GMT.  
  • The Francophone Africa Gala will be on Saturday, January 28 at 6pm GMT.  

Email us here if you would like to receive details of how to join in with one of these events.

Prayer points: 

  • Thank God for the rich time of learning and connection at the Latin American workshop in Chile 
  • Please continue to pray for our Catalysts’ theology and the sciences projects, many of which include large-scale events in the coming months. 
  • Pray for wisdom for the Tier One catalysts as they plan their projects for next year. 
  • Pray that God would draw the right candidates to apply for the next phase of the program. 

Projects video gallery: 3 minutes with a Catalyst 

What does Christianity have to do with erosion? What does the Bible have to say about the development of life-saving technologies? How can student mental health be approached from both a biblical and social science perspective? These are just a few of the issues and questions that Logos and Cosmos Initiative Catalysts are tackling in their theology and the sciences projects.

Watch the 3-minute videos below to hear four of our Catalysts discussing the projects that they are leading in their universities in partnership with their IFES national movements.  

Click the images below to watch each video. English subtitles are provided. If you click on the YouTube logo at the bottom of each video you can watch the video in full screen on our YouTube channel where you will find an English transcript beneath the video.  

Erosion in DRC:  

Johnny Ngunza’s project 

Climate change in Guatemala:  

Johnny Patal’s project 

Mental health in Côte d’Ivoire:  

Nina Ble Toualy’s project 

Vaccines, values and truths in Brazil: 

Prisciliana Jesus de Oliveira’s project 

We currently have 18 Catalysts who are leading theology and the sciences projects. Read about all of them on our projects webpages. 

Arts, architecture and theology: hear more from Catalyst Marcio Lima 

The Logos and Cosmos Initiative’s Tier Two Catalysts have started running projects in their universities that spark curiosity and wonder about theology and the sciences.  

Catalyst Marcio Lima is a Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. He is developing a theology and the arts research program for Christian students who are involved with ABUB Brazil, the IFES national movement.  

As Christians, the narrative arc of creation, fall and redemption is the lens through which we see the world. Marcio’s project explores such questions as: What if we looked at this biblical narrative through the arts and vice versa? Would we understand more about God, the world and what it means to be human? Find out more in Marcio’s 2-minute long video below.  

At the Logos and Cosmos Initiative, we talk a lot about “theology and the sciences.” It is no accident that we use the plural term, “sciences.” We use this term to mean a range of academic disciplines, including not only the natural sciences but also the social sciences and the arts. Our Tier Two Catalysts, who are currently running inspiring projects, are from a diverse range of 13 different academic backgrounds. 

Marcio’s video is in Spanish with English subtitles. An English transcript can be found below. 

English-language transcript of Marcio’s video: 

Hi! I’m Marcio Lima. I live in São Paulo, Brazil. I am an architect and professor of architecture. I am one of the catalysts of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative. The goal of my project is developing a research program in theology and arts for university students.  

What led me to work on this topic was the need to explore the relationship between the artistic language and the religious experience. We start from the assumption that the arts lead us to relate in an intentional and intense way with the physical, emotional, and imaginative characteristics of a human. They enable us to get involved in activities which create meaning and thus contribute to integrally shape the human being. That is the reason we ask ourselves: do the visual arts and architecture reveal in a unique way something about the knowledge of God or about the world or about ourselves?  

From this perspective, and knowing that the answer to this question is positive, the proposed project seeks to explore how the arts contribute to the expression of what we know about the world and about God. Our hope is to prepare students to establish connections and promote dialogue within the academic world about the existing relationship between the arts and faith.  

I am currently drafting the theoretical basis of the course to be offered in September. After the course, we will have a mentoring program for students. They will have to develop a research project related to arts, architecture, and theology. We believe that the project will have a positive impact by opening a more poetic way of understanding faith and reality and increasing meaningful artistic productions, since our vision of God and reality transforms the way we see and act in the world. Thank you very much! 

Seeking favour from the gods to find precious stones: watch Isaac’s video 

Projects are at the heart of the Logos and Cosmos Initiative (LCI). We equip young Christian academics to lead projects in their universities that spark curiosity and wonder about theology and the sciences. Many of our Catalysts’ projects tackle pressing issues and challenges in their local and national contexts, such as environmental sustainability, poverty and violence. In Cameroon, geologist and LCI Catalyst Isaac Daama is leading a project about animist mining techniques. 

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. But in mineral-rich Cameroon, occult practices are often part of the artisanal mining process. Artisanal miners, who are usually poor, disadvantaged individuals, use hand-tools to dig for gold, diamond and other precious stones. Many of them believe that daily piety and sacrificing animals to the gods will lead them to success in their mining.  

Isaac is collaborating with GBEEC Cameroon, the IFES national movement, to lead a project that will draw together scientific and Christian perspectives on these controversial beliefs and practices.  

Watch the 4-minute video below to hear Isaac explain more about his project. The video is in French but English subtitles are available. An English transcript can also be found below. 

English-language transcript of Isaac’s video

Welcome to this video! I’m Isaac Daama, Tier 2 Catalyst for the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in Francophone Africa.  

My topic is about beliefs and practices among artisanal miners in northern Cameroon. This topic started from a simple observation during multiple opportunities to go on field trips with mining companies that were looking for gold. I realized that there was a group of artisan miners who base their prospecting on a firm belief in deities, who they believe are the gods of these metals and that sacrifices always have to be made in order to access these metals. Many questions have been raised about their practices because even if these rituals that they do are controversial according to scientists – or even according to the local Christian population – one cannot deny that sometimes their methods are still profitable. Miners who employ this technique find a lot of minerals, on the scale of the gold content in the province, in general. 

And at the university, we have a lot of debates about their methods because we know that today, with the methods of mining geology, we can’t necessarily achieve the results that these miners have. But shouldn’t we question their methods to know whether, perhaps, their method can be a scientific method? But perhaps, let’s say, it is not like modern science, in the sense that it is not formal science, it is not theorized knowledge. And so, we decided to focus on this question. But then it was a matter of collecting data in the field.  

The data consisted of doing interviews with the miners, even when we were not able to do video interviews with them because the miners think that filming would discredit their methods. In addition, they work in an illegal context. Despite these obstacles, we were able to collect a set of data that will now help us to analyse these practices through workshops and public conferences, where many experts will also contribute their views on this. 

But our ultimate goal is to give a Christian perspective on this activity because it is becoming the most popular activity because of the fact that on the agricultural level and everything, these are areas that are very disadvantaged, so today it is this mining activity that is much more popular.  

The miners I have interviewed worship these gods instead of the God who created everything. It’s a bit like the experience of the apostle Paul in Greece. In their idolatry, Paul was able to find the “unknown god”. Maybe we should ask ourselves today: what are these metal gods the miners are talking about? 

So here are so many questions, reflections that we want to carry out within the framework of this project. In the long run, if my project is accepted onto Tier Three of the LCI (next year), I plan to develop my findings into a scientific publication in which experts – theological, anthropological, sociological, and geological, contribute their expertise and help us to better define this practice. Thank you for watching.  

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! 

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