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. 

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