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. 

Q&A with a Catalyst: a dream for good governance 

According to the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, most of the violent conflicts and crises facing parts of the African continent are rooted in inadequate governance. LCI Catalyst Moustapha Ouedraogo’s dream is to propose a model that will shape what good governance looks like in his home country, Burkina Faso. Read on to find out more about Moustapha’s experience so far in Tier One of the LCI – our training and development year. Moustapha is studying for a PhD in sociology of organisations and governance and also works for UGBB, the IFES national movement in Burkina Faso. 

Photo of Moustapha Ouedraogo
Moustapha Ouedraogo

1. What made you decide to apply to the LCI? 

It was hearing the testimonies of Catalysts that encouraged me to apply, particularly the testimony of Dr Sambo Ouedraogo (learn about Sambo’s LCI project here). Listening to him, I realised that this program could help me answer two fundamental questions in my life as an African Christian intellectual: How can we reconcile science with faith and culture? And how can I, as a Christian intellectual, influence higher education with biblical values?  

2. What do you hope to gain from the program? 

I believe this training will enable me to approach scientific research topics in a different way, and to respond better to big issues in my country, particularly the development of good governance in Burkina Faso. I hope that the LCI will provide me with the tools I need to conduct high-quality research on this.  

Developing good governance is absolutely vital in order to promote peace. social cohesion and sustainable development. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council (PCS) has confirmed that most of the violent conflicts and crises facing parts of the African continent are rooted in inadequate governance (PSC 766th meeting; 2018).  

My dream is to propose a model of governance that will help shape what governance looks like in both the state and the church in Burkina Faso. 

3.            How have the first few months at the LCI been? 

The first few months of the program were fantastic. There were moments of deconstruction, construction, discovery and paradigm shifts. Online workshops have provided us with the opportunity to hear from Christian intellectuals who are very knowledgeable in their fields. We also had some very exciting reading assignments on books that deal with cultural, theological and scientific realities in French-speaking Africa. In addition, we have conducted research, taken part in Bible studies and engaged in dialogue between catalysts through online discussion forums. 

During these various sessions, I learnt countless things. Firstly, this work helped me to sharpen my ear as a Christian intellectual so that I can better listen to my environment in order to identify the real problems and their causes with a view to finding appropriate solutions. Secondly, I got to know myself better as a Christian intellectual. Thirdly, the LCI has enabled me to discover more about the importance of dialogue between science and faith and how to build bridges to encourage this dialogue.  

4.          Has anything stood out to you? 

One thing that really caught my attention was Christian identity and science. Reading the book Science and Faith: A Course Manual for French-speaking Africa (Science et foi: Manuel de cours pour l’Afrique francophone; Zegha Maffogag; 2017) made me realise that my identity has been shaped by several factors, including my Christian faith, my culture and my academic studies. I became aware of how often I experience tensions caused by conflicts of values. This book, together with my research assignments and an LCI seminar about traditional African religions and the science-religion dialogue, helped me develop the skills needed to build bridges between science (and my academic discipline), faith and culture. I am now working to identify areas of tension between these three dimensions of my life with a view to building bridges so that these relationships are a source of richness rather than tension.   

5.           What is the situation like among Christians in your country regarding science and Christianity?   

In church contexts, the relationship between science and faith is largely viewed as conflictual. For many pastors, the university and the church are two different terrains. What we learn at university is seen as worldly and intended for business. As a result, those of us who are pursuing academic careers are rarely invited to contribute our academic expertise to strengthen believers and the church in Burkina Faso. 

However, in my IFES national movement, science and faith are seen as complementary. We draw elements from science to build students’ faith, just as we draw resources from our Christian faith to influence certain perceptions of science. For example, for my master’s thesis in development project management I focused on UGBB as a case study. I have also written a scientific article on the crisis of governance in Burkina Faso in which I proposed Nehemiah’s model of governance as an alternative for rebuilding the country in the context of the security and humanitarian crisis.  

6. Can you tell us a bit about the pilot project that you will conduct in preparation for developing a theology and the sciences project at the LCI? 

Since August 2015, Burkina Faso has experienced both a security and a governance crisis. These different crises affect all dimensions of life. They have resulted in more than two million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and loss of life. The church has also been severely affected by church closures, persecution and the murder of Christians and pastors. Politically, there have been four coups in the space of eight years. Faced with this reality, it is vital that we find a solution that makes it possible to transform these security and governance crises in a sustainable way. My pilot project will involve surveys to understand more about student perspectives on this topic. It is titled: “The contribution of science, faith and culture dialogue in the transformation of the governance crisis in Burkina Faso; Perceptions of students at Joseph Ki-Zerbo University.” 


Read more about Moustapha’s academic journey in this IFES Prayerline blogpost from 2020. 

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. 

From genome editing to oral tradition: A glimpse of two new projects  

Human genome editing: moving the conversation from rightness to righteousness 

In recent years, scientists have developed faster, cheaper, and more precise methods to edit genes of living organisms including humans. Gene therapy has gained support as a promising way to treat a wide range of diseases. But some Christians have taken a stand against it, arguing that scientists are trying to “play God.” 

Catalyst Álvaro Pérez, a biotechnologist from Ecuador, has a different view:

“I believe gene editing is the exercise of our God-given human creativity to love our neighbor as ourselves,” he explains. “Humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), so we have the ability to design. Understanding how nature works and modifying it allows us to have an active role in creation and not just be spectators.” 

Nevertheless, the bioethical and theological aspects of this type of research should not be ignored. And Alvaro noticed there is a particular vacuum of research on the topic in the Latin American context. 

Álvaro’s project will promote dialogue about bioethical and Christian perspectives on human gene editing, aiming to move the conversation from “Is gene editing right?” to “How can it be done righteously?” Understanding that Christians are called to live righteously and justly, the project will include discussions about what faith communities can do to ensure equitable access to these new advances in medical treatment. 

Aimed at students and professionals – inside and outside of the IFES national movement in Ecuador –  the project will include an academic forum; a scholarly article; and the production of a video interview with an expert in the field. 

Photo of Álvaro Pérez
Álvaro Pérez

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

Photo of Laurent Kayogera
Laurent Kayogera

“Oral tradition still plays a big role in Burundian culture today,” explains Laurent Kayogera, a Catalyst who graduated with a bachelor’s in communications. “We express our feelings through music. Life lessons and advice are passed down to the younger generation through songs, riddles, fables and tales.” 

One reason why oral tradition is so important in Burundi is that only 75 percent of the adult population is literate, and there is still a gender gap in literacy rates. But that’s not the full story, says Laurent: “Even educated people just don’t like to read that much. We do not have many libraries, even in big cities. People still enjoy listening to people sharing stories. They’d rather quote what someone else said rather than something they’ve read themselves.” 

Laurent’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 has been used in order to extract lessons for improved communication in such areas as university teaching, churches and the IFES national movement. 

“University students spend a lot of time listening to lectures but most of them don’t take the time for extra research using books, articles and the internet,” shares Laurent, who works as the training coordinator for UGBB, the IFES national movement in Burundi. “I hope my project will encourage students to adjust their learning style and conduct more independent research.” 

Laurent’s study will involve surveys among students and staff at the University of Burundi and a one-day workshop. 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 which have lower literacy levels. The results of the study will be published in a scholarly article. 


For more information about all of our Catalysts’ projects, visit the LCI projects webpages or see a list of all current project titles listed in our July 2023 Latest News blogpost.

Catalyst Perspectives: weaving faith and science to build peace and justice in Mexico 

In the face of terrible violence in her home country of Mexico, Sandra Márquez believes that no action is too small when it comes to working towards true peace, the shalom of God. In this Catalyst Perspectives blogpost, Sandra shares how her Logos and Cosmos Initiative project is equipping students to be agents of peace and justice. Sandra is a university professor and is currently finishing a doctorate in social psychology. 

“Many small people, in small places, doing small things, can change the world,” said Uruguayan writer and journalist Eduardo Galeano. In the face of great challenges right now in my home country of Mexico, this phrase reminds me that no effort is too small, no effort should be ignored, all are necessary.   

Since 2006, the Mexican government has embarked on a “war on drugs1” waged against the drug cartels. Since then, the violence that has taken root in my country has brought with it much suffering. Homicides, femicides, shootings, extortions, kidnappings and the “disappearances” of more than 130,0000 people has given rise to a climate of mistrust and social disintegration. These crimes are provoked by organized crime operations in complicity with different levels of government and are widely publicized in the media.  

Each of these crimes has a profound impact. It is like a shockwave that expands, first affecting the direct victim, but also their family, their circle of friends, their place of study, their work and the community in which they live. So, for every crime there are many people living with the effects of this pain. 

Photo of Sandra Marquez
Sandra Márquez

If we learn anything from Ecuadorian theologian René Padilla’s concept of “integral mission”, it is that every human need is a field of Christian mission. Therefore, the church is immersed in a society and cannot ignore society’s dynamics. Understanding that we cannot separate theology from context, we must walk with the bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other (as theologian Karl Barth once said).  

Mexico is the 3rd most violent country in Latin America, according to the Global Peace Index Report 20222, which measures the level of peace and the absence of violence in 163 countries around the world.   

If we start from the absence of peace, we must think about the meaning of the concept. Peace, at least in the West, is often linked to the Roman idea of pax romana that was conceived as the absence of war. So, for many people peace represents calm or even a sense of a quiet existence and passivity. In contrast, the Hebrew concept of shalom, which translates as a state of wellbeing, for the Hebrew people meant complete peace. In its deepest sense, it means integral wellbeing and can be used as a synonym for prosperity and security (Psalm 85:8-10).  

This shalom means having healthy relationships with God, with other people and with the earth. This peace is a gift from God (Isaiah. 52:7). It would not be appropriate to reduce it to the idea of passivity but of action and proactive good works. It results from living in harmony and with right relationships.  

In Psalm 85:10 we find a very interesting model, as it states, “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed3“. This affirmation starts from the relational components such as mercy (love) and truth as part of human coexistence and in the end, establishes a relationship between justice (sometimes translated as righteousness) and peace as broader social conditions. If the concept of Hebrew shalom is understood then an intrinsic dimension to this peace is wellbeing that stems from justice.   

If peace is linked to justice, we must also analyze this concept. From the biblical text we understand that God’s justice is different from human justice. From the human perspective, in ancient times the law of retaliation was the rule when it came to responding to a crime, to give to each one according to their deeds.  

Jesus delves into this in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” 

In this way Jesus asks his disciples to see the contrast between injustice and just actions and to have an attitude other than revenge. God’s justice is a justice that restores and transforms. It moves us from being sinners to being justified by grace and called to be righteous. 

A project for peace and justice that is like a mustard seed 

The LCI came into my life at just the right time. I am currently a university professor. I work in the area of planning and I am finishing a doctorate in social psychology. I am married to Erick Araiza, whom I met at Compa Mexico (my IFES national movement), and we have a 3-year-old daughter named Constanza.  

Throughout my years at the university, I believed I had already integrated my academic knowledge with my Christian faith, especially when working on issues related to justice. My doctoral thesis concerns the effects and dynamics of the disappearance of people by organized crime, as well as the development of guidelines for accompanying the families of people who have disappeared in order to provide psychological and social support for them.  

However, at the LCI I discovered that faith that is linked to reason must truly integrate psychological knowledge with theology. Through this initiative, I found a place to bring these reflections to student ministry and to encourage students to see their profession as a tool to work for justice and peace, regardless of their academic discipline. I want to help students and young academics to approach their context from their dual citizenship – that of the Kingdom of God and society linked to their professional training. 

This is how my LCI project “Opening Paths of Justice and Peace” came about (see video above). It will bring together perspectives on justice and peace from both the social sciences and the Christian faith.  

My project is based on the belief that students from Compa Mexico are fundamental to change the situation of violence in our country. They can detonate creative actions of hope and transformation.  

From the inception of the project, the idea of collaborating with a local staff worker was raised, so I began to work with Maritza López Osorio. She has personal experience of losing someone who “disappeared.” In her student years, Maritza lost a good friend from her Bible study cell group who disappeared because of organized crime. Maritza has taken on the challenge of participating in this project. She has shared her gifts and her story, sharing her own reflections on the subject and inspiring students.  

Photo of Staff Worker Maritza and students at a workshop
Maritza (centre) and students at a workshop

In 2022, my project has involved the following activities: 1) Two training workshops for students and workers, in which they created initiatives to work for peace and justice in their own contexts and campuses; 2) a day-long academic-theological forum on justice and peace; and 3) an investigation into Mexican university students’ attitudes about war, justice and peace, with the aim of developing a scientific publication. 

Most recently, the theological forum was held on November 12 and was attended by more than 75 people including students, staff workers and also professionals and people interested in the subject from other organizations and churches in Mexico. Expert speakers analyzed the problem of violence from the perspective of the bible, social sciences and civic initiatives. All eight of the presentations are available to watch on my blog and on YouTube.  

A screengrab from Sandra's online forum showing an introductory slide
A slide from Sandra’s theological forum

Encounters in the Global South and reflections on violence against women with Dr Elaine Storkey 

The LCI has also allowed me to meet other Christian researchers who also seek to integrate their multiple academic and faith experiences in a serious and profound way. In September I participated in the LCI Latin America workshop held in Santiago, Chile. We were able to meet in person after 18 months of working together virtually. It was opportunity to broaden our reflections, be trained by workshops and to enjoy valuable time in community. 

During the workshop, we were challenged by the lectures of sociologist, philosopher and theologian Dr Elaine Storkey. She shared with us her vision, and a biblical and social reading of violence against women, which occurs at all stages of life and in all cultures and societies. She led us to reflect on how violence against women manifests itself in crude and unjust ways in different places, pointing out that it is important to talk about this issue and to develop projects that can respond to this type of violence.  

Sadly, in Latin America, violence against women is a very real issue, with a large number of femicides, among other crimes. I really identified with what she shared about how these problems are not usually a topic of analysis in faith communities. I thank God that she brings her experience and reflections on violence against women to different spaces.  

As I said at the beginning, remembering Galeano’s words, no action is too small in the face of violence to show the world the shalom of God, from biblical reflections, books, projects, ideas to take to campuses, research, forums, as well as all the work from the LCI.  

I invite you to pray for the construction of peace from faith, for Mexico and Latin America, so that believers can bear witness to the gospel of peace, restoring, reconciling and weaving hope from interpersonal relationships, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the cultural, political and social dimension in the region. 

Find out more: 

  • Watch a 2-minute video of Sandra discussing her project (video is in Spanish but English subtitles and transcript are provided) 
  • Follow Sandra’s progress with her project on her personal blog (in Spanish) 
  • Read about all 18 of our Catalysts’ projects on our project webpages 

ENDNOTES:

1Mexico’s “war on drugs”:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_drug_war 

2Global Peace Index Report (2022), produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace: https://www.economicsandpeace.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/GPI-2022-web.pdf 

3 New King James Version 

Catalyst Perspectives: learning from women who love the sciences and Jesus 

When Argentinian academic Lorena Brondani joined the Logos and Cosmos Initiative in 2021, she found herself with her baby in her arms, juggling motherhood and a PhD while also learning how to build bridges between her Christian faith and her discipline. In this Catalyst Perspectives blogpost, Lorena explains how her experience led her to run an LCI project that will share the stories of women who love the sciences just as much as they love Jesus and their own families.  

Being a Christian woman in academia, combined with my experience as a wife, new mother and member of the IFES national movement in Argentina, have all shaped my life deeply. These personal experiences inspired me to seek out and listen to other women who share a love of science (especially the social sciences), the Lord and in the cases of mothers, the emerging life they are nurturing. This was the seed of my Logos and Cosmos Initiative project, which is called Conversations with Christian women academics from Argentina. 

How did these conversations begin? My calling to the academy 

For many years, I have felt called to the academy as a mission field – but my approach has evolved. As I progressed from my bachelor’s degree in social communication to a master’s in university teaching, I began to see that the university is a complex ecosystem. The Lord began to show me that bringing His kingdom to the university is broader than just reaching students, it also means reaching out to professors, researchers and non-teaching staff.

Photo of Lorena with her baby son
Lorena with her son

Now, as an academic and PhD student, I would say: “I became an intellectual to intellectuals, to win over intellectuals” (paraphrasing Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22) But my vision of what it means to bring God’s kingdom through academia has been enlarged further by three specific experiences.  

The first was in 2014 when I read a report written by an Argentinian, female academic, following her participation in an IFES “Latin American Consultation of Researchers and University Professors” meeting held in Brazil in 2014. It was led by Vinoth Ramachandra, IFES Secretary for Dialogue and Social Engagement, as part of IFES’ Engaging the University ministry. 

I am not exaggerating when I say that this report marked me for the rest of my academic career and my Christian life. At that time, I had never known anything about how Christian scholars could see their classrooms, research projects, disciplines and science in general as a place to make a Godly contribution to the university and the world.  

My heart burned when I read about some of the challenges that were presented by Vinoth Ramachandra at the event. For example, the need for Christian academics to integrate theological and scientific perspectives on important issues, to orient their research towards projects that help their communities flourish, to defend the truth in science, and to work with intellectual honesty.  

The second experience that confirmed my “call” to serve God through my academic career was participating in a program for professors and research students at the IFES World Assembly in Mexico in 2015. It impacted me greatly to meet successful academic Christians from different disciplines, countries and cultures, all with the same goal; fulfilling God’s mission in the simple matters of everyday life. I remember the testimony of one professor who felt called by the Lord to make a difference by treating her students well, leaving behind the pride and arrogance that often comes with academia. I really identified with her story and made her decision my own.  

Finally, becoming a Catalyst at the Logos and Cosmos Initiative has helped me understand the complementarity between the sciences (mainly communications) and theology. It was a huge change from the messages that I grew up with in a Catholic context in Argentina, such as “beware of science” and the idea that science and theology are opposed, or compete with one another. 

Photo of Lorena teaching a class
Lorena teaching a class

During my studies at the LCI, I found it useful to read biographies of Christian scholars such as Dr Francis Collins1, an American physicist and geneticist who founded the Christian organization BioLogos I learned about models for relating science and religion by reading the work of Denis R. Alexander2, Director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. I have been taking steps on the path of developing a “Christian mind,” an idea developed by Christian philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff3. As a scholar of communication theory, I like to call this a “communicational mind,” which to me, means using the Bible to learn how to see contemporary social communication issues through the Christian lens of creation, fall and redemption. 

I’m continuing to work out the links between my Christian faith and my academic work, particularly my research for my PhD in social communication. As I continue on this journey, I was curious to learn from other women who had built bridges not only between their Christian faith and their academic discipline, but also with their family life (marriage, motherhood, singleness and divorce). When I began to look into this area, I found that very little research has been published specifically on the experiences of Christian women in academia, especially in Spanish. 

The beginnings of my project: initial findings 

When I interviewed female Christian scholars for my LCI pilot project in 2021, I discovered that many of them have spent a lifetime giving just as much love and dedication to the university and their academic career as they do to their own families and children.   

Those who are mothers have had to slow down, get up early, but not stop their academic production. Those who are single have often suffered social, cultural and even religious pressures to marry or have children but that did not stop their mission to the university, their academic contributions to society or their devotion to Jesus Christ.

Zoom screengrab of Lorena conducting an interview on zoom
Lorena (left) conducting an interview

Divorcees are also messengers of the kingdom of God in their classrooms, in their senior career positions and through their publications, and have not necessarily had a marriage interrupted “because of” their university career, as some might assume. 

The women I spoke to were remarkably diverse but they have all cultivated an active and creative spirituality and have loved God “with all their minds” (paraphrasing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30). 

My pilot project raised many questions about the intersections between women’s spirituality, their academic work, and their gender and family roles (marriage, motherhood, singleness). To explore the triangular intersections among these three areas, my project will collect and share the life stories of at least six female, Argentine academics.  

My goal is to develop inspiring resources that demonstrate how these three areas can complement and enrich each other, and encourage young, female Christian students who hope to pursue academic careers. I will conduct in-depth interviews and use them to publish a printed book, an e-book, a short film and a series of short audiovisual clips.  

My project today: conversations with Christian, women academics from Argentina 

After my proposal was accepted by the LCI in April, I began with times of prayer, mentoring and indispensable feedback. By the grace of God, I have a wonderful project team made up of women who have served/are serving with IFES movements in Latin America. Together, we  identified the women who would be interviewed for the project.  

Screengrab of four participants at Lorena's project team prayer meeting on zoom
Project team prayer meeting

In July I began recording the first few interviews. To give a taste of what the women talk about, the stories include: the “long singleness” of an academic woman who married at age 50; a historian and academic mother who knew how to deal with self-esteem and guilt; and a single academic who knew how to cultivate rest and seek out Christian mentoring for her academic work.  

Looking at the progress I have made so far, I am grateful that I have had two incredible consultation meetings with external advisors and participated in a course titled “Past, Present and Future of Feminism” with Dr Sarah Williams, Research Professor in the History of Christianity at Regent College.  

I am given hope by the encouraging messages I have received from the other Catalysts in my cohort, such as: “I’m very curious about the facts you’ll have on single women!” ;  “Thank you for revealing these women to us”; and “The project will bring many important lights for women in science.” 

Lorena Brondani is studying for a doctorate in social communication at Austral University in Argentina and is an advisor to ABUA Argentina ( the IFES national movement) in her hometown, Paso de los Libres, Corrientes.

Find out more:

  • Follow Lorena’s progress with her project on her personal blog (in Spanish)
  • Read about all 18 of our Catalysts’ projects on our project webpages 

ENDNOTES

1Collins, Frances (2016) “How Does God Speak? The scientific evidence of faith (Ariel, 2016)

2Alexander, Dennis (2007) “Models for Relating Science and Religion” The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion

3Wolterstorff, Nicholas (2014) “Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century: Prospects and Perils “ (Cambridge, United States: Editorial Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing & Co. Translated by Moisés J. Zelada. chap.1, pp. 1-17)

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

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