Photo: NetACT Executive Director, Prof. Len Hansen and OCRPL Co-Dean of studies, Dr Chris Sugden (in the middle, back row), with a group of Master’s in Theology students from St. Frumentius Ethiopian Orthodox Theological College during a research methodology course presented during September 2018 in Makele, Ethiopia.
Founded in 2001, the mission of the OCRPL (Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life) is to equip religious communities, particularly in the non-western world, in their Public Witness through research in public policy and its relation to religion and through training in research, advocacy and engagement in the public sphere.
As such, the OCRPL shares in many of NetACT’s aims on our continent. One example of this is the PhD programme it has been hosting with the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University where more than 30 new or prospective PhD students, mainly from Africa, but also from the rest of the developing world, are guided toward contextual PhD studies.
Langham Scholarships (that help NetACT related lecturers with PhD scholarships) put NetACT in touch with the OCRPL. They came to see us in 2015 and NetACT brokered a MOU between them and Stellenbosch University. Take a look at https://www.ocrpl.org/phd/ and you will see the exciting story.
Quite a number of lecturers/students from NetACT members are following this programme and gets help via the OCRPL. At present there are 26 students from the second- and third worlds here receiving guidance in writing their PhD proposals. It’s a jolly group, amazingly divers! They are keeping Len Hansen and Heila Mare (library) busy! The OCRPL and NetACT share a core conviction. The biggest reason why NetACT shares so much with this group of people, whose offices are in Oxford in England, is that their core reason for existing is exactly what led to the formation of NetACT. Their funding comes from like-minded Christians from all over the world.
NetACT was “born” in Karen, Nairobi with one singularly clear purpose: we want to train our intellectual, academic and church leaders in our own context and continent. Our best brains were literally exported to the first world and many of them never returned to Africa. Add to this the reality that those studying outside Africa work on topics that are seldom addressing the issues that we struggle with nor are they familiar with African authors and literature.
Africa was exploited in the colonialism period and its peoples were sold as slaves. Up to this very day the economic and financial exploitation of our continent continues. The bad news is that African leaders play a key role in this raping of African people and land. We need to stop this. One small contribution will be to develop our own intellectual leadership.
This dream is the seed that birthed both NetACT and the OCRPL. We want to suggest that the OCRPL becomes an Associate Member of NetACT. The OCRPL leadership approved such a step and requested to become a member. They are willing to fund a 2019 NetACT Annual General Meeting in Nairobi (at SPU) in one of the first two weeks of July 2019. Because of financial constrains we did not foresee a 2019 AGM. We did plan to have regional workshops where we can introduce the NIP programme (with overseas funding). This will go ahead and our institutions will receive some funding for traveling to the regional venues.
The reason why NetACT’s office asked them if they could fund an AGM is because we are realizing to which extent Islam is making inroads in our continent. The OCRPL has a lot of expertise on Islam and the Islamic strategies to infiltrate the continent, one small step at a time. Thus we propose the following: An AGM at SPU, all expenses paid, where we will have one day for NetACT business and four days during which each of our member schools report on Islam in their region and country. OCRPL will help us by having some of the world’s best Christian scholars talk to us about on Global Politics and Religion, a short course that covers the challenge of Islam, with particular reference to Freedom of Religion and Human Rights. Each institution present will receive about ten of the most recent, best books, on Islam. We propose that you nominate the person on staff who is responsible for mission / Islam related studies to attend the 2019 AGM. Those successfully attending this workshop will receive an accredited certificate that, in SA and elsewhere, will be recognized as a prior learning qualification.
Thus the Executive Committee decided to:
1. Approve that the Oxford Centre for Religion in Public Life become an Associate Member;
2. Request the Office to go ahead and organize a 2019 AGM in Nairobi. Funding will cover the travel and accommodation expenses of all NetACT members whose membership fees are paid (or will be paid at the meeting).