PROTESTANT INSTITUTE OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES (PIASS) FACULTY OF THEOLOGY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES

Community outreach: Seminars for pastor’s spouses and lay people: September 26-30; October 3-6, 2021

Higher learning institutions have a threefold mission consisting in conducting teaching and learning activities, research and consultancy, as well as community outreach. To fulfill that third goal, the Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS) has organized, through the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies (FTRS), two seminars for different categories of church members.

The first seminar took place from the last 26th to the 30th of September, 2021. It was intended for pastor’s spouses and gathered 58 participants including Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals and Anglicans. The group counted three men whose wives are engaged in pastoral ministry. This situation reflects the gender imbalance in pastoral ministry in the world in general and in Rwanda in particular. Among the 55 females, the presence of seven women who came with their babies and their respective attendants was remarkable.

The seminar focused on three interrelated themes: domestic violence, saving culture and poverty reduction. In fact, it has been established that domestic violence which is dominantly gender based, remains a serious issue in Rwanda which undermines all efforts for the development and wellbeing of individuals and communities. Churches have been often called upon to engage with this serious problem. Therefore, it was justified to start with this topic to enable the participants to learn more about the causes, types and effects of domestic violence, as well as the policies and laws available in the Rwanda to curtail it.

Discussions on saving culture and poverty reduction occupied the second and third days of the seminar. Lecturers from the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and practitioners experienced in community development shared their expertise with the participants to both refresh their knowledge and bring in new insights about the subject matters. Theories and practices which have been tested throughout the country over a long period of time were discussed and welcomed as relevant tools for integral development for individual persons and society at large.

The seminar was also enriched by the keys notes from the PIASS Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor who saluted the high attendance of the participants and their active participation throughout the seminar. Both leaders reiterated the relevance of the topic chosen for the seminar and PIASS commitment to promote research on various issues and disseminate knowledge until the grassroot level.

At the end of the seminar, the participants made strong and measurable commitments to get involved in the long-term fight against all forms of violence, initiate the practices enhancing the saving culture and poverty reduction. They solicited support from PIASS in terms of visits for follow-up and training for other members of local congregations. They unanimously recommended that PIASS should, in the future, organize seminars for couples engaged in pastoral ministry to discuss deeply serious matters like domestic violence and others. Certificates were conferred to the participants to formally acknowledge their active participation.

image description

The second seminar started on the 3rd and ended on the 5th of October. It was organized for lay people from various Protestant churches across different districts of the country. 59 participants including Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Anglicans and Baptists attended the seminar reflected on two crucial concerns: human trafficking and biblical interpretation. The presence and courage of 17 women among whom two were with their young babies was encouraging.

The comprehensive definition of human trafficking provided by the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) formed the backbone of all discussions for the first day. It presents it as a serious crime which violates human rights. Indeed, human trafficking is understood as, [….] the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. (https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/what-is-human-trafficking.html#What_is_Human_Trafficking)

From there biblical traditions were revisited to discover various practices of selling and buying humans and well as slavery on the whole accepted, tolerated, or fully condoned, but sometimes condemned. Other components of the reflection concerned the causes, as well as the forms and practices of human trafficking in the region, the legislation and measures to prevent and repress it in the Rwandan context. It was also noted that sexual exploitation in the main motif for this illicit business. The second day of the seminar was devoted to the interpretation of apocalyptic writings both in the Old and New Testaments. It was noted that the misrepresentation of the literary genre and function of this type of literature undergirds biased and erroneous readings which give rise to misleading and disengaging theologies.

While closing the seminar, the participants expressed their commitment to timely provide to competent authorities any information related to attempts or forms of human trafficking to counter this social ill. Sharing with their households and their respective local congregations the acquired knowledge on human trafficking as well as the sound interpretation of apocalyptic literature was another important resolution made by the participants. The joy of receiving certificates attesting their taking part in the two-day reflection on social and theological issues made that evening one of the memorable moments after almost two years of stagnation of such outreach activities at PIASS.


image description