Mennonite Mission Network and more than a dozen other partners have desired to make Anabaptist theological resources available in the French language for decades. The Justice and Peace Training Center began offering webinars in French in March 2021.
Mennonite Mission Network has worked to make Anabaptist theology available for French speakers for decades. In March 2021, those efforts took the form of monthly online French-language webinars offered by Le Centre de Formation à la Justice et à la Paix (CFJP, Justice and Peace Training Center).
Eight years earlier, in 2014, the Réseau mennonite francophone (RMF, Francophone Mennonite Network), named a committee to begin formulating a proposal to fill this void in the academic world. At a follow-up meeting, in 2017, RMF worked toward creating a consortium of theological schools and partner institutions to develop an online Anabaptist theology training program for French-speakers in Africa, Europe and North America. This program has a strong focus on justice, peace and reconciliation. The consortium is led by Matthew Krabill, of Mission Network, serving in France; John Masebi, who lectures at the Centre Universitaire de Missiologie (University Center of Missiology) in Congo; and Roger N'Dri, professor at Université de l'Alliance Chrétienne d'Abidjan (UACA, University of the Christian Alliance of Abidjan) in Ivory Coast.
The Justice and Peace Training Center is hosted by UACA. As a first step towards curriculum development, and due to limitations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the center began offering free online monthly conferences in March 2021, with Culture, Ethnicity and Conflict, taught by Rubin Pohor, Ivorian anthropologist and sociologist. Presenters associated with Mission Network were Siaka Traoré, Mennonite Church leader in Burkina Faso, and Neal Blough, former mission worker in France.
"These online conferences have proven to be a wonderful way to unite theologians, missiologists and practitioners in validating contextualized understanding, reflections and responses related to peace and justice," said Martine Audéoud, who has worked with African doctoral students in theology through Mission Network since 2006.
Fidèle Ayu Lumeya, who formerly served with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and now works with the Congolese government's peacebuilding program and other non-governmental organizations, said that the webinars were a "divine blessing" in a time when he felt bombarded by discussions about COVID-19.
"We were happy to change the subject," Lumeya said. "It was like a good session of psychotherapy."
He said he appreciated the integration of input from church, governmental and academic agencies, especially in the exchange of ideas about reparative justice and peace. He was also grateful for the emphasis on applied missiology.
"[Through the webinars, we] learned how to live with women and men, who see the world differently than we, Christians, do. We learned about what postures to adopt as missionaries," Lumeya said.
He also said he valued the ample space allocated to interactions between webinar presenters and participants. "The question-and-response times were opportunities for creating relationships with other institutions around the world. That helped us feel less isolated and alone here, in Kinshasa," Lumeya said.
Serge Oulaï, president of the committee Mission Biblique France (Biblical Mission of France), pastor of Eglise Protestante Evangélique de Créteil (Créteil Evangelical Protestant Church) in Paris and member of Paris Mennonite Center's board of directors, said that he studied the topics covered in the CFJP webinars for more than 20 years. Even with his extensive knowledge of the subjects, he found that the webinars enriched his personal reflections and presented a wealth of new relationships with justice-and-peace practitioners and with resources designed to put head knowledge into practice.
Oulaï, originally from Ivory Coast, has live in France for 15 years, where he walks alongside many pastors and African leaders.
"For the training structures with which I engage, [the CFJP webinars] contributed to a much-needed rooting of justice and peace in both African and European contexts," Oulaï said. "I pray the CFJP will be a tool for creating a digital database for all justice and peace contributions, from academic theses to practitioners' reports."
Too often, this kind of information remains sequestered at an elite academic level in theological institutions, Oulaï said. His sincere hope is that CFJP will make this knowledge accessible to all who need these skills in their daily lives on the streets.
CFJP is anticipating an in-person meeting in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in February 2022, gathering an international team of French-speaking theologians, missiologists and practitioners to discuss a first draft of a curriculum to train leaders in peace, justice and reconciliation, inspired by the Anabaptist tradition.
"The hope is to build up an online accredited curriculum in French with partner institutions that will further equip leaders to live out the Lord's call to develop peace and justice in our communities, as well as to offer non-accredited certificates at all levels of Bible schools," Audéoud said.
- Centre de Formation du Bienenberg (Bienenberg Training Center in Switzerland).
- Centre Universitaire de Missiologie (University Center of Missiology in Congo).
- Ecole de théologie Evangélique du Québec (Evangelical Theological School of Quebec in Canada).
- Faculté de théologie evangélique de Kélo (Kélo School of Evangelical Theology in Chad).
- Faculté de théologie évangélique Shalom (Shalom School of Evangelical Theology in Chad).
- Formation biblique de base (Basic Biblical Training in Burkina Faso).
- Institut Biblique du Bénin (Benin Bible Institute in Benin).
- Université de l'Alliance Chrétienne d'Abidjan (University of the Christian Alliance of Abidjan in Ivory Coast).
- Université Chrétienne de Kinshasa (Christian University of Kinshasa in Congo).
Participating partner institutions
- Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (USA).
- Association des frères Mennonites du Québec (Canada).
- Centre Mennonite de Paris (France).
- Comité Européen du Réseau Francophone (France).
- Eastern Mennonite Missions (USA).
- Mennonite Mission Network (USA).