2nd December, 2020
Introduction by Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, Executive Director
Greetings from the Global Institute for Leadership Development (GILD) and the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life (OCRPL).
In this edition, we bring you several highlights of this month. There is an update on our Transformative Theological Education Project, Dr Chris Sugden reports on a stimulating guest lecture from Dr Timothy Shah on Religious Liberty, one of our PhD students, Archbishop Mata Roham of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, introduces himself and his thesis, and you will also find a summary of my own research methodology which has served me well throughout the years. Finally, towards the end of the newsletter we have highlighted several resources which may be of real interest to you.
The purpose of this newsletter is to highlight our events and resources, as well as building and connecting those in our global community with one another. As such, we would also be delighted to hear from you. If you have any comments or stories we can share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What we’ve been doing this month
MTh Writing Skills Seminar
On 11 and 12 November, MTh students took part in a two-day interactive writing skills seminar. Prior to the seminar, students submitted written assignments for feedback from OCRPL faculty. The students were then given comments and suggestions during the seminar, which many found to be both helpful and practical. A number of students had issues trying to cover large topics in short essays, while not being able to clearly articulate and support their argument. However, as this was their first essay, we hope they will take feedback on board and improve the quality of their future written work.
The event was a team project with contributions from many of our faculty members including Dr Joshva John, Dr Chris Sugden, Dr Sara Afshari, Dr Anwar Behre, Dr Adekoya Julius, Dr Moussa Bongoyok, as well as Mark McNaughton (using library), and Nathanael Cullis (using Turnitin). We also had Dr Vinay Samuel speaking on ‘Concept and Context’ – a great topic which could be turned into a lecture series of its own. Dr Ruth Samuel also joined us and provided a helpful overview and analysis of students’ written work, highlighting the main issues and points of concern within their essays.
Overall, this seminar was a success. It set the benchmark for students and provided them with some hands-on practical help and guidance. The students will now work closely with their supervisors on their first drafts and submit their first essays by mid-December.
Guest Lecture: Dr Timothy Shah on Religious Liberty
What is a secure basis for religious liberty? According to President Macron of France, following the recent terrorist murders, religious liberty is rooted in liberal notions of the rights of man as expressed following the “Enlightenment” in the French Revolution, liberty, equality and fraternity.
In November’s OCRPL guest lecture, Dr Timothy Shah challenged the notion that religious liberty required the evangelism of western liberalism. He argued that arguments for Religious Liberty predated the Enlightenment by millennia and could be found in many cultures. He argued “If religious liberty enjoys a pre-liberal existence, then liberalism cannot be its necessary precondition. And if liberalism is not religious liberty’s necessary precondition, then advocates of religious liberty do not have to be — and perhaps should not be — evangelists of liberalism.”
For many, religious liberty means making the world safe for liberalism. But Dr Shah argued that those seeking religious liberty, or advocating for it, in non-western countries should not become evangelists for western liberalism or base their arguments on the western language of individual rights, but seek the understanding of religious liberty in their own religious cultures.
Evangelism and seeking to convert people is not contrary to religious liberty either, for trying to engage someone about the truth of religion is an exercise of their religious freedom, by giving them an opportunity to expand their options. Such activity should be neither coercive or fraudulent, but regrettably in some cases such methods have been used.
The next guest lecture in the series will be presented by Rev Dr Peniel Rufus Rajkumar on 10 December. He will be speaking on ‘Rethinking Interreligious Dialogue for our Times’. If you are interested in joining, please contact Andre Lombard at: Andre.Lombard@barnabasfund.org
Transformative Theological Education Project
Over the last two months, OCRPL has facilitated a series of online events for theological educators in the Global South. Most recently, we hosted a webinar on ‘Transformative Theological Education’ on 26 November. Around 40 theological leaders, educators and practitioners from across East Europe, Asia, and the Pacific came together to discuss transformative theology and practices in education and beyond.
Typically, ‘transformative development’ takes place at a grass-roots level, but is rarely addressed in the curriculum of theological academic programmes. As such, we discussed ways in which transformative theology could be integrated into theological education. The hope being that church leaders, who train in these institutions, will be better equipped to engage in community transformation and social action in their contexts, and see this as an inevitable part of the mission and ministry of the church of God.
The webinar began with inaugural talks from Professor Patrick Sookhdeo, Dr Samuel Vinay, and Dr David Lim, who drew on their expertise to provide invaluable insights and introductions to transformative theology. In the next session, participants were split into two groups based on their experience. Across these groups, nine attendees presented papers which covered a range of topics centring around the key theme of transformative education. It was particularly encouraging to find several examples of curriculum currently used by various institutions to teach transformational theology. These presentations were then followed by an opportunity for open discussion, reflection, and questions.
Attendees were encouraged and excited by the webinar, leaving comments such as,
“[I benefited from] understanding more about transformative theology and learning from scholars from many contexts”.
Subsequently, we are planning to compile these papers into a book for the benefit of theological institutions. This will be a combined effort with those who contributed to our previous webinar on the same topic in Africa. If you are interested in this project or being involved in transformative theological education, please contact us at email@example.com.
Update on The Shepherd’s Academy
There has been encouraging progress in the work of the Shepherd’s Academy. We are currently developing our Bachelor of Ministry programme, and are in the process of creating courses which are contextually relevant and practically helpful for existing church leaders across the Global South.
In December, OCRPL and GILD are partnering with the Senate of Serampore College (University) to coordinate an online conference on “Advancing Theological Education in and for South Asian Churches”. This is part of our vision to develop blended theological education in the Global South. The conference will be an opportunity for theological educators to collectively consider how theological training could become accessible for grassroots church leaders who do not have access to vital theological training.
Getting to Know Us
An Introduction to OCRPL PhD student, Archbishop Matta Roham
I am Archbishop Eustathius Matta Roham of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch. Since I was born in a Christian-Muslim community in Qamishly, Syria, where people spoke both Syriac and Arabic, I was able to gain both languages and to be acquainted with both cultures and religions.
Syriac was the Lingua Franca of the Fertile Crescent for many centuries and can help uncover ambiguous vocabulary in the Qur’an wherever there is a Syriac trace. My thesis will look at the Syriac influence in the Qur’an in three main aspects, namely, cultural influences, Alphabet script and the Syriac and Arabic languages, and passages in the Qur’an relating to Syriac sources.
Scholars have already written about the influence of many languages and cultures in the Qur’an. Before Western orientalists spoke about the existence of foreign words in the Qur’an, classical Muslim scholars had already mentioned it. I will focus on the Syriac influence because it was profound, due to the close relations between Syriacs and Arabs, especially in the south of both Mesopotamia and the Levant.
Examining these relations will pave the way for a deeper understanding of the religious, cultural and social environment in which Islam was born.
Islam, as a global religion, has become of increasing interest to academics and governments. Some people are motivated to religious hatred of others because they have no understanding of their beliefs. Accepting “the other” comes about through understanding one another. As such, there is an important need to understand Islam and its historical origin. Profound research in this area will help to promote understanding between the faiths, and so increase respect for the diversity of our human race.
MTh Islamic Studies 2021-2022
The Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life is excited to introduce an MTh programme in Islamic studies in partnership with the University of Pretoria, South Africa and Institut Universitaire de Développement International, Cameroon.The programme is taught by experts in the area, such as Prof Patrick Sookhdeo, Dr Moussa Bongoyok, Dr Julius Adekoya and others.
This MTh programme combines reading with online learning and online seminars in a virtual community. This blended learning approach is the most appropriate pedagogical design in the context of pandemic and beyond. The programme is part-time and so is a perfect fit for those in ministry or working a full-time job.
The deadline for applications is approaching very quickly and closes on the 14 Dec 2020. There will only be one intake of students a year and the next intake will not be until January 2022. If you wish to enrol in year 2021, please apply as soon as possible. For more details click here: https://www.ocrpl.org/masters/
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo’s Research Methodology
During the recent Stellenbosch PhD research and methodologies seminar, Dr Patrick Sookhdeo presented a paper on his research methodologies. This paper outlines his approach to research, information, and teaching, and then focuses on two key stages of research: locating and testing the source of information, and then analysing the information.
Dr Sookhdeo’s particular methodology draws on many years of experience in academic, military, and humanitarian contexts. It is designed to help the learner handle large and complex bodies of information and navigate to relevant data.
In a world that is increasingly complex, where academics have more access to information than ever before, this interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methodology is a welcome approach.
To read the full paper please click here: https://www.ocrpl.org/patrick-sookhdeos-research-method/
We are continuing to offer access to our extensive library resources to GILD members who are members of a faculty or research students at your institution. This resource will give you access to e-journals and e-books as well as the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity (ISIC) library catalogue of 93,000+ books. If you qualify for access and would like to sign up, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Learning Management System
We are continuing to finalise the development of a low-cost learning management system to provide your institution with an online learning platform as well as facilitate our own university and certificate level courses here at OCRPL. This will be priced starting at $50 per institution and host all your institution’s online learning, including lectures, classes, reading material, assessments, and more. If you would like to find out more regarding fees, set-up, or how you could integrate this into your institution, please contact us at email@example.com.