Letter from the President
During the season of Advent, my mind often turns toward dreams, vision, and story. This is especially true this year as I have seen a personal dream turn into a real vision that is leading me to invite others into the story. Here’s an update and an invitation.
First the update: Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato Si’ has had a profound impact on me. Noting the deep connection between the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, Pope Francis calls for integrated approaches that are able to fight poverty, restore human dignity to the excluded and at the same time protect nature. (L.S. 139). These integrated approaches are needed particularly in Africa, where the effects of the ecological crisis are felt acutely by poor and marginalized communities. Accordingly, for the last three years, I, together with other friends, have been working on an initiative, the Bethany Land Institute, to respond to the urgent problems of deforestation, food insecurity and poverty that affect millions in Africa.
Based in Uganda, on 85 acres of land, the goal of the Bethany Land Institute is to form leaders for rural transformation through an education program that equips young people with the skills of sustainable agriculture, economic empowerment and a spirituality of creation care. Through this program we hope not only to undertake a major reforestation effort (a million trees by 2050), but form the BLI students into leaders who, upon graduation will set up and run model farms in their community, where they will mentor others in skills of sustain agriculture, a life-style of service and a spirituality of care for creation. To learn more about BLI visit our website: www.bethanylandinstitute.org.
Since the purchase of the land in 2015, much progress has been made. BLI has been incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Uganda and in the USA, staff has been hired, and living quarters for the staff have been constructed. Also, in partnership with Engineers Ministry International, a facilities plan has been developed. We are developing the curriculum, and will soon begin the construction of two dormitories to house our students. Thanks to a generous donor, we have received $75,000 as a matching grant towards this end. Donations can be made on our website or sent to the BLI mailing address: PO Box 6391, South Bend, IN 46660
This is my invitation for you to join the Bethany Land Institute story. Would you prayerfully consider a year end gift to help us secure this grant? Your gift will help us to build the dormitories, and to launch the institute in January 2019. I am grateful for your prayers, well wishes and partnership towards this initiative to realize integral ecology and sustainable development in Uganda. I am reminded of the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, walk alone, but if you want to go far, walk with others.” Obviously, we want to go far.
With best wishes for a blessed Advent season and a joyous Christmas,
Fr. Emmanuel Katongole
Co-founder & BLI President