Advent Greetings

Dear Friends,

I hope that you are enjoying this season of preparation and reflection as we await the Joys of Christmas. We here at Bethany Land Institute are reflecting on the genuine goodness of God, and how He has opened so many new partnerships for us this year. We are pleased to announce that through two generous grants, we have secured funding for much of Phase I of our construction, allowing us to break ground in 2019 for two dormitories and classrooms. This will enable us to open our doors to our first cohort of students in 2020, and target our formal launch in 2021.

We wish to thank each of you for your continued support for the vision and mission of BLI. We are especially thankful for the funding that you provide for the staff, who have been working tirelessly this year to prepare the campus. They have made tremendous progress, including cultivation of the land, which not only produces all of their food, but with enough extra to sell to the local community. With their proceeds from those sales, they have started the Savings and Credit Co-op, which will allow them to eventually purchase their own farms. In addition, they have planted and dispersed to the local area over 5000 trees on the mission to reforest the land.  I invite you to visit our updated website to see photos of their progress.

I also had the privilege this fall of being interviewed by Near and Far, a world Catholicism podcast, about our vision for Bethany Land Institute. If you would like to listen, here is the link:

We look forward to the deepening work of BLI in the coming year, and value your partnership and support to continue our mission. You may make an online donation through our website or send a check to the address below.  If you would like to speak with our Development Coordinator about ways that you can make an impact at BLI, please reach out to her at the contact number below, or through our website.

Wishing you and your family the blessings of Christmas,

Fr. Emmanuel Katongole                 

Africa Matters: November 2018 Update

It has been a while since my last update (July). Overall things have been well with a number of highlights on various fronts:

1.Family: summer saw me spending time with mother in the village at Malube, and with family & kids (nieces, nephews, grandnieces/nephews) at Bethany House. Pictures capture some of the moments:

2.Bethany Land Institute: News of a grant from the Italian Bishops Conference (beginning of summer) gave a good jump start for fundraising efforts for the construction of phase one of the campus – and hopefully for a 2019 official launch. Summer also saw me spending time “on the ground (land)” working with staff, board and other meetings. Again, pictures tell the story better than words:

In the meantime, a recently released podcast interview (Near and Far) captures the BLI journey:

3.Research: The end of July found me in Sarajevo, attending and speaking at the 3rd International conference of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church. Over 400 theologians from around the world! In the final plenary, I presented “Seven Emerging Convictions of Prophetic Theological Ethics for the World Church.” Read my presentation here:

In the meantime, on my sabbatical research project, Who Are My People, jointly funded by the Luce Fellowship in Theology and Contending Modernities, I finished up with the interviews over the summer, and am in the process drafting the five chapters of the book. See my “Excess of Love in the Oasis of Peace,” a blog entry following my visit to Maggy Barankitse’s “Oasis of Peace.”

The following report, to be presented at the ATS Luce Fellowship meeting in Pittsburg early next month, offers a good overview of the research project.

Here is the PDF of the Report:

A Review of Born from Lament

Earlier this year David Tanghou Ngong, a professor at Stillman College published a review of my book Born from Lament: The Theology of Politics and Hope in Africa in Reading Religion, a publication of the American Academy of Religion. I appreciate his assessment of my work, which not only highlights the strengths of the book but also offers constructive critique.

David Tanghou Ngong writes:

Katongole’s portrayal of an alternative vision of peace which the Christian faith provides in the context of the violent politics of the nation-state continues to be one of his significant contributions to African theology. Perhaps he is right that African theology has been too reticent in pointing out the salutary alternative visions of peaceful life that some Christians in the continent are cultivating. However, his claim that there has been a loss of lament in African theology is not an adequate description of the African Christian theological scene. Lament is at the heart of the theologies of inculturation, Black liberation theology in South Africa, the theology of reconstruction, and African women’s theology: the lament of the various forms of loss many have suffered and continue to suffer on the continent…This notwithstanding, Born from Lament provides significant ethnographic, biblical, and theological material that may enhance peacebuilding around the world.

For the full review please see:

Since my last post there have been a number of significant updates that I would like to share with you:

1. I am honoured to have been promoted to full professor at the University of Notre Dame.

2. The International Bulletin of Missions Research has selected Born from Lament: The Theology of Politics of Hope in Africa as one of its top ten outstanding books in Missions Studies for 2017.

3. I had the opportunity to participate in a Skype discussion about my book the Sacrifice of Africa with a group of students from South Africa hosted by Mziwandile Nkutha, a recent graduate of the Anabaptist Mennonite Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana.

Notes from the Field: March 1-9, 2018


I spent the beginning of March in the Central African Republic conducting field research. CAR has suffered significantly from political violence, which has been further exacerbated by divisions along religious lines. The 2013 crisis (Seleka vs. anti-Balaka violence) resulted in high levels of displacement across the country. In January 2018, the International Committee of the Read Cross stated that half of the country was in need of humanitarian aid.

My time travelling, interviewing, and reading helped shed some light on some of the dimensions that have shaped the conflict:

1. Crisis of Citizenship

There is a general feeling that Muslims (15% of population) do not really belong; they are ‘non-native’ to CAR. They are always suspected of having ‘external’ links and connections ( to Chad and Sudan). Muslims also control over 75% of economy. In spite of this, a number of people who I spoke with (both Christians and Muslims) observed that Christians and Muslims have always lived peacefully together and frequently intermarried.

2. Violence arises, in part, from a sense of marginalization

The rise of the Seleka (2012) is not a complete surprise when we consider that it originated in the North East, a very marginalized part of the country, from a variety of grievances. It is important to note that Seleka militia is 20% Christian. Adam Ashforth argues that the violence of the anti-Balaka arose, in part, due to a feeling of “spiritual insecurity.” The group has responded to this insecurity by invoking traditional beliefs and magical practices.

What is surprising is the level and intensity of violence. An ex anti-Balaka informant stated: “it is as if something internal exploded; something ‘diabolic.’”

3. Lack of “local” initiatives in leadership make it hard to move forward

There are many foreign elements to CAR’s social history, concessionary politics and economics: Arab slave traders, French colonialism, trading companies, Chad, Sudan, UN, and missionary congregations. Imam Kobine, who I was able to speak with during my time in CAR, noted that some of these dimensions may have contributed to the marginalization of local, “native” initiatives in leadership.

4. The role of the Church in CAR

The Catholic Church plays a powerful role in the country’s social and political infrastructure. The Church also reflects the ‘external’ element of leadership. Only one of 8 bishops is diocesan; the rest are from missionary or religious congregations. The general secretary of the Bishop’s conference stated: “The church’s role is to support what the state is doing.”

The Church’s presence and positive impact are visible in the care of refugees, such as Cardinal Nzapailanga and the Interfaith Platform. However, I was also told that all too often “The church promotes a magical faith; a certain fatalism (if God wants us to have peace, we will have peace).” Thus, the church has yet to meet the challenge of unleashing the internal capacities (inner revolution) of believers.


Visible Signs of Hope

In the midst of suffering I also bore witness to visible signs of hope, reflecting an “excess of love” in the midst of violence.

1. The Interfaith Platform, founded by the Archbishop, an Imam and a pastor. It connects and brings together different faith traditions, advocating for peace and reconciliation on national and community (local) levels, and serving as an example of interfaith solidarity.

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2. I was particularly impressed by Fr. Bernard Kinvi, a Camillian priest, who runs the hospital at Bossentele, and who during the 2013 crisis, offered refuge at the hospital, to both Christian and Muslims, mediated between Seleka and anti-Balaka, protected the vulnerable; buried the dead, and helped many to evacuate. A native of Togo who has been here for 7 years now, he is driven by the Camillian spirituality: “serving the poor and sick is the way to God’s heart.” He is using that spirituality to knit the social fabric of the remote village of Bossentele into a sense of belonging that closely reflects the church as a “Field Hospital”. Talk about ecclesial radiance! The two days here in Bossentele, trailing and learning from Kinvi, as he takes me around the hospital and visiting and talking to various people in the community, are without doubt, the highlight of my time in CAR!