Last September we started with an inspiring new group of students, or what we prefer to call ‘fellow learners’. They are a diverse and highly motivated lot, hauling from China, Curacao, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Their professional roles range from pastors to activists, ministry leaders and politicians. This variety and professionalism brings about a high level of engagement and discussion in the classroom. It is not rare for students and lecturers alike to experience significant epiphanies and paradigm shifts. To give you a taste of these learning experiences, here’s a selection of what fellow learners have shared in their oral exams:
“This blew my mind: I’ve read the Bible so many times, but I never saw the call to take care of the ‘foreigners’… I repented after the first class. This effects my work as a psychologist and politician.”
“I don’t feel apologetic anymore about being here in the Netherlands as a migrant.”
“This program is changing my life. I check myself: how am I judging this person, like when someone does not look attractive, I must remember that they carry the image of Christ.”
“I have never looked at the history of my own country in this way before.”
“I now see that we knew Christ in Ghana before the advent of Western missionaries. And that if Christ was born in Ghana, he would have used Ghanaian culture.”
“I realize that I need to adapt my leadership style to the different cultures in my church – to some I need to give more direct guidance, to others I need to give more freedom.”
Research project: migrant churches & mental health/well-being
CThM has launched its very first research project. The project highlights an important yet neglected topic: the ways in which migrant pastors/churches engage with mental health and well-being in migrant communities in the Netherlands. Previous research suggests that migrant churches in this country are active in a wide variety of social work in their communities, including support with housing, employment, documents, finances, and language learning. Much less is known about how these churches conceptualize and engage with issues of mental health and well-being, such as grief, anxiety, depression, and trauma. This is of particular interest as research suggests that stigma around professional mental health care is common in many migrant communities, and that some migrant groups make less use of and benefit less from this kind of care. At the same time, research from the US shows that certain ethnic minority churches/clergy can play important roles in providing counseling to church members as well as in creating partnerships with mental health professionals. Moreover, migrant pastors’ specific religiously shaped perspectives on mental health and well-being may offer relevant insights for mental health professionals that work with migrant communities. This research aims to explore these dynamics in the Netherlands, with a focus on Amsterdam. How do migrant pastors here engage with mental health? How do they conceptualize and theologize mental health and well-being? How do they assess the mental health challenges and resources in their communities? How do they seek to promote mental health? And how do they assess possible partnerships with others, in particular mental health professionals? As this research unfolds, fruitful links with other academic and societal parties are being developed such as the Kennisinstituut Christelijke GGZ, HUB-faith (a network of international and migrant churches in The Hague), and Thrive (social movement for a ‘mentally healthy’ Amsterdam, see www.thriveamsterdam.nl). A first paper with literature review was presented at an international conference for Christian Psychology in Barcelona last September and is in the process of publication. The empirical part of the study, interviews with pastors and church leaders, is underway. We will keep you updated as the research progresses.
CThM director Dr. Samuel Lee now ‘Theoloog des Vaderlands’
In the course of our first months with the new group of students, we received the wonderful news that CThM director and lecturer Dr. Samuel Lee has been chosen to be the new ‘Theoloog des Vaderlands’ (Theologian of the Year). We are deeply proud and excited that Dr. Lee has been given this honorary title and role. This development syncs directly with our center’s aim to enhance the visibility of and dialogue with migrant Christians. Dr. Lee is the very first migrant Christian who has been chosen for this role. He has shared in the media that he considers his election as an election of all migrants. We look forward to seeing how Dr. Lee’s unique perspective as a human being and migrant Christian as well as his devotion to connection and dialogue will tickle and inspire the public debate in the year to come!
Museum Catharijneconvent and CThM
On December 20 2019, our last day of classes before Christmas, CThM visited the museum with current students. We toured the collection and had an extensive and pleasant conversation with the curators. Students were impressed with the beautiful art work and insights into history, sharing that they wish to bring other members of their community to the museum. We explored ideas of how to increase the visualization of global Christianity in the museum’s exhibits. It was an inspiring exchange and we plan to make the visit to the Catharijneconvent an intrinsic part of our annual CThM curriculum. As of next year, CThM students will also be able to apply for an internship at the museum.
The museum’s curators recognize the increasing cultural diversity in the Dutch Christian landscape and welcome CThM as a partner to help reflect this diversity in the museum’s exhibitions and operations. They generously offer CThM students free access to the museum as well as a beautiful book on Dutch church history, which we use in our course on that topic. The Catharijneconvent also invites the input of our fellow learners to reflect on current exhibitions and to help realize new exhibitions, as they seek to include the voice of migrant Christians. Museum Catharijneconvent and CThM have developed a promising partnership. The Catharijneconvent exhibits religious art with a focus on Dutch Christianity.