Dr. Greg Burch, chair of the Master of Arts in Global Development and Justice program, recently returned from a two-week stay in Rwanda with the MAGDJ program's very first online cohort. Students in the online MAGDJ program spend the first two weeks of their program in Rwanda, where they glean insights from guest speakers, study the world’s most pressing issues and team up with NGOs that are involved in compassion initiatives, poverty alleviation and combating injustice. You can learn more about the online MAGDJ program here.
Learning on the Road in Rwanda
by Dr. Greg Burch
On January 3, Multnomah inaugurated its new blended online development and justice (MAGDJ) program in Rwanda. Students coming from California, Colorado, Oregon, Kenya and Rwanda joined together for a two-week experiential learning course that included a focus on learning from development organizations throughout the country. Learning from social entrepreneurs, community-based child care workers, refugees, and micro-finance and savings clubs participants proved significant for students working in the fields of international development and global justice.
One primary focus of the trip was learning from a country that suffered a genocide in 1994. Rwanda has faced significant suffering and also profound transformation since that time. Genocide memorials, including a visit with a perpetrator and a victim helped the students understand the profound nature of forgiveness and reconciliation. In meeting with Emmanuel (a genocide perpetrator) and his victim, Alice, who survived a machete and spear attack from Emmanuel and the loss of her baby, met with us to describe their healing process and what Christ has done in their lives to bring them into a close relationship today. The conversation was truly stunning. We learned forgiveness and reconciliation is possible even with the most heinous of crimes.
Visits also included time with a number of non-government organizations and ministries, including Africa New Life Ministries, Tearfund, World Relief, These Numbers Have Faces, Prison Fellowship, International Teams, Word Made Flesh, and Arise Rwanda. The course led us through the importance of a solid biblical understanding for engaging in transformational development and biblical justice with an emphasis on peace and reconciliation, micro-finance and job creation, savings clubs, refugee resettlement, and education in poverty contexts, just to mention a few.
There are a number of standout experiences from our time in Rwanda, but Alice and Ariana demonstrated a powerful example in their entrepreneurial efforts as electrical engineering students in designing and preparing to manufacture solar lamps that will provide light for children studying at night in refugee camps in the country. What was so capturing was that they themselves come from refugee backgrounds and struggled to read at night with candles.
Another significant event was our time in a refugee camp. Eighteen thousand people, primarily Congolese people who have been forced out by insecurity and conflict, live just across the border in Rwanda in a cramped camp managed by the UNHCR. Our primary focus in the camp was on access to education by the 9,000 children and youth in the camp. Much of our time was spent with students, the very few, that have access to school through sponsorship programs. Spending time with refugees and hearing their stories was moving. Stories that involved faith, hope and patience as they await placement in countries around the world, with many having to wait eighteen or even twenty years as governments decide on permanent location.
These MAGDJ students will spend the next 18 months in online courses and internships reflecting on these and other field experiences as they take classes on micro-finance, refugees, nonprofit leadership, human rights and the like. For more information on our online Global Development and Justice program, go here.