The Bethany Land Institute serves as a catalyst and educational base for a green revolution in Africa.
Underlying Theological Conviction
Poverty. Hunger. Enviromental decline. At the root of these challenges lies a theological challenge. This is the “wound” or “sin” that Pope Francis identified in Laudato Si as our inability to see and acknowledge our deep connection with the land: “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (Gen 2:7), our very bodies are made of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (LS #2). In concrete practical terms the wound means that Africa has slavishly imitated and followed education and economic modes whose orientation has involved an attempt to escape from man’s God given vocation to “till the land and take care of it.” (Gen 2:15). For millions of Africans especially in rural communities this has resulted into an odd, negative and exploitative relation to the land, a situation that has contributed to the three major challenges.
And yet, we are convinced that embracing and living into the vocation to “till the land and take care of it” not only ensures responsible care of God’s creation, but also sufficient food availability, economic wellbeing and the restoration of human dignity of millions in Africa.
What is needed is a demonstration that this is actually the case. The demonstration would also serve as “educational program” to form and nurture a fresh “way of thinking,” and a “new lifestyle and spirituality”(Pope Francis, Laudato Si, 111) in relation to land in Africa. The Bethany Land Institute seeks to be that educational program and a catalyst for “an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature (Laudato Si, # 139).
Spirit of Bethany
The stories associated with the village of Bethany in the Bible provide powerful images to what the church is called to be in relation to Africa in general, rural Africa in particular.Accordingly “Bethany” serves as a good model and inspiration for the vision and mission of the Land Institute. For a number of reasons:
- In the Bible, Bethany is specifically referred to as a “village” (LK 10:38)
- In Jesus’ time, Bethany was a village where the poor and excluded lived – thus the name “Bethany” (Beit – aeAniae: which means “home of the poor”) – just like many African villages.
- It was the home of Martha who “welcomed Jesus in her house” (Lk 10: 38). Martha a model of a hard working, productive woman and community leader.
- It is also the home of Mary, Martha’s sister who sat at Jesus feet. A model for discipleship and personal intimacy with the Lord
- It is a place of resurrection: at Bethany Lazarus was sick (Jn 11), died, but was raised to life, which points to the kind of ‘resurrection’ we want to see realized through the Bethany Land Institute.
- Bethany is also a place of anointing, where Mary anointed Jesus head and feet and filled the entire house with a new fragrance (Jn 13:1-3).
- Bethany is also a place of revolution: Following the resurrection Jesus meets the disciples at Bethany (LK24:50-53) and sends them on mission into the world on mission. At Bethany Land Institute we seek nothing less than a revolution – a quiet revolution of a new way of living in Africa.
Thus not only does Bethany serve as a good model and inspiration for the mission of BLI, the latter will endeavor to recreate and be shaped and driven by the ethos and spirituality of Bethany: a spirituality of discipleship, productivity, hospitality, resurrection, anointing and of a revolutionary (new aroma) mission of servant leadership in Africa.