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Newsletter CThM December 2021


This academic year marks the center's fourth year as being part of the Vrije Universiteit Faculty of Religion and Theology. Twenty years ago, relatively few individuals discussed theology and migration, as well as the influence of migrant churches in the Netherlands. When I first spoke about migration and theology in 1999, few people took me seriously.

Thanks to Samen Kerk in Nederland and the VU University Amsterdam, we now have a center for post-academic training in theology and migration for migrant pastors and church leaders. It's been an incredible four years. As a center and member of the VU University seminary community, we are engaged in faculty initiatives, and serve on faculty commissions. My colleague Dr. Daniëlle Phillips-Koning is on the examination committee, and I am a member of the Diversity Commission. Furthermore, throughout the last four years, the relationship with other colleagues and the faculty board has been encouraging.

The notion of "fellow-learner" was one of the most wonderful things we as a center introduced. We avoid using the term "student" since they are not only here to learn from us lecturers, but we are here to learn from their knowledge and life experiences as well. Our courses are a continuous exchange of knowledge and experience based on mutual respect and academic excellence.

As a result, we are all co-learners. For example, through the course non-western images of Christ, I've gained a wealth of understanding about indigenous cultures and religious features unique to each of our fellow learners. Additionally, they get an understanding of the complexities of Dutch society in terms of mission and evangelism in a post-modern world. These are only a handful of the many things I have to share with you.


Here below, my colleague Dr. Daniëlle Phillips-Koning has compiled a list of highlights from our work at the Center for Theology of Migration. I hope you find these updates inspiring and motivating. Please spread the word about our program to your local migrant pastors and church leaders.


Let me conclude by wishing you a joyful Christmas and a prosperous 2022. May the year 2022 bring you and your loved ones peace, happiness, and health.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Director, Center for Theology of Migration


Update Education

With delight we started our lectures this academic year together ON CAMPUS! It was a great experience to lecture and discuss face to face again after a full year of digital classes, especially since we started with a brand-new batch of students. This year we have a particularly diverse classroom, with each one of the 7 fellow learners hailing from a different country: 2 from West Africa, 1 from Central Africa, 1 from East Africa, 2 from Asia and 1 from Latin America. As you can imagine, this makes for rich exchange of insight and perspective in topics such as leadership models, contextual theology, and views of the Holy Spirit. It is also a feast each year to see the fellow learners develop their year-long internship project in line with the particular concerns and affinities that come up from their own professional, pastoral and life experiences. This year they have chosen to dive deeply into questions such as the role of faith in migration stories, the varied challenges faced by an emerging migrant church, and the contextual particulars of marriage and divorce in the migration context. After our first physical class, our lectures quickly morphed into a hybrid format, with some fellow learners meeting in the classroom and others joining online. We were made aware once again that the particular challenges faced by some of our fellow learners do not always make it easy to continue pursuing their degree, and we are very glad that we have found a way to continue making our education accessible to all our students by using this hybrid form.


Update Research

In September another successful expert meeting by the ‘HUB mental well-being for Christian Migrants’ was organized. The topic was “Stigma and mental health in migrant communities”. Our speakers were a Christian psychiatrist who presented on her extensive experience in working with undocumented migrants, and one of last year’s fellow learners who presented on his internship research that focused on perceptions of Alzheimer’s in a Surinamese community. Their presentations were ensued by insightful exchange between mental health professionals, pastors and others from diverse ethnic backgrounds. In the Spring a new event is being planned, for more info or to subscribe to this network’s updates, see www.mentalwellbeingchristianmigrants.nl

Over the last months the field work on a mental health community program developed for Christian migrants was completed. Our researcher participated in the sessions of this program and interviewed the program participants and leaders. An article will be written focusing on the particular role such a program can fulfill for the well-being of Christian migrants next to ‘regular’ church programs and ‘regular’ mental health services.


We are grateful for the good start of this new academic year and now look forward to a break. We wish you all a joyful Christmas season, with time for what rejuvenates you, and look forward to connecting with you again in the new year!

Dr. Danielle Phillips-Koning

Assistant Professor, Center for Theology of Migration

Dr. Samuel Lee

Director, Center for Theology of Migration

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