I begin by greeting you and wishing you the peace and blessing that comes to us from God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I address this message of hope to you as one of the members of the Council of the “Global Pedagogical Network – Joining in Reformation” (GPENreformation). The network we have created to unite us in times of joy and sorrow, in times when everything seems to be going well, but also in times when life is difficult or even paralyzed by COVID-19.
First of all, I would like to thank the political leaders of our various countries for the measures and strategies that have been put in place to combat this pandemic. Secondly, I thank the leaders of Protestant churches around the world for their good will and action in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 and its consequences.
I remind you that one of the objectives of GPENreformation is to open up spaces for communication, dialogue and exchange of experience between the members of the network, i.e. schools, universities and Protestant educational organizations (www.gpenreformation.net). This happens and must happen in easy as well as in difficult times. For this I thank the members who share their experiences, prayers and words of hope, the strategies and actions carried out, information and advice, while the whole world is confronted with the COVID 19 pandemic and the crisis it has triggered. I thank the GPENreformation staff who help us to access all these rich contributions through the link on the official website of our network: https://www.gpenreformation.net/de/networkactivities/protestant-education-in-times-of-the-covid-19-pandemic/. By sharing our testimonies and actions, we put into practice the principle of Protestant solidarity that we find in the prayer of Jesus Christ to his disciples in these words: “all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).
COVID-19 has harmful effects, near and far, on socio-economic life in general and on education in particular. These include the closure of schools and universities in several countries of the world, the interruption of social and economic activities, the loss of hope and motivation for schooling among some young people, the trauma that could lead to dropping out of school, etc. It is precisely in such difficult times that the agents of evangelical formation should multiply their efforts and assume their responsibility to be “the salt and light of the world” (Mt 5:13-14).
From this perspective I remind parents of their responsibility as pillars in the education of their children. During this time of imprisonment, parents in many countries are asked to take more time by talking to their children, organizing study and review sessions of courses and exercises, reading books and documents, carrying out research and creative activities, organizing moments of reflection and sharing of prayer and God’s words, leisure activities such as sports, songs, dances, poetry in the family, etc.
We are the actors of Protestant education in our different countries. What does this mean for us today in the context of COVID-19? COVID-19 presents us with an important pedagogical challenge. We have to rethink our educational systems, our curricula and teaching methods. As Martin Luther said, Protestantism should be shaped by the spirit and the will to reform, “semper reformanda” in Latin. Today we should rethink how our Protestant education can be a source of reflection, analysis and the ability to find effective and sustainable solutions to current problems and contexts. John F. Kennedy said: “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities”. Against this background, I call on all actors in Protestant education to assume their responsibility by thinking together with others about synergistic actions that can stop the spread of the COVID 19 pandemic. As Benjamin Disraeli said: ” Upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.”. Our future will depend on the quality of education that we offer our children and young people today, in the family, in society and at school. Trusting in the unconditional love of God and his Holy Spirit, we are called to act at local, regional and international levels to train agents of change who can contribute to the well-being and development of our diverse populations.
May our thoughts and prayers be with the families of all the victims of COVID-19 and with all the moral and physical persons involved in the fight against this pandemic. May the Word of God continue to comfort them, for ” God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (Psalm 46:1-3).
Pastor Samuel Mutabazi, Director of the “Bureau National de l’Enseignement Protestant” in Rwanda and member of the GPENreformation Council
Written in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 06, 2020