Dynamic, innovative, ground-breaking- AU Institute of Theology and Religious Studies lays the foundation for pioneer chaplaincy programme

6 August 2019
Story by
Jeanette Dadzie

A first on the continent of Africa, the Doctor of Military Chaplaincy Symposium to formulate the eventual implementation of the Masters and Doctorate programmes in Military Chaplaincy at Africa University was held at the main campus from the 6th to the 7th of August 2019.  The symposium brought together chaplains from militaries in the SADC Region that included countries such as Malawi, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe from a range of religious denominations among them the Apostolic, Reformed Church, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God and the Seventh Day Adventist Churches.

Attending the symposium representing the United States Army Africa (USARAF) were Colonel Lyle and Major Mathews. D. Mattison who were on hand to add to the discussions their depth of knowledge and experience in the novel field of military chaplaincy. Professor Munashe Furusa, the Vice Chancellor of the university officially opened the symposium emphasising the critical importance of the strengthening of the work of chaplaincy in the world and on the African continent especially where matters concerning peace, conflict and the building of harmonious societies greatly impact the sustained development of the continent.

Prof. Furusa went on to say,

“The participation of all of you, our partners and stakeholders in this critical process of the development of this programme will deliver implementable solutions which derived from your individual experiences, shall create a training pathway for chaplaincy in Africa. Coming from the SADC region and the USA, your expertise will make for a rich learning experience for all of us. The hyper- connectedness of our world presents new challenges for our continent and our societies especially impacting how we interact and how we conduct our work as organizations. So too does this new context apply to the church. We must be dynamic and establish a cutting edge framework whose goal is to produce leaders in the military who are God- fearing, ethical and serve with integrity.”

The planning of the visionary programme has been 36 months in the making spearheaded by Associate Vice Chancellor Dr. James. H. Salley and Colonel Lyle with initial funding for the symposium being made available by Bishop Leonard Fairley, Resident Bishop of the Louisville Area that includes the Kentucky Conference who visited the main campus earlier this year in March and has been inspired by the institution’s vision and commitment to the African continent and Her people. Thanks was also given to Ambassador Nichols, the United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe for his endorsement and support for the programme.

Dr. Salley made reference to the culture of excellence at Africa University in its ability to identify and create critical needs niches that speak to the African context and deliver on impact saying,

“When we discussed with the university the concept behind this programme, the uptake and belief in its objectives was nearly immediate and we applaud that spirit that is within our university of leading the way and exploring unchartered territory. The culmination of all of our planning is here today- realised in this symposium where there is so much diversity and desire to create this one of a kind programme unique to the whole continent of Africa. There is no programme like it anywhere but here at Africa University. From this symposium and the launch of the Masters and Doctorate programmes in Military Chaplaincy, we shall create centres of excellence of chaplaincy across SADC and Africa.”

This vision harkens to AU’s achievements in being the flagship university for leadership training and development in Zimbabwe and the region having trained national universities that have in turn created similar degree programmes displaying the transformation that Africa University has created and continues to lead within the country and beyond its borders.

Dr. Bishau, the Director of the Institute of Theology and Religious Studies under whose department the Military Chaplaincy Programme shall be spearheaded thanked the partners for their support alluding to their commitment as a leap of faith. He said,

“We are redefining the traditional role of the Chaplain in the military to become so much more. We aim to create within this field a body of knowledge that allows the profession room for innovation, creativity and dynamism to effectively serve, heal and transform.”

The first class of the Doctor of Military Chaplaincy are expected to begin their studies in January 2020 while a firm foundation is laid that is consultative and inclusive to cater to its intended end users and solve the topical issues within the field.