A Child Shall Lead Them: Youth and Transformation
This year’s Symposium, entitled A Child Shall Lead Them: Youth and Transformation, profiled the remarkable work that children and youth are leading to bring social, economic, physical and spiritual transformation to Latin America, Asia and Africa. The HNGR program hosted three remarkable leaders from Latin America and Africa who inspired the Wheaton community with lectures and workshops that highlighted work with young people around the world. Joining us for the Symposium were Dr. David Kasali, President and co-founder of the Congo Initiative and Rector of the Christian Bilingual University of Congo, Dr. Alicia Casas, a clinical psychiatrist and co-founder of the Claves Program Uruguay, and Dr. David Zac Niringiye, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Religion, Faith and Culture in Public Life and former Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Kampala (Uganda).
This year’s gathering kicked off with pre-Symposium event with John Stott Visiting Artist-in-Residence, Dr. David Dargie, a renowned ethnomusicologist and hymnologist whose work has contributed greatly to the preservation of the musical heritage of diverse Southern African peoples. On Wednesday, March 15, Dr. Dargie directed a group of Wheaton students in performing traditional and local church music from the Xhosa and Zulu peoples of South Africa. Approximately seventy-five guests from across the campus joined the event to learn about the students’ participation in a bow-making workshop with Dr. Dargie and to listen (and join in!) to the students perform song and dance on traditional bow instruments.
The Symposium officially began with Dr. David Kasali’s timely plenary address, Being Transformed to Transform: Radical Community and Power of Youth in Congo, on Thursday evening. Over two hundred guests listened to Dr. Kasali describe how young people in the Democratic Republic of Congo are confronting legacies of violence, poverty and injustice to build a “radically inclusive, Christ-centered community”. Dr. Kasali’s words and wisdom not only compelled us to envision how we might build such a community at Wheaton College. He also challenged us to accompany and learn from our Congolese sisters and brothers in the transformational work they are carrying out. Dr. Kalsali closed his lecture accordingly: “Walk with us. Let us together become the “New We” and be women and men who begin to realize God’s intentions for a world in which, as Colossians 1 envisions as the reconciliatory work of Jesus, ‘all things in heaven and on earth are reconciled’ – humans as individuals and communities, the systems and institutions in which and under which we live, the earth itself.”
On Friday, the Symposium continued with additional lectures, breakout sessions and workshops. We started the morning by celebrating and worshiping with the return HNGR interns during the annual HNGR chapel. Later on Friday, Dr. Alicia Casas, co-founder of Claves Program Uruguay, offered a second plenary lecture entitled From Object to Subject: Care, Respect and Participation for Child Development. Dr. Casas’ address described how youth across Latin America are being equipped to confront sexual violence and secure the health and well-being of all. That afternoon three workshops were offered to Wheaton College staff, faculty and graduate students for professional enrichment and development. These workshops were facilitated by Dr. David Kasali, Dr. Alicia Casas and Dr. Zac Niringiye, who shared about their professional experience of working with young adults in the areas of sexual and mental health, social and political activism, and Christian higher education.
To end this year’s Symposium, we hosted approximately one hundred individuals, including Wheaton faculty, staff, students and HNGR alum for a Saturday morning brunch and a closing address by former HNGR Director and Professor Emeritus, Dr. Paul Robinson.