by Maxine Garvey and Keith Burton
On the heels of the passing of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela, Adventist professionals, scholars, and researchers converged on Cape Town, South Africa, to attend the inaugural Conference on Adventism, Society, and Sustainable Development (CASSD) 2013 sponsored by Adventist-laymen Services and Industries (ASI) and the Southern Africa Union Conference.
CASSD 2013 was set in the beautiful hills of Somerset West and hosted by Helderberg College, one of the member institutions of the Consortium of African Adventist Universities & Partners (CAAUP). Oakwood University serves as the anchor organization for CAAUP with Dr. Leslie Pollard as its chairperson.
Part of President Pollard’s Vision 20/20 is to “globalize the rich academic, cultural, personnel offerings, history and mission of Oakwood University through sustainable partnerships with peoples around the world.” CASSD 2013 provided another opportunity for this as it featured inter-disciplinary scholarly papers that promote Adventist contributions to African sustainable development efforts; utilization of contextual research to address modern challenges faced by society; and ways in which the church can be involved in meeting those challenges in society.
The conference opened with a balmy summer Friday evening vespers and keynote address by former Oakwood religion professor Dr. Ganoune Diop, who now serves as the Director for United Nations Relations for the worldwide SDA church. Drs. Keith Burton, Maxine Garvey and Prudence Pollard were also invited to serve as three of the six keynote speakers for the conference.
Pollard shared two presentations on “Life Core: Spirituality, Faith and Commitment Among University Men and Women.” Garvey’s two presentations were titled, “Closing the Gap of Health Disparities: The Role of the SDA Church” and “Addressing the Challenges of Developing and Sustaining the Health of our Youth.”
Burton discussed sustainable development from a religio-cultural perspective with papers titled, “Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika: The Sabbath and the Sustentation of African Religious Culture” and “Get Up, Stand Up! Dissolving the Dilemma between Temporal Sustainability and Eternal Salvation.” He was also the speaker for Divine worship and vesper services, where he delivered the sermons: “Redemption Song: Sustaining Hope in the Age of Obama,” and “One Love: Sustainable Development and Cain’s Question.”
Other keynote speakers were Dr. Hudson Kibuuka, Associate Director in the Department of Education at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; and Dr Zacchaeus Mathema, Professor of Applied Theology at Adventist University of Africa in Nairobi, Kenya. OU professors also in attendance were Drs. Gilbert Ojwang, Eurydice Osterman, and Eva Starner. They presented their research during parallel breakout sessions on Sunday and Monday which focused on: the ordination of women in ministry; SDA single parent homes; and tracing the history of praise hymns in the church.
At the close of the conference, ASI President Dr Themba Sirayi expressed sincere appreciation for Oakwood’s participation and expressed his desire for future collaboration on similar scholarly activities. Professors from Helderberg College welcomed the opportunity to network and collaborate on research and publications. A student attendee also commented “Helderberg aspires to be like Oakwood.” Presentations from the conference are scheduled to be aired at a later date on the iSambulo Christian TV network in South Africa.
Prior to the start of the conference, OU professors also had the opportunity to visit Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell on Robben Island, now a museum. They had the life-changing experience of: walking the prison corridors where Mandela’s civil rights movement to end Apartheid was nurtured; observing the mural at the prison’s entrance which read “Freedom Cannot Be Manacled;” and learning about the rock quarry, affectionately called “Quarry University,” where Mandela and his fellow inmates labored while secretly educating each other.