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Migration, mission and theological education

24 April 2012

I’m hoping to attend a conference in Pietermaritzburg in July on the topic of Migration, mission and theological education.

That’s my abbreviation of the topic, which is actually quite a bit longer, namely,  Migration, human dislocation, and the Good News: margins as centre in Christian mission and challenge to theological education.

If anyone is interested in attending, here are the details put out by the organisers, and you can find some more information here.



As a follow up to the collaborative conference between the Program for Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) of the  World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Southern African Missiological Society (SAMS) at the Joint Conference of academic societies in religion and theology at the University of Stellenbosch in 2009, ETE and SAMS will once again present a conference in the Joint Conference at the University of Kwazulu- Natal , Pietermaritzburg.  The Pietermaritzburg conference takes place from 18-22 June 2012.


We have chosen as a theme for the conference an adapted version of the theme for the 13th quadrennial assembly of the International Association for Mission Studies (IAMS) WHICH IS SCHEDULED FOR Toronto, Canada from 15-20 August 2012:


Apart from borrowing from IAMS, it was necessary also to cater for both ETE and SAMS. This explains why there is a clear cut missiological component as well as a component catering for ecumenical theological education. We are extremely happy to say that all of this feeds into the journey embarked upon by ETE in its vision on A JOURNEY OF HOPE FOR AFRICA.  At the September 2002 conference at the Lutheran Conference Centre in Kempton Park in South Africa, the call for a new vision of life for Africans and the world, from the Harare Covenant of Africans at the 8th Assembly of the WCC, was echoed. In Kempton Park theological education was seen to be a vital area for the preparation and equipment of much needed new leadership for African churches and for countries who will give shape to a better future for all in the continent. Kempton Park sounded a clear call for the continued contextualisation of theological education and the development of textbooks in Africa by Africans.  More issues in and for theological education were identified at the Maputo Assembly of the AACC in December 2008 like economic justice and good governance, conflict resolution, peace building and reconciliation, health and education and the issues of spirituality, identity and unity.
The theme chosen for the next Joint Conference in Pietermaritzburg could be seen as a follow up to all of these issues. It is quite amazing that migration has not really been identified yet as a major challenge to Christian mission and theological education in Africa. In a real sense therefore, the ETE-SAMS Conference in the Joint Conference focuses on a neglected and grossly under researched area.


We offer those of you who have not yet submitted papers for the conference the opportunity to do so before 31 March 2012.  Abstracts of between 150-200 words are to be submitted with Reggie Nel,  who acts as coordinator of the research project.  His e-mail address is as follows:  A basic criterion is that the topic chosen should be aligned to the overall theme of the conference as shown above. A total of twenty four (24) one hour slots are allocated to ETE-SAMS which means that we need to find at least twenty presenters of papers. The other four slots will be used for meetings and sessions aimed at the strengthening of ties between ETE and SAMS as well as a discussion on the cooperation between different theological institutions. You will be notified by 15 April whether your abstract has been accepted.   Full papers of not more than 6000 words must be submitted by 31 May 2012. The Harvard reference technique is to be used for the writing of the paper. In dealing with migration a wide range of issues come to mind: types of migration, security, socio-economic issues, political issues, cultural issues, health, transport, poverty, unemployment, children, women, racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, violence,  religion,  ecology, education , peace building, conflict resolution, identity and unity etc. Important questions in choosing a topic for your paper will be: where is Christian mission located in all of these matters in their connectedness to migration? Where is the church located? Where is theological education located in these matters in a continent where migration has become a way of life? The papers should either be aimed at problem solving or hypothesis generating.


An early warning is hereby sounded that the conference is quite expensive. This is not to deter anybody from participating, but rather to encourage you to do careful planning in finding the necessary funding at your institution or elsewhere. To assist you in planning your participation in the conference carefully, please look at the following guide:

  • The registration fee is R950 per academic and R750 per student. There are two deadlines for registration: early registration closes on 30th April 2012 and late registration closes on 31st May 2012.
  • Conference bags will be available at R100 per piece
  • Travel costs
  • Accommodation costs (probably at the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary) at R300 per person per night (4 nights @R300= R1200)
  •  Subsistence (breakfast, lunch and dinner): at the Lutheran Theological Institute at R200 per person per day= R800
  •  Conference dinner at R300 per person
  • Transport (internal): Local travel from the two airports, i.e, Orbi in Pietermaritzburg and Shaka in Durban will cost you R25 and R700 respectively one way; additional travel costs will be incurred if transport is needed between the conference venue and the residences which may amount to R100 for the four days.


The month of June is in the heart of winter in South Africa. In the area where the conference takes place it can become quite cold during winter time, particularly in the evenings. Temperatures range from 8-21 degrees Celsius during the day to between 0-5 degrees at night. You are therefore advised to bring warm clothes, a raincoat and an umbrella as it can quite easily rain any time of day.


Feedback on the 2009 Joint Conference suggests that for some it was quite a memorable occasion. Colleagues from South Africa were excited about meeting colleagues from Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. A new relationship with the AACC was established and needs to be taken forward now. Perhaps the Pietermaritzburg experience might even be greater. We are looking forward to seeing at least forty to fifty participants for the ETE-SAMS conference.
Yours in the missio Dei and in Ecumenical Theological Education
Dr Dietrich Werner
Program Coordinator: ETE of WCC
Prof Nico A Botha
General Secretary SAMS

I think it’s a pretty important topic, and though patterns of migration have changed over the last 50 years, in trying to discover the significance of present patterns and how to deal with them, it can also be instructive to look at attempts to deal with migration in the past. One of the major patterns of migration in South Africa in the past was, of course, the ethnic cleansing that took place between 1950 and 1990 to implement the apartheid policy, in which about 3-5 million people were forced to leave their homes.

Now, however, we perhaps have almost as many migrants, many of them refugees, from Zimbabwe, Congo and other countries, which has also led to an increase in xenophobia.

The expense of the conference is, however, a bit off-putting.

I’ve worked out that the cost for me to attend, travelling from Tshwane, is R4600.00. That’s roughly $US 615.00, or 385 British pounds; about my average monthly pension. It’s calculated on the basis of my travelling alone by car. If I went by plane I’d have to add the plane fare to that figure, and the cost of getting to the airport at this end (about R240 on the Gautrain). The cost of petrol to travel all the way from Pretoria is about the same as the cost of the transfer from King Shaka Airport to the Conference venue and back again. So if I can find one or two people to come with me in the car, sharing the petrol cost, it will come out a bit cheaper. Leave a comment below if you’re planning to travel to the conference from Tshwane and might be interested in joining me on the journey, but be warned, I don’t do toll roads, so there might be quite a bit of pothole dodging.

Update 7 May 2012

I have just got some more information for those who would like to attend the conference.

The following site has information about registration, venue, accommodation etc:

from which it appears that the story above about accommodation at the Seth Mokitimi Seminary is a snare and a delusion. Be warned!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. izuchukwu123 permalink
    29 April 2012 10:05 pm

    Can I be part of this conference from Nigeria. The topic is quite interesting

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