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Presbyterian Peacemaking Program to host travel study seminar to Madagascar

Visitors to learn about creation care and reconciliation

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

Mission co-worker Dan Turk teaches students at Ivato Seminary to grow fruit trees. About 80 percent of the plant life in Madagascar does not exist anywhere else in the world. (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

LOUISVILLE – More than 80 percent of its flora and fauna cannot be found anywhere else on earth. But despite the richness of its biodiversity, Madagascar is one of the poorest nations in the world with 92 percent of its population living on less than $2 a day.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is hosting a travel study seminar to the island nation November 6–18, giving Presbyterians and other interested groups a chance to see the country up close and personal.

“Madagascar is a place with an incredible intersectionality of faith, politics and biodiversity. Our partner denomination there has a long history of deep and meaningful engagement with social and political issues,” said Carl Horton, coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. “Over the years, we have hosted a number of International Peacemakers from Madagascar who have traveled across the PC(USA) and shared about the church’s work there to address poverty, human exploitation and the threats of climate change.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been working with the Christian Council of Churches in Madagascar (FFKM), Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) and Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) over the years to address climate and poverty issues.

“We will see a number of aspects of our partner church’s multifaceted ministries, including ways that it is engaged in sharing the good news of God’s love with communities through health care, provision of clean water, agricultural development, educational opportunities, and environmental education and protection,” said Douglas Tilton, regional liaison for Southern Africa with Presbyterian World Mission. “There will be opportunities to talk with church and community leaders about the impact of natural resource exploitation and human trafficking and to learn about the church’s response to these situations.”

Tilton says FJKM has a very active development department with programs in health care and family planning, clean water and sanitation, and environmental protection.

A woman husking rice at the village of Tsaramiakatra, where mission co-workers Dan and Elizabeth Turk worked with partners to install a gravity-fed water system. Providing clean water enhanced food production and cut down significantly on illness. (Photo by Kathy Melvin)

“Working with PC(USA) mission co-worker Dan Turk, SAF has also promoted the development of new types of fruit trees to improve diet and develop new sources of income for families,” Tilton said. “FJKM seminaries are also imparting agricultural skills to theological students and their families, both so that they can better support themselves when serving in remote areas and so that they can share these skills with others in the communities they serve.”

The FJKM’s Chaplaincy to Marginalized People (SAFFIFDAA) assists street people and sex workers to acquire productive skills so they can have sustainable livelihoods and work for justice for vulnerable groups.

In addition, Tilton says much is being done to promote and protect the country’s natural resources.

“FJKM promotes reforestation and environmental education, and often sponsors tree-planting events to mark holidays and special occasions,” Tilton said. “Many FJKM churches and schools are planted with indigenous trees to foster knowledge of and respect for Madagascar’s unique flora. SAF works with communities to promote alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture that destroys indigenous forests, encouraging respect for the environment and the planting of new crops, such as fruit trees, that can provide families with income in environmentally responsible ways.”

Tilton says there is a critical need to protect Madagascar’s flora and fauna in this unique part of God’s creation.

“Madagascar’s minerals and natural resources have only begun to be commercially exploited on a large scale in recent years,” he said. “Minerals such as oil, uranium and vanadium are much in demand in the U.S. and other industrialized countries, and it is important to ensure that the extraction and trade in these resources occur in responsible ways that produce tangible benefits for the people of Madagascar and do not degrade the island’s unique ecology.”

Madagascar is described as an ethnically diverse nation that experienced 60 years of French colonial rule. After regaining independence in 1960, Madagascar has survived a series of political crises.

“The FJKM, together with other members of the Christian Council of Churches in Madagascar (FFKM), have sought to facilitate a national reconciliation process to acknowledge past abuses and build national unity,” Tilton said. “This effort is finding new impetus as Madagascar heads toward a new round of national elections in 2018.”

Both Tilton and Horton say the nation continues to wrestle with corruption, and the church has become “a leading voice” calling public officials to account and seeking to address the social fallout of corrupt practices.

“With this travel study seminar and a very gracious invitation of our church partners, Presbyterians have the opportunity to visit the church in Madagascar and see and hear of its work in reconciliation, advocacy, creation care, justice-seeking and peacemaking,” Horton said.

The 13-day trip includes two travel days and 11 days in country.


Click here for more information about the trip.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is made possible by gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering

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