DRC (MNN) — In the past five years, Shalom University has grown from 65 students to over 800. It's taking another significant stride forward as the first evangelical school in the Democratic Republic of Congo to offer a doctorate program in theology. Only two other schools in French-speaking Africa offer a similar program.
"The African church needs African theologians able to engage African issues from a solidly biblical perspective," stated Dr. Keith Ferdinando. He manages the program's development. "The most momentous aspect of recent church history has been the rapid growth of the church in the majority world.
"However, the training of pastors lags seriously behind the growth of the church."
Developing a PhD program in Theology could have a "profound and far-reaching impact," according to Dr. Ferdinando. A key player in this program's success is Africa Inland Mission. AIM is helping Shalom build a new campus to accommodate the continual influx of new students. They're also helping the university train and recruit new faculty.
"By helping to develop the new campus, AIM is opening the way for many young Christians to be trained in a serious academic setting," said Ferdinando.
Shalom University began in 1961 as the Theological School of Northern Congo (ETCN). AIM and CrossWorld began the Bible school with only a few dozen students in attendance. Fighting soon forced the school to relocate to its current location in Bunia, a town in northeast DR Congo near the border of Uganda.
A decade ago, conflict arose in Bunia between two ethnic groups: the Hema and Lendu. Bombs were lobbed over the campus, and the school was stuck with a warring party on each side. Clashes between the groups forced staff and students to evacuate, and thousands took refuge on the school's campus. At one point, it seemed that's where the final battle would occur.
"The two factions stopped right at the school on the two sides," said Dr. Robert Katho, president of Shalom University. "The school was going to become the battlefield–the last battlefield."
But since each party could identify with the school as a source of safety, they decided not to destroy it. When the time came for peace talks, the seminary seemed a natural choice to hold the first reconciliation meetings. Katho said this history is reflected in the school's current name and vision.
"Everybody agreed that Shalom is the name because we have experienced God's peace."
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