Social Ministry in Mission
The Institute of Social Ministry focuses on training for the fields of community development, project management, leadership training, conflict resolution and advocacy for justice, based on a profound belief in the social dimension of all faiths, and specifically the Christian faith.
Historically, social ministry is rooted in the efforts of 19th and 20th century Christian activists, who believed that a just and compassionate society can and should be built on the social and economic implications of the gospel. Their life-long service and advocacy for poor and excluded peoples, based on detailed field research into their actual living conditions, led to modern-day social work, community development programs, and advocacy against unjust and discriminatory social structures.
In the Catholic Church, the post-Vatican II Council focus on inculturation, option for the poor, and empowerment of local communities, based on the baptismal call to ministry of all the faithful, found scope and expression in post-independence Africa. Through ecumenical relations, Churches learnt from the riches of each other’s faith and ministry, co-operating in prayer and service. All this has become part of the foundations on which the Institute of Social Ministry in Mission is built.
History of Social Ministry
Social Ministry was founded in 1994 by Fr. Francisco Pierli, mccj, a Comboni missionary with many years’ experience in Africa. His vision – to provide professional and ministerial training for religious and lay people serving in poor and marginalized communities. He envisioned graduates empowering local communities, accompanying them in the process of social transformation into communities of faith and action. Through activating the human resources in the community, they would become, not job-seekers, but job-creators. ISMM has grown since the first 8 students registered for a Diploma in Social Ministry, to the current student body of 300 students in 8 different courses, offered full-time and part-time, on-campus and distance-learning modes. Over 800 graduates work in Africa and across the world, in an amazing variety of roles, but still sharing in that vision and commitment to social justice.
Context and Vocation of the Institute
The Institute of Social Ministry in Mission was founded at a significant time in Africa, a time of tragedy and hope. In 1994 the genocide in Rwanda showed the murderous power of ethnocentrism; the first democratic elections in South Africa showed the power of forgiveness and reconciliation; the first African Synod of the Catholic Church challenged local churches and civil society to commit themselves to a transformed society, founded on the innate dignity of every human being, on justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
The 1990’s marked a time of transformation, an ‘African renaissance’, as dictatorships gave way to a slow process of democratization in many countries. Grassroots people started owning their continent and facing the challenges of contributing to the global world.
The Jubilee 2000: Across the world, many thousands of people worked in hope to make the year 2000 truly a biblical jubilee year, a year of redemption, when by God’s grace, debts are cancelled, those in servitude are freed, land ownership is restored, judicial systems give justice, families and neighbours reconcile.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s campaigns formed successful networks for the Jubilee Debt Campaign, the Earth Charter, the World Social Forum, the Millennium Development Goals and similar programs for a sustainable future. Many of these campaigns recognised and utilised the strong links between spirituality and social responsibility, found in all major religions and humanist movements. Besides the traditional jubilee pilgrimage to the holy places, the late Pope John Paul II encouraged all the faithful to make a ‘pilgrimage’ to the poor and the suffering, inspired by the social implications of the gospel.
The Institute of Social Ministry in Mission is a pioneer in developing holistic professional training, which capitalises on the bond between faith and social action, as part of the social dimension of evangelization, and the task of animating Christian communities to play their role in the social mission of the Church. Equally this spiritual dimension is essential in accompanying peoples of all faiths.