Today I would like to share with you some thoughts from Talya Estey at Edu-Deo that originally appeared in an At the Table Update #3 (as part of the 2022 Christian Schools Canada conference last fall). The desire to see all students as image-bearers is a key tenet of CDL and the mission of Edu-Deo. I have such a deep appreciation for they do to advance Christian education around the globe. We were grateful to have Edu-Deo as a partner at CDL6. Maybe you connected with Laurie Koning there if you were in attendance. If not, her contact info is at the end of this post - she would love to hear from you!
Making Space to see God in Diverse Stories
Education is a human right. It’s not hard for those of us who love and believe in education to agree with this fact and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its affirmation of it. Article 26 of the UDHR not only affirms that everyone has the right to education, but also states that everyone has a right to an education that strengthens “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Education should “promote understanding, tolerance and friendship” among diverse groups of peoples. 
Research shows that education is a crucial means for promoting peace and tolerance, and it equips students with an understanding of history and justice. Literacy empowers individuals and communities, allowing them to exercise their political rights and access government services. Furthermore, diverse school environments allow children to interact with dissimilar social and ethnic groups early in life, and this has been found to contribute to nation-building and interpersonal tolerance.
Education has long been shown as a key way to uplift the marginalised and reduce inequalities. Globally, every extra year of schooling provides, on average, a 9% increase in hourly earnings. Schooling strengthens the capabilities of those living in poverty, opening opportunities for them to become less materially poor, or even escape material poverty altogether. Around the world, education is seen as a ticket to prosperity, financial stability, and a better life.
Despite all this, we know that education can never be value-free. We (the lovers of and believers in education) know education has the potential to do good, but know that education in and of itself is not unequivocally good. It can most certainly be used to uplift, but it can also be used to dehumanise, marginalise, and segregate. We need not look far for numerous examples of this.
The existence of residential schools in Canada remains a disheartening reminder of how education - Christian education, at that - can be used to break down a culture and people made in God’s image. Across the border, the history of classroom segregation in the USA continues to play a significant role in inequality and poverty in the country. Even more examples can be seen around the world. In Rwanda, segregation and stereotyping in classrooms was common practice in the years preceding the 1994 genocide. In recent years, children of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic have frequently been denied the chance to attend public schools due to their immigration status. In all these examples, education has failed to uphold and promote human rights as it ought.
Like it or not, who we allow in the classroom communicates something - subtle or overt - about who we believe is an image-bearer of God. The difficult truth is, many communities and many Christian school environments in Canada are homogenous. Nevertheless, the classroom can still become a space where students have the opportunity to interact with people they may never otherwise meet within their context. They can learn to see how God is present in the midst of diversity and difference. If we put in the hard yet rewarding work, a Christian school can become a unique environment where we teach children to see that everyone is made in God’s image, and that it is their image-bearing that lies at the heart of their humanity and their rights. To intentionally work towards this is special and exciting.
At EduDeo Ministries, we have the privilege of walking alongside Christ-centered school associations located in 13 different countries. Time and again, we have watched our partners extend space for students on the margins. Our partners in Zambia (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian) and Malawi (Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Livingstonia) run some of the only inclusive schools in their regions for students with physical and developmental disabilities. Our partner in Rwanda (Kurumbuka Leadership Solutions) has trained educational leaders who have purposely started schools in ethnic communities with a history of trauma and conflict. Our partner in Ethiopia (Ethiopia Emmanuel United Church) has special scholarships and bursaries to ensure that vulnerable students are not priced out of a quality education.
These are just a few examples of how the Christ-centered education community around the world is making space and celebrating the diversity of God’s image. What might making space look like in your educational context? Could it mean including more literature by authors from diverse communities? Or maybe the intentional choice to study the scientific and mathematical breakthroughs of nonwhite Canadians, whose work history has often overlooked? Could you study how Scripture is read and interpreted through a different cultural lens?
There are so many ways we can encourage our students to see the beauty of God’s image in all people. Part of our passion at EduDeo is helping Canadian Christian schools do just this. We’d love to share resources and activities that can help you and your students explore how God’s image is displayed in the global Christian community.
In a well-loved TED talk, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares this thought: “Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanise. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.” When we make space to see how God’s Grand Story is weaved throughout the diverse landscape of many small stories, we engage in a beautiful and dignifying work.
Footnotes  https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights  https://www.un.org/en/about-us/universal-declaration-of-human-rights  The Pursuit of Development: Economic Growth, Social Change and Ideas by Ian Goldin (Oxford University Press, 2016)  “The Role of Education in Economic Development: A Theoretical Perspective” by Ilhan Ozturk (Journal of Rural Development and Administration, 33, no. 1 (2001). 39-47)  https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000223115 (Education Transforms Lives by UNESCO, 2013)  https://ceid.educ.cam.ac.uk/researchprogrammes/recoup/  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/schools-sowed-rwandas-seeds-of-genocide/article17902845/  https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_ngozi_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en
To find out more information about EduDeo Ministries, visit www.edudeo.com. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can partner with EduDeo Ministries and bring a global perspective into your classroom, contact Laurie Koning by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note about the Digest: We hope to share with you each week articles of interest that you may have missed. This will include current information as well as previous blog posts from CDL that perhaps you didn’t have time to read the first time around. If you have items you think may be of interest, please feel free to get in touch with me at email@example.com. We are also seeking blog writers for our blog posts which are published each week on Monday and Wednesday. For more info, see our guidelines.