Advertisement

Kenyan Beneficiaries of Hungarian Scholarship for Christians Eager to Transform Societies

Some beneficiaries of the Hungarian Scholarship for “Christian Young People” with the staff of EWTN Hungary. Credit: EWTN Hungary

Kennedy Mutua, a Kenyan postgraduate student pursuing climate change at a University in Hungary is eager to implement top-notch technologies in environmental conservation when he returns to Kenya.

The PhD student is a beneficiary of the Scholarship Program for “Christian Young People” provided by the government of Hungary and is specializing in the Economics of Climate Change Adaptation at the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Since 2017, Kennedy, a Catholic from Kenya’s Machakos Diocese, has been working for the Hungarian Research Institute of Agricultural Economics. He also works for two projects on climate change in the Central European country.

With the experience garnered from the developed country, the Kenyan doctoral student hopes to contribute to climate change projects in his home country.

“I am so happy to be involved in European level research on climate change, because Europe is viewed as one of the leaders in terms of tackling climate change,” Kennedy says in an interview by EWTN Hungary shared with ACI Africa Tuesday, June 8.

Advertisement

He adds, “Climate change is a global threat and I am really ambitious to get these high-level skills with which I can participate in some pioneering projects to tackle the challenge in our own country.”

Many times, Kennedy has been asked to explain his interest in climate change adaptation in Europe.

His response, he says, has always been, “I'm thinking 10 years ahead of Kenya. I look at the present experiences in Europe and the interventions in place. The good practices that are being implemented in Europe today are going to be implemented in Kenya and in Africa at large may be in six or seven years to come.”

“After these studies, I have a noble call back in my country to go and initiate rural development, climate change mitigation, and especially from my region where I come from, drought mitigation requires an agency call for everyone,” he adds.

More in Africa

Kennedy is one of the hundreds of students from underprivileged backgrounds that have benefited from the Hungarian scholarship that is managed by the State Secretariat for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and for Hungary Helps Program. Local Churches in crisis countries also participate in the management of the program.

At 54 percent, Hungary is majorly a Catholic country followed by Protestants at 20 percent. The Program is therefore hinged on Christian values and those admitted are provided with pastoral care in Hungary.

Those behind the program say that students who go through the program are expected to become catalysts of the development of their countries and contribute to building capacities and strengthening resilience at local level upon return to their homelands.

The beneficiaries choose from a wide range of Masters and PhD programs taught in English including medical and health sciences, engineering, architecture, arts and humanities and information technology.

Advertisement

At the moment, there are 166 students from various countries enrolled in the scholarship that offers 300 courses at 14 universities in the Central European country. The students are drawn from Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel and Palestine, and Lebanon. About 200 other students have successfully gone through the program that was launched in 2017.

Kennedy, who had lost hope in ever going back to school again, was in the program’s pioneering cohort.

After attaining an undergraduate degree in Agroforestry and Rural Development at Kabianga University in Kenya and completing a Masters in Hungary where he had studied under a scholarship program, Kennedy was locked out of another scholarship that required applicants to have working experience from the civil sector.

“I was a fresh graduate so I wasn’t qualified. So, I had to go back to my country. I was in my country looking for a job for nine months. I never found any job, but I didn't give up,” he says.

Kennedy adds, “Fortunately, Hungary Helps launched the first program for the PhD level, and I applied for it and I got it. I would say that this is the biggest thing that has ever happened in my life since it opened doors for many other opportunities.”

Just like Kennedy, Edwin Wagah, also a Kenyan postgraduate student did not find it easy after completing his undergraduate studies in the East African country where the rate of youth unemployment is high.

After graduating with a degree in Chemistry from Kenya-based Moi University and failing to get a job, Edwin started a business, which he said was not financially viable. A friend later persuaded him to apply for the scholarship in Hungary.

A few weeks’ shy of his graduation from Eötvös Loránd University where he is pursuing a Masters degree in Environmental Science, the faithful of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) hopes to start an initiative for children living with disabilities who are not facilitated well enough through school.

His inspiration is drawn from a cousin who is living with disability, he says in the interview by EWTN Hungary shared with ACI Africa June 8.

“My first cousin is both deaf and blind. And so over the years I've seen him undergo the challenges simply because he's different from others,” Edwin says.

“At the end of this month, I want to go back home and start a project that is so close to my heart. I'm working to establish a project that will take care of the disabled in society, children living with disability,” he says, adding that he is working to identify partners for the project.

Tristan Azbej, a politician and the State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and the Hungary Helps Program noted that the scholarship program is not just for countries experiencing religious persecution.

“We invite young people from either persecuted or just in any way discriminated or not even discriminated, but underprivileged communities,” Mr. Azbej says in the EWTN Hungary interview shared with ACI Africa June 8.

He adds, “We have partner churches in the regions and countries where we are supporting religious communities who face any sort of difficulties. It doesn't have to be persecution. It can also be economic deprivation.”

The official explains that the state agency has all the major churches in the Middle East as its partners. These include Catholic, Protestant as well as Orthodox Churches in sub-Saharan Africa.

Explaining part of the process of the scholarship, Mr. Azbej says, “We advertise our program through the church leaders and the participants or the applicants must go to these leaders for recommendation into our program.”

He adds that to qualify for the scholarship, young people, especially drawn from Christian minority groups, must be practicing Christians.

The government official who also serves as Hungary’s Vice President of the Christian Democratic People's Party (KDNP) in the majorly Christian country says the scholarship is one of the many initiatives the Central European country is undertaking to reach out where Christians are a minority.

“The Hungarian government has recognized that Christianity is the most persecuted religious group in the world today. This may sound like a sweeping statement but surveys show this to be a fact,” Azbej says.

He adds, “We live in a time when there are 340 million people who are discriminated against or threatened by genocidal attacks for their faith in Jesus Christ. The Hungarian government has recognized that we need to act because this is one of the greatest human rights crises of our time.”

He says that fighting for religious freedom requires international cooperation, including governments and international organizations working together.

Through Ihab’s, Hungary’s humanitarian aid program, the State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians and the Hungary Helps Program is providing relief to countries after terrorist attacks and other disasters.

“We provide a budget for reconstruction of churches, of homes, of schools and hospitals, of communities that had been devastated by religious intolerance and other armed conflicts,” Mr. Azbej says in the EWTN Hungary interview shared with ACI Africa.