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Christianity, Youth, and Democratic Citizenship in Africa CCCU Grant—Amy Patterson

In April 2017, Amy Patterson received a planning grant from the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) for a collaboration project with Megan Hershey (Whitworth College) and Tracy Kuperus (Calvin College) that will investigation the role of Christian organizations in fostering citizenship among African youth.
Despite the advance of democratization in Africa after the end of the Cold War, the sub-Saharan region demonstrates few instances of genuine liberal democracy. This struggle for democratic consolidation at least partially reflects the underdevelopment of a robust citizenship in Africa, where citizens have been relatively unwilling to participate in politics and to hold government accountable. In Africa’s increasingly undemocratic environment, youth have the potential to engage in civil unrest or to advance the continent’s democratic project. As the majority of African populations, youth (age 15 to 30 years) are crucial for the development of democratic citizenship and socioeconomic development. Through research with a variety of Christian organizations that work with youth on citizenship activities in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia, the project investigates how religion may affect citizenship behaviors and attitudes among young people. More specifically, it will explore how Christian organizations define citizenship, why they design citizenship projects for youth (if they do), and how these efforts shape young people’s citizenship attitudes and behaviors.
The project incorporates a multi-method approach including key informant interviews; pre- and post-activity surveys of youth who participate in citizenship activities; participant observations of youth-focused activities; and focus group discussions with youth. The outcome will be a conference paper, article or edited book, and potentially, a seminar in Africa with advocates for youth citizenship activities.