The 2023 Hekima Research Week took place from October 23rd to 27th, 2023, at the Jesuit School of Theology auditorium. The total number of participants who attended the research week across the 5 days were 106, 112, 103, 84 and 88 participants for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday respectively. The theme of the event was “The Catholic Church Synodal Journeys: Peace and Stability in Africa and the Theological Implications of Artificial Intelligence.” The research week was officially opened by Dr. Marcel Uwineza SJ, the principal of Hekima University College. In his opening address, he commended the organizers of the event and emphasized the importance of research in the university. He further challenged the students, emphasizing that academic excellence extends beyond the classroom and exams, and involves research. He encouraged them to actively participate in future research events and underscored the importance of scholarly research in any academic institution. The presentations were conducted in a hybrid format, allowing both in-person and online participation.
The first day presentations were done by Faculty members followed by one keynote address. The initial presentation was given by Fr. Dr. Dominic Tomuseni on a paper titled “Seminal Formation for Synodal Change in an African Perspective’. The presentation explored the transformations taking place in the synodal church from African Perspective. The paper illustrates how the changes have led to shifts in the way ministry and priesthood are shaped, moving from traditional seminaries to universities. The central question he posed was how to prepare young men for their seminal duties in these challenging times. Fr. Tomuseni further proposed the application of analytical imagination in reshaping seminal formation for synodal change, suggesting that modern universities can adapt models from traditional seminaries. The second presentation was the keynote address by Dr. Raymond Perrier on the “The Synodal Catholic before Synodality: A Case Study from the South African Church.” He emphasized the importance of putting the principles of synodality into practice by highlighting the synodic initiatives of the Denis Harley Centre, specifically through its feeding program.
In the second session of the day, Hesbon Awiti, the programs officer at the Centre for Research, Training, and Publications (CRTP), presented on “Conflict Monitoring Tool for Strategic Intervention in Easter Africa. A case of Kenya, Ethiopia, DR-Congo & South Sudan.” He explained the Conflict Monitoring Tool (CMT) developed by CRTP and provided insights into its functionality. The presentation further shared the findings of the conflict monitoring tool in the four countries studied in 2023. Day one of the research week was concluded by a presentation from Dr. Anthony Egan SJ, the Deputy Director , Centre for Research, Training, and Publications (CRTP). He delivered a talk titled “Do Androids Dream of Electric Votes?” He explored the intersection of artificial intelligence, democracy, and human rights, highlighting how the boundary between science fiction and science reality was rapidly diminishing.
On the second day, the presentations covered a range of intriguing topics. Mr. Joseph Michael Odhiambo explored the “Theological Dimensions of Artificial Intelligence Beyond Creation” in a non-theological context, shedding light on the religious implications of AI. Dr. Odomaro Mubangizi SJ delved into “Artificial Intelligence, Political Economy, and Theological Discourse of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” urging scholars and theologians to investigate the convergence of traditional African cosmology, AI, and digital technology. He emphasized the importance of decision-making that draws from the past for a better future, as well as the ethical use of AI to promote social justice. Mr. Hedridge Kaniaru Wanjiru’s presentation, “The Place of Law and Justice in Building Peaceful Societies: A Case of Kenya,” spotlighted the disparities in social justice and how law enforcement handles various groups in low-income areas compared to their counterparts in high-income areas, particularly evident during recent social unrest.
Shifting away from the themes of artificial intelligence and synodality, the second part of the day’s session was on peace, conflicts, and stability in Africa. Mr. Augustin Koffi SJ presented on the topic “Towards a Holistic Reconciliation in Africa: A Quest for Peace and Stability in Africa”. His paper analysed the social reconciliation practices, their significant impacts, and the comprehensive framework for reconciliation structures. Another presentation titled “What to Blame in Ethiopia as one of the African Countries Not Colonized” was delivered by Mr. Tadele Baramo and focused mainly on the Ethiopia conflict. From its presentation it was evidenced that Ethiopian conflict is driven by ethnic-regional politics, neo-colonial influences, as well as Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s role in state affairs which have jeopardized peace and stability in the country. To address this, the presenter advocated for a national unity approach, emphasizing the need for Ethiopians to unite over shared challenges rather than being divided by ethnicity and identity politics.
Day three of the research week was student-led conference where student form Hekima University College and invited universities submitted and presented papers. This marked the 9th Student Led Conference since its inception. The conference was opened by Dr. Elisee Rutagambwa, the dean of Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR). He emphasized that university education is a universal journey for scholars and this was a good opportunity for students to exercise their presentation skills and also improve their research writing skills. This was followed by a keynote address by Prof. Raphael Munavu, who highlighted the importance of value-based education to make a positive impact on society, emphasizing self-awareness, purpose, and respect for diversity. He also stressed the importance of decolonizing the mind by embracing indigenous knowledge in science. Prof. Munavu cautioned scholars against hasty publishing and encouraged them to use their knowledge to address real-world challenges facing their communities.
Following the keynote address, the first session of the student-led conference featured presentations on topics like “The Necessity for Ethical Approach for AI Today” by Joel Kuom SJ, “Artificial Intelligence Versus Cosmic Order: A Theological Reflection for the 21st Century” by Felix Nimanya, and “Theological Technologies: Anthropological Fears Dragging the Church Backwards” by Kangethe Robert, SJ. The second panel of presentations after the health break included the following topics: “Leveraging Technological Advancements for Sustainable Peace and Development in East Africa” by Barnet Chokani SAC, “The Role of Gender in Conflict Management and Peacebuilding in Kenya: The Case of Women’s Organizations” by Betty Too, and “From Necro-politics to Traumatic Identity: On the Endless Wars in East of the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC” by Innocent Mpoze. The final session of the day was initiated by Dr. Florence Oginda on behalf of the Doctoral Association of East Africa (DAEA). She highlighted the DAEA’s role as a platform for networking and mentorship for doctoral students. Subsequent Afternoon presentations included “Liturgy as an Integral Part of Synodality” by Frederico Macamo, SJ, “Synodality and Spirituality in Africa” by Sr. Benter Aketch, “Artificial Intelligence: A Disguised Anthropology” by Ricardo Nogueiro SJ, and “The Catholic Church Synodal Journey” by Sr. Veline Nkuzo. To wrap up the student-led conference, Fr. Nobert Litoing SJ commended the students for their efforts and provided valuable guidance on improving their papers for potential publication.
The last two days of the research week was dedicated to book launches. The first book launched was “Reinventing Theology In Post Genocide Rwanda: Challenges And Hopes (2023)” by Uwineza, Rutagambwa, and Kamanzi, followed by “Beyond Century Of Endeavor: History of the Catholic Church In Kenya” by Lawrence M. Njoroge, and finally “The Jesuit Ethos: A Social And Spiritual History” by Jean Luc Enyegue. The first day of book launch was concluded by a guest speaker presentation delivered by Prof. Tim Murith. His presentation was on ‘African Union Transitional Justice Policy and Its Contribution to Peacebuilding processes’, where he explained the policy gap in African Transitional justice and Peace building. On Friday, the last day of the research Week, the day commenced with book launch wher “A Splash of Diamond: The Jesuit Presence In Ethiopia From 1945 To The Present” by Festo Mkenda, “Challenges Facing Higher Education In East Africa” by Oduor Afulo Joseph, and “Evangelization of Cultures: Reflections on Inculturation (2023)” by Bishop Rodrigo Mejia were launched. The book launches was followed by presentation titled “Alternative Faces of the Book of Genesis: Chaos, Justice, and Peacebuilding,” by Dr. Stephen Eyeowa SJ who explored scriptural/biblical, and anthropological approaches to conflict dynamics with reference to the Book of Genesis. Closing remarks and awarding of certificates to the students who presented during the research week marked the end of the 3023 Hekima Research Week. The research week was officially closed by Deputy Principal Academics Dr. Emmanuel Foro SJ with a word of prayer.