The 2022 Hekima University College Research Week was held from the 17th – 21st October 2022 at both the undergraduate and postgraduate campuses. The theme of the event was “Synodality, Contextual Theology and Peace Building” The assistant director of The Centre for Research, Training, and Publications (CRTP) Dr. Anthony Egan SJ gave the first input of the event. His presentation was titled Ethics of Synodality and focused on the importance of consulting as a people of God journeying together. In addition, he also elaborated the important role of women in the Church. The second presentation of the day was on Conflict Monitoring Research in Kenya, Ethiopia, DR-Congo & South Sudan. This was presented by the director of CRTP, Dr. Elias Opongo SJ, who took the participants through the various research works that the Centre has engaged in for the last four years. He noted that African countries continue to be marked by conflicts that pose a huge challenge to the continent’s social, political and economic development. Furthermore, he elaborated the Conflict Monitoring Tool (CMT) that CRTP developed and hence uses in undertaking the research work. The last intervention of the day was by Dr. Joachim Zoundi SJ who presented on “Le coaching de Jesus Christ” (The coaching of Jesus Christ). He elaborated the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) life coaching method that is geared towards helping individuals realize their full potential by fully putting their talents to use. The presentations were followed by a very insightful questions and answers session.
The second day started with Dr. Marcel Uwineza SJ’s presentation on Envisioning Christian responsibilities in building a vital church in Rwanda. While recognizing that Rwanda is a country of many memories, he invited the audience to reflect on a theology brewed from symbols, for Rwanda is a mirror to and for humanity. Next was a presentation on Pan Africanism: The Incrementalism of an Ideology by Dr. Emmanuel Bueya SJ. He called for the need of African countries to unite and support each other rather than fight each other. This would enhance peace, cohesion and economic development. Dr. Mary Nzilani’s presentation on The Impact of Witchcraft on Christian Life: A Pastoral Response towards Holistic Healing in the Catholic Diocese of Machakos elaborated on the tensions that face families that practice witchcraft in Ukambani. She stressed the need for a deeper evangelization towards holistic healing. Dr. George Macharia, SJ was the next presenter, on the topic: Moral Character in Offering and Accepting a Bribe in the Gospels. Grounding his debate on scriptures, he elaborated how money has been used both for progress and setbacks. Nevertheless, bribery was noted as a powerful tool for concealing the truth. The point that remains under investigation is whether offering or accepting a bribe is moral or immoral. Dr. Elisee Rutagambwa, SJ concluded the day with the topic Rethinking Leadership through the prism of the Ethics of Apology. He outlined the various discourses on apology in civic and religious circles with regard to the Rwandan Genocide. It was noted that an apology should come with true remorse and should contain a true admission of what exactly happened; for this is a sign of humility and human dignity.
The third day was dedicated to the annual students-led conference, this year’s theme being Democracy in Africa. In his opening remarks, the dean of Hekima Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations (HIPSIR), Dr. Elisee Rutagambwa SJ, acknowledged that the continent faces numerous challenges with regard to democracy. It was sadly noted that our current democratic ‘tyranny of the majority’ does not make people any happier than they were. Hence the question of dialogue becomes a question of what is democracy and what it does for citizens. Various insightful and thought provoking presentations were put forward by the staff and students from HIPSIR and other institutions of higher learning in Kenya. The presentations examined the democratization journey in Africa pre, during and after thecolonial era. Topics discussed included: Democracy and Ethnoreligious bias in Africa, Democracy in the postcolony, Dangers of Negotiated Democracy in Kisii County, Women and Democracy in Africa, The Impact of Religious Antagonism on the Communal Life of the Society, Language Education for Democratic Citizenship, Democracy and Millitary Intervention in Africa, Synergizing Religion and Democracy in Africa, Democracy and Presidential Elections in Kenya and Democracy and Good Governance. Challenges and Success stories were shared through case studies from various countries in Africa, and recommendations were proposed so as to review, renew and strengthen our democratic processes and institutions. The main question for further research was: when we are done defining or failing to define democracy, what will be our next move?
The last day of the research week was reserved for the launch of four books, recently published, that were authored or edited by the staff at Hekima University College: (1) Elias Opongo (ed.), Elections, Violence & Transitional Justice in Africa (2) Peter Knox (ed.), Catholics and Protestants in Africa (3) Jean Luc Enyegue, Competing Catholicisms: The Jesuits, the Vatican and the Making of Postcolonial French Africa and (4) Marcel Uwineza, Risen from the Ashes: Theology as Autobiography in Post-Genocide Rwanda. The launch was preceded by a key-note speech on African Synodality, Contextual Theology & Peacebuilding by the Guest Speaker Prof. Mary Getui. While emphasizing the importance of listening, she reminded the participants that Synodality calls for total member involvement; for each member has something to offer. The Hekima research week was officially closed by Prof. Peter Knox.