Hekima Inaugurates the African Chair, installs the first occupant

In a colorful ceremony that marked the end of the academic year 2023-2024 and the close of the Jubilee celebrations of HUC@40, Hekima University College on 26th April 2024 inaugurated the first African Academic Chair and announced the first holder of the Chair: Rt. Rev. Rodrigo Mejia Saldarriaga S.J, Vicar Apostolic Emeritus of Soddo, Ethopia, and Titular Bishop of Vulturia.

In a previous statement, HUC Registrar Rev. Dr. George Macharia SJ explained that the African chair does not mean an object where one sits but rather an invitation to an Eminent African Theologian who has dedicated his/her life to the promotion of African Theology to come to Hekima for one year and become part of the faculty.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, HUC Principal Rev. Dr. Marcel Uwineza SJ explained that establishing an African Chair puts Hekima in the lead of many academic institutions in Africa. “Any University that appreciates its roots, tradition, and future invests heavily in its expertise,” Dr. Uwineza stated, adding that Hekima’s focus on contextual theology demands an investment in the African Chair occupied on a rotation basis by eminent African theologians, both women and men.

The Principal further noted that HUC has trained many prominent theologians who now occupy leading positions within and outside the church; thus as the institution celebrates its 40th anniversary, it is an opportune moment to tap into this wealth of contacts, diversity, leadership, and expertise by incorporating its former students and giving them the honor of occupying the African chair.

Recalling the words of the Very Rev. Fratern Masawe SJ, one of the HUC pioneer students during the HUC Pioneer Conference held on 21st February 2024, that the name Hekima was intentional. “… It carried the dream, the vision, and the praxis we had in mind then. We knew we needed the ability to be able to use our knowledge and our contextual experience, our theory and practice for the good of Africa and indeed for this world. This kind of theology we had in mind could not be done elsewhere but in Africa!” The HUC Principal reiterated that it is this kind of theology, this desire to bring theology and peace studies together, that HUC’s first Academic Chair in African studies is launching.

The theme for this maiden year of the HUC African chair is “Engaging African Studies for Integral and Sustainable Development through Contextual Theological Studies.” Dr. Uwineza revealed that after consulting those in the administration, the choice of Bishop Rodrigo Mejia as the first holder of the HUC African Chair was inspired by several factors, among them the fact that he was one of the pioneers of HUC, has demonstrated great love for Africa and speaks more than ten native languages. Bishop Rodrigo has also written extensively on Africa, his most recent work appearing in the latest edition of Hekima Review which came out on 26th April 2024 under the title: “Matatu Theology: My Experience as Hekima Pioneer living at St. Joseph the Worker Parish-Kangemi, Nairobi.”

Dr. Uwineza noted that Bishop Rodrigo has been blessed with a wealth of experience and that in the newly published Hekima Review, he contributed two articles, the second article under the title Human Freedom under Jesuit Spirituality.

“Bishop Rodrigo, you have been an inspiration to us and on behalf of Hekima University College, we chose you as the holder of this African chair for this year. Thank you for accepting the task,” Dr. Uwineza continued.

The launching of the African Chair entailed the ceremonial unveiling of the banner that carried the theme, the presentation of the African Bible to the chair holder, and the presentation of a shield and a spear, which are signs in Africa of protection and strength. This task was done by the HUC Council Chair Mrs. Margaret Muhoro.

“With words and gestures, we have officially launched the First Academic Chair at Hekima University College and we are immensely grateful to those who have supported us,’ Dr. Uwineza said, adding that the launch of an African Academic Chair is a further indication that HUC is moving from better to best.

By Pamela Adinda

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