Hekima University College Marks the End of HUC@40 Celebrations with a Series of Successful Events.

A Swahili saying goes, Siku Njema Huonekana Mapema! This is loosely translated as “a good day springs out early!” When Hekima University College announced in August 2023 at the inauguration of the new academic year 2023-2024, a year-long celebration of its 40th Anniversary, one wondered what these celebrations would entail.

Not long after the inauguration, the committee spearheading the HUC@40 issued a list of activities to be carried out as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations. The committee then embarked on a rigorous journey to ensure that these activities, which included public lectures, beautification, renovation of the college infrastructure, and conferences, were executed. It involved a lot of commitment, mobilization of funds and human resources, and doing everything possible to ensure that everything turned out as planned.

As the college concluded the academic year 2023-2024 on Friday 26, April 2024, the year-long celebrations of HUC@40 also came to an end. The occasion was a time to look back and see what has been done and where HUC is headed as Hekima looks forward to now HUC@50. Rev. Dr. Stephen Eyeowa SJ looked back at the journey through the last year as he reflected on the activities that have been accomplished in the fulfillment of the dreams of HUC founders.

Here below is his presentation which summarizes the activities of HUC@40 celebrations beginning with the inauguration of the academic year up until the present day when the first African Academic Chair is installed at HUC:


By Rev. Dr. Stephen Eyeowa SJ

What does it mean to do theology in the 21st century, in Africa, in Hekima? Perhaps Psalm 100 offers a clue. From the psalmist’s praise, theology appears to have a dyadic purpose: reverence and knowledge of God by all creatures. The psalmist suggests ecological, anthropological, zoological, liturgical, and socio-cultural studies as valid loci for theological discourse. Hence, doing theology today implies an interdisciplinary approach. Theology today must be interactive and dialogical.

Thanks to the occasion of HUC@40, Hekima significantly exposes theology to several disciplines, attesting that as God of all creation, the whole of creation can relate to and engage with the God question and that the situatedness of theology knows no bounds. Heavily worded by biblical imageries, experiences, and events, through the HUC@40 prayer, Hekima attests that scriptures remain the primary foundation for any theological rootedness. Also, the inaugural speech of the 2023/2024 academic year by Dr. Ludovic Lado SJ builds on the HUC@40 prayer to underscore the inseparable union between theology and anthropology. Although Dr. Lado considered theology a disguised anthropology, such perception does not reflect true theology in its fullness because theology existed before the creation of humanity. Humans never theologized but were utterly silent when created in the image and likeness of God and commanded to have dominion over the cosmos in Genesis 1. Therefore, authentic anthropology must lead to theology.

Now, arrogant anthropocentrism often leads to a wrong perception of the cosmos, causing ecological crises. For example, Genesis 3 and 4 show that human misconduct has negative impacts on the earth (Gen 3:17; 4:10). In fact, Prof. Dominic Irudayaraj SJ notes in his conference on the invitation to eco-biblical rendezvous that contrary to an anthropocentric bias of creation in Psalm 8, God’s response in Job 38 exposes the flourishing of the earth without the presence of humans. As such, this divine revelation helps humanity to understand the true meaning of dominating the earth. Just as God dominated the tohû wābohû (Chaos – Gen 1:2) to hand over a well-structured and beautiful world to humanity, humanity must care for the earth to be fruitful. Thus, the Genesis “dominance” language hints at caring for the Anawim, the poorest of the poor, of which the earth is constitutive.

Talking about the Anawim, true theology foreshadows social relationality in that the divine-human relationship becomes an implementable template for human social connectedness. This divine-human relationship is crucial because God, in his benevolence, constantly chooses to relate with the weak and vulnerable. Prof. William O’Neill SJ identifies (intra or inter-border) migrants as contemporary Anawim who need a theology that ceases to identify a neighbour but emphasizes becoming a neighbour to the other. This call for a theology of migration underscores the role of remembrance (ZKR). Since we are no longer slaves and strangers before God, our approach to theology must be liberating, restoring the dignity of the Anawim and ensuring their fundamental rights. As such, theology provides the spirituality to engage socio-cultural and existential dynamism.

HUC@40 displays a concrete commitment to ZRK. Beyond paying tribute to an icon of African theology, the Late Prof. Laurenti Magesa, Hekima recalls the circumstances (post-colonial, independence, Vatican II) that grounded Magesa’s theologies. I say theologies because Magesa’s works prioritized liberation theology and inculturation. Here, history and its telling become necessary in theology to address concrete contexts. The theology-history-context encounter often leads to the purification of memories and inspires the desire for authenticity.

This quest for authenticity was indeed at the heart of Hekima’s creation. The HUC pioneers’ conference revealed this foundational agenda. It was the dream of the founding fathers that HUC engage in the Africanisation and contextualization of theological thoughts and revelations at an advanced level. This way, theology becomes more interactive, engaging the socio-cultural dynamism of Africa, respecting diverse cultural and theological views, and searching for appropriate means of striving towards the salvation of all. The JCAM Research Network Symposium addresses the need to pay attention to diverse views for the purpose of living together. Issue 68, the most recent issue of Hekima Review, tells the story of Hekima’s mission and context. The commitment to this mission and context inspired the establishment of the Chair of African Studies, which we also celebrate today.

Although its founding fathers set an agenda from its outset, Hekima grew, assuming its identity over the years. Derived from the Hebrew word “Hokma”, translated as “Sophia” in Greek, these languages identify wisdom as feminine. Hekima, dear friends, is a woman. To this end, having female students at JST and IPSIR, as well as female faculty and non-faculty members, is fulfilling. The current statistics of all Hekima students (from the certificate course to our doctoral students on scholarship) point towards the prevalence of women, in spite of their seeming rareness in the BTh program. Also, the recently concluded African Women Theologians Conference testifies to Hekima’s commitment towards bringing out voices that had, up till now, been silenced in theological discourse. The commitment to the formation of women may serve as a working template for compulsory intellectual training of religious women, just as the Council of Trent mandated the intellectual formation of all priestly candidates. Therefore, Hekima has proven that theology is not exclusively masculine. Rather, its concrete expression of Gen 1:27 is noticeable in that men and women can theologize and represent God’s actual image. If God is Father, God is also Mother.

Moreover, HUC@40 has offered us the opportunity to fully implement Plato’s transcendentals: truth, goodness and beauty. Beyond the pursuit of academic truth, celebrating HUC@40 was a kairos moment in the deliberate search for the good. The newly constituted Alumni Association, the safeguarding of minor and vulnerable adults, and the total transition to solar energy are concrete ways Hekima ensures the goodness of the Anawim: the environment, the weak, and those who may feel estranged. Hekima has become a Laudato Si University College. Moreover, HUC@40 has offered us the space for creative expressions of beauty. On the one hand, it presented the opportunity for infrastructural renewal. Both campuses now have a new look thanks to the beautification and renovation projects as well as the planting of trees. On the other hand, HUC@40 created an ambience for relishing sacred music either composed or arranged by the HUC Choir.

Finally, it is worth asking: What lessons have we learned from the HUC@40 activities? A twofold response suffices. Firstly, theology in the 21st century must take interdisciplinary inquiries seriously. The activities of HUC@40 sufficiently reveal how theology offers substance to anthropology, ecology, socio-cultural studies, history, gender studies, and aesthetics. Secondly, theology in Hekima implies a commitment to Africanised and contextualized studies. Here, one sees the relevance of HUC’s faculties and institutes. For instance, while HIPSIR and CRTP help JST to read the signs of the times and to understand contextual realities, JST offers them the opportunity to seek, understand and implement the appropriate spirituality behind any form of social engagement.

Doing theology in Hekima today cannot be business as usual. Thanks to its multidisciplinary, gender-balanced, and contextual approaches, Hekima must now distance herself from the traditional path – theology as a discourse about God. This path often robs God of divinity, pretending to raise humanity to a divine state. While God created humanity in God’s image and likeness, an anthropocentric theology risks creating God according to human imagination. Consequently, it is time to relish the dreams of our founders by committing to theology, not as a discourse about God, but as a discourse with God. Theology in Hekima should be a discipline where humanity learns not only to speak about but, more importantly, to dialogue with or speak to God, the human condition, and social contexts. This approach must be at the heart of any serious contextual and interdisciplinary approach to theology.

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