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Protestant and Catholic Academicians Meet in Nairobi

encouters catholics_protestants

Encounters between Catholics and Protestants in Africa was the theme of an Ecumenical Conference held in Nairobi recently. The conference was organised by the Nairobi-based Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA). The Ecumenical dialogue brought together over twenty Protestant and Catholic academicians and an audience of over sixty participants. The week-long conference was designed as part of the larger commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther.

Organiser of the conference, Jesuit priest and Director of the JHIA, Fr. Festo Mkenda told Vatican Radio that although the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther was a mostly European affair, it has had wider and far-reaching implications on Christianity in Africa.

“It occurred to me that nothing much was being done in Africa (to commemorate the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther). People felt, ‘well, the Protestant Reformation in 1517 was really a European affair.’ For me that was wrong. It was wrong because the Protestant Reformation shaped Christianity in ways that will never be reversed. Christianity, today, whether Catholicism or of any other form, has been shaped by the Protestant Reformation. .. so we Christians in Africa are actually heirs of what happened in 1517. The third wave of Evangelisation in Africa started in the 19th Century with Protestant missionaries who came to Africa. Quickly Catholics warmed to the idea and also came to Africa. With that, there was that competition that has continued to mark African Christianity,” said Fr. Festo who is an expert in African Political history. 

He says Africans have always known Christianity in its varied form because of the Protestant Reformation. The Nairobi conference was thus an opportunity for Protestants and Catholics to reflect on that experience of encountering one another over the centuries on the African continent. 

Fr. Festo emphasised that the meeting was an appreciation of the history of Christianity on the continent encompassing both successes and challenges. The papers presented examined encounters from various perspectives in a cordial spirit of Ecumenism. He expressed satisfaction with the quality of papers presented as well as the discussions that ensued after every paper. The papers presented will be published in book form in order to make them available to a wider audience.

Set up in 2009, at the instigation of the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Adolfo Nicolás, the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa is fast becoming an important centre and a required port of call for researchers of history in Africa. From initially being Jesuit-centred, the vision and centre have since expanded. 

“Our vision had to become broader to embrace not just Jesuit history and Christian history in Africa … Actually, we now embrace African history, cultures and traditions, African religions and that includes Islam because Islam is part and parcel of African culture,” said Fr. Festo.

(Fr. Paul Samasumo/ Rose Achiego, Vatican Radio)

This article was first published on the Radio Vatican Website

Vacancy: ATNP Editorial Manager

The African Theological Network Press (ATNP) is an ecumenical venture, committed to serving the church in Africa and the Diaspora by strengthening its life and witness through high quality scholarly publications that address contextual mission concerns and are accessible and affordable across the continent, as well as globally. The position of editorial manager is central to the development and operation of ATNP. Accountable to the Committee of ATNP, the editorial manger moves forward the operation of ATNP on a daily basis. Download the attached advertisement for more information. The deadline for submitting applications has now been extended to October 20, 2017 (not the date indicated on the attached advertisement). Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Dr Ralph E. S. Tanner, 1921-2017

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The Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) received with sadness the news of the passing of Dr Ralph E. S. Tanner, which happened on August 1, 2017. Our thoughts extend to Mrs Amoret Tanner, who will be feeling the absence of Dr Tanner at this time in a very special way. We also think of David, Dr Tanner’s son, and the entire community of relatives and friends, who are touched by his passing. We wish them consolation and trust that their sense of loss will be mitigated by a genuine celebration of the late Dr Tanner’s achievements over the years.

The Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa will remain perpetually grateful to Dr Tanner for being one of the first persons who believed in our project of providing a cost-effective environment for ground-breaking research on the religious histories, cultures and traditions of the people of Africa and Madagascar. The aim was to put scholars in Africa on a par with those who are elsewhere in the world by helping them access records and rare publications on Africa that are otherwise available only in libraries in Europe and America. Dr Tanner did not only affirm the idea, but contributed books and other documents from his own collection, including his valuable lecture notes at Makerere (Uganda) and Nairobi (Kenya) in the 1960s. He even ensured that he obtained for the JHIA a copy of his entire Tanganyika diary, which he had already deposited in another library in the United Kingdom, and later on he made it a point to purchase for the institute old post cards that tell the story of Africa in late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

As we mourn the passing of Dr Tanner, we remain extremely grateful to him for his support. We are proud that he chose to make us custodians of at least a part of his lifetime collection, and we will continue to promote his memory, especially his own numerous publications, by preserving them carefully and making them accessible to the many researchers who visit our institute. 

Past International Forum

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'Encounters between Catholics and Protestants in Africa' is an upcoming international forum organized by the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) within the umbrella of Refo500 and RefoRC. The conference which will be held in Karen Nairobi from July 11th to 14th, will seek to explore various themes that will revisit critical issues that will be of significance to the religion world with regard to the 500th anniversary of reformation which is being marked in 2017.

To learn more about the conference please follow this link: http://jhia.ac.ke/conference 

Fr General's Visit to JHIA

Fr. Aturo JHIA_Visit

The Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) would like to thank the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Arturo Sosa, SJ for paying us a visit on Thursday 4th May 2017. Fr. Sosa was in the company of Fr. Fratern Masawe, S.J, and Fr. Claudio Paul, S.J (both counselors to Father General), the JESAM President, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe E. Orobator S.J, and others. During his visit, JHIA Director Fr. Festo Mkenda SJ took him through the various categories of collections that make up the library of the institute. The delegation was then led through a short video that explains the role JHIA should play as per Fr. Sosa’s predecessor, Fr Adolfo Nicolas SJ. The clip explains the idea in mind in establishing a historical institute not only for Jesuit related material but one that would preserve the history of Africa. He was impressed by the role the institute plays in the society. JHIA Staff will be pleased to host him again. 

2017 Diary: Africa in Recent GCs

JHIADiary-2017The 2017 JHIA Diary is here! This product is now available for circulation. We trust that our patrons can order their copies early enough to allow shipping before Christmas.

The 2017 diary builds on the reviews we received on the 2015 and 2016 diaries. On the basis of those reviews, we largely maintained the same structure and format even as we introduced significantly new content. We appreciate the fact that the JHIA diary is increasingly being used by a good number of Jesuits and their friends. 

The 2017 diary continues to provide crucial historical information. It bears a basic report on the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa in its current state and introduces the institute’s short term (2017-2021) and long term (2017-2026) plans. In the context of the recently concluded 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, the JHIA 2017 diary also includes highlights on Africa in more recent General Congregations. Moreover, a snapshot of the current state of African continent is provided as a background against which the 36th General Congregation took place. This, we hope, will also be the backround against which many in Africa will read whatever prounouncements the Congregation will produce and the context in which its decisions will be implemented within Africa and Madagascar. At the very end of the diary is a chronological reference chart of major Jesuit events in Africa from 1900 to the present. This was designed to complete the 2016 chart, which showcased similar events from the bginning of the Society of Jesus to the year 1900.

With so much historical detail, the JHIA diary is surely a collector’s item. We are deeply satisfied that we have been able to offer the 2017 product to our friends and supporters at exactly the same price as that of last year (KSH 800.00; TSH 15,000.00; USD 10.00; EURO 9.00). The diary can now be ordered from the JHIA ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). We recommend that, where possible, customers take advantage of friends and companions passing through Nairobi to purchase a copy for them; alternatively, add shipping cost to the indicated price. Ordered early, the diary should arrive anywhere in the world in time for Christmas…and what a wonderful Christmas gift it would make! THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING THE JHIA BY PURCHASING THE 2017 DIARY!

 

 

JHIA Joins RefoRC

ReforcDuring its meeting of May 2015, the Board of RefoRC accepted the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) as member of ReforRC. This is in addition to the JHIA’s membership of Refo500. RefoRC is a Research Consortium and an academic arm of Refo500, which connects academics and supports them in research activities by bringing those Refo500 partners together that focus on interconfessional, interdisciplinary and international research.

The JHIA is extremely excited about this recognition and new place in the global research community. In the context of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, the JHIA is keenly interested in ensuring that the lasting impact the 16th century events in Europe had on the second and third waves of evangelization in Africa are not lost to global scholarship. To advance this aim, the JHIA is closely collaborating with the Institute of Advanced Jesuit Studies, Boston College, to organize an international conference on the “Encounters Between Jesuits and Protestants in Africa”, which will take place in June/July 2016 (see more details here). In the same vein, the JHIA is considering plans for a broader conference on “Encounters between Catholics and Protestants in Africa” for June/July 2017, aiming to explore more generally the implications of the Reformation for the evangelization of the African continent.

The JHIA is set to exploit the collaborative opportunities within RefoRC to understand the extent to which Africa was and is still being influenced by the Reformation and its aftermath.

Pilgrimage into the History of the Society of Jesus in Africa

Fr Ekwueme_at_JHIA-ED

On October, 17, 2014, then the assistant novice director; I embarked on a pilgrimage to the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA), Nairobi, Kenya. Even though I had seen the inception of the institute during my theology studies at Hekima College, I did not have the time to truly explore the library and the archives. This time I went to see, touch, read and understand some of the early histories of the Society of Jesus in Africa with the intention to share them with our ANW Province novices.

Throughout my formation, I have encountered the fragmented history of the Society of Jesus in Africa. In the mid the 1990s at the Jesuit Novitiate of the then Nigeria/Ghana Region, Fr. Ray Salomone, SJ and Fr. Tom Stehl, SJ (of blessed memory) tried their very best to expound on the history of the Society of Jesus in Europe, Asia, India and the Americas. We did touch on the history of the Society in Africa, and narrowed down to the history of the Jesuits in Nigeria/Ghana. Fr. Peter Schineller's book, From Generation to Generation, was an invaluable resource in this regard. What about the rest of Africa, I always wondered.

Similarly, in 2000s during my Arrupe College teaching experiment in Choma, Zambia, I heard of the seemingly lost history of the Zambezi Missions. I did not see any materials to read to this effect. Again, in May-July 2011, during my theology studies at Hekima College, I had my experiment in Addis Ababa. As I travelled from Addis Ababa to Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela, I learnt about the many missionary journeys of the early Jesuits like André de Oviedo, Pedro Páez and Alfonso Mendez. I always wanted to study the biography of these companions, to see the early history of Africa from the eyes of these men of the Spiritual Exercises. I have heard in passing that there were similar histories in Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola and the Congo before the suppression of the Society in 1773.

Hence, as I mingled with my fellow scholastics throughout my studies in Arrupe, Hekima and in other places, once in a while we discussed the early history, but most had only read or heard fragments of the history. How can one know the history, if there is no one to teach it? Visiting the JHIA library and archives in Nairobi became a spiritual pilgrimage. As Fr. Festo Mkenda, SJ led me by hand into our hallowed histories through the books, manuscripts articles and fragments of books, I realized how urgent we needed to teach these histories to ourselves. I held in my hands the actual records of the Zambezi Missions, rare accounts of the missionary activities of Jesuits in Ethiopia, pictures of the Congo missions, maps of Africa in the time of Father Ignatius and many such materials. Fr. Mkenda's passion for the history of the Society in Africa is magnanimously infectious. Every moment of discussion with him in the car on the way to JHIA, at tables or in the hallways was always inspiring, enlightening and joyful. Every sunrise of each day brought with it a new discovery and a new hope.

I would like to express my gratitude to Fr. Mkenda and his ever cheerful and able staff for all their assistance during my short stay. I would like to thank ANW Province for its encouragement and support. And, finally, I would like to thank Hekima College (Nairobi, Kenya) for its hospitality and the Jesuit Novitiate in Benin City (Nigeria) for its encouragement. With your support and prayers, we hope to put together a teaching material that could be shared with other novitiates in the African Assistancy. We would like to welcome anyone who is interested and willing to offer any help to this project.

Fr. Evaristus Ekwueme, SJ.

This article was first published by JESAM.

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Vacancy: ATNP Editorial Manager

The African Theological Network Press (ATNP) is an ecumenical venture, committed to serving the church in Africa and the Diaspora... Read more

Dr Ralph E. S. Tanner, 1921-2017

Dr Ralph E. S. Tanner, 1921-2017

The Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) received with sadness the news of the passing of Dr Ralph E. S.... Read more

Protestant and Catholic Academicians Mee…

Protestant and Catholic Academicians Meet in Nairobi

Encounters between Catholics and Protestants in Africa was the theme of an Ecumenical Conference held in Nairobi recently. The conference... Read more

Past International Forum

Past International Forum

  'Encounters between Catholics and Protestants in Africa' is an upcoming international forum organized by the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa... Read more

Fr General's Visit to JHIA

Fr General's Visit to JHIA

The Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) would like to thank the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr... Read more

2017 Diary: Africa in Recent GCs

2017 Diary: Africa in Recent GCs

The 2017 JHIA Diary is here! This product is now available for circulation. We trust that our patrons can order... Read more

JHIA Joins RefoRC

JHIA Joins RefoRC

During its meeting of May 2015, the Board of RefoRC accepted the Jesuit Historical Institute in Africa (JHIA) as member... Read more

Pilgrimage into the History of the Socie…

Pilgrimage into the History of the Society of Jesus in Africa

On October, 17, 2014, then the assistant novice director; I embarked on a pilgrimage to the Jesuit Historical Institute in... Read more