HEST Steering committee in Brussels, Belgium
Editor´ s note: We asked Jose Carlos Romero Mora, profesor at Comillas University and coordinator of HEST program in the European Conference of Provincials, to write this report about the past, present and future of HEST program.
Europe today is currently struggling for vision and finds itself in a moral, religious, and political crisis, we see many challenges arising in the region such as Migration, the polarisation of political discourse, poverty, ecological issues, extreme Islam, …, we need to ask ourselves: “the Jesuit network can play a part in addressing at least some of these?
Higher Education has been a key part of the Society of Jesus for hundreds of years and our institutions in Europe reflect this. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the networking of our institutions can be strengthened. We have very strong platforms which can be used further. Therefore, in the Conference of European Provincials we wondered together with Father Adolfo Nicolas: “Can we not go beyond the loose family relationships we now have as institutions, and re-imagine and re-organize ourselves so that, in this globalized world, we can more effectively realize the universality which has always been part of Ignatius’ vision of the Society?”
Considering that, we have designed a programme that aims to mobilise the resources of Jesuit Universities and Faculties across Europe and to link them with our Social centres. It is entitled Higher Education for Social Transformation (HEST). The basic idea is that those engaged in academic research can be challenged by realities in the ground while those advocating for change on the ground can benefit from high quality research.
The programme aims at collaborating to achieve a real social transformation by influencing decision makers in politics, finance and industry with well-founded arguments and with data based on a solid research collaboratively built by Social and Higher Education institutions.
Seven Cluster for Social Transformation
To do so, in Summer 2016, the clear majority of Jesuit Higher Education institutions got together and chose the most relevant research themes considering our expertise and the urgent needs of the European Society. In this bottom-up process, the selected themes were (1) Ecology and Environmental Challenges; (2) Economy, Poverty and Ethics; (3) Christian Muslim Relations; (4) Dialogue Science and Religion; (5) Ignatian Studies; (6) Anthropology and (7) Migrations and Refugees.
Each cluster of HEST program aims at providing meaningful and quality research and designing a solid dissemination and advocacy strategy for each cluster that can pressure for political reforms and private initiatives that improve our understanding of the structural causes of poverty and inequality in the world and promote changes. The clusters’ potential outputs and outcomes can be:
(1) providing reflection and knowledge creation;
(2) designing theme based courses and programs;
(3) preparing publications with different scopes and
(4) developing a good advocacy strategy.
Present and future of HEST
The first thing that can be said about the experience is that it is fully alive and generating life around it. In 2017, the seven research groups were constituted and each of them drew up its own roadmap.
In 2019, we close the first cycle of HEST and we do so with the joy of having taken a small step on this long road. From 2020, the project will be covered by the recently constituted Kircher Network of universities and faculties of the Society in Europe and Middle East. This is a very important step for the project as it will become the research dimension of the network, with all the potential that this implies. In addition, two other challenges of the project are the integration with the priorities of the IAJU and, of course, with the apostolic priorities of the Society that have just been presented. We are confident that this will be a very natural process as the degree of agreement on the issues and approaches is very narrow.
For those who are interested in learning more about the initiative, we invite you to visit the project website (www.hestprogramme.eu). There you will be able to keep up to date with all the life that moves around the project. And of course, every suggestion will be very welcome!
HEST can be an excellent opportunity to build up a strong Higher-Education Network that moves the Society of Jesus in Europe and all who work in partnership with us and share our goals and dreams.
In his famous speech at Santa Clara University, Father Kolvenbach told us that “the faculty's research, which must be rationally rigorous, firmly rooted in faith and open to dialogue with all people of good will not only obeys the canons of each discipline, but ultimately embraces human reality in order to help make the world a more fitting place for six billion (seven billion already) of us to inhabit”.
Hopefully, HEST will become a good vehicle to incarnate this sacred mission in the “Old Europe”.