KENYA: Hekima Celebrates African Women Theologians with Monumental Conference in Nairobi

By Paschal Norbert

NAIROBI, MARCH 5, 2024 (CISA)– In celebrating 40 years since its establishment in 1984 and its contribution to women’s theological empowerment, Hekima University College (HUC), Nairobi, Kenya, has organized an international conference dedicated to women theologians that will take place from March 7 -11, 2024.

The theme of the highly anticipated international conference is ‘African Women Theologians and Synodality’.

The conference will feature keynote speeches by leading global women theologians including, Sr Dr Josée Ngalula, the first-ever African woman to be appointed member of the International Theological Commission (ITC), Prof. Lisa Sowle Cahill, a professor of Theology at Boston College, USA, and Sr Prof Teresa Okure, pioneer professor emerita of Scripture and Gender Hermeneutics.

Others include Prof Mary N. Getui, professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), Dr Shawn M. Copeland, professor emerita in the Department of Theology at Boston College, Léocadie Lushombo, assistant professor of Theological Ethics at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, USA, and Sr Dr Josephine Kangogo Keino, chairperson of the Association of Sisterhoods of Kenya (AOSK).

According to Sr Dr Jacinta Opondo, FSSA, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Anne, the chairperson of the Conference Organizing Committee and the first woman Deputy Principal for Academic Affairs at HUC, the four-day conference will offer a platform for the voices of African women theologians to be heard in the global theological and ecclesial discourse.

“Although Hekima has endeavoured to offer opportunities to women theologians, the latter’s voices are still seldom heard. Recognizing these gaps, Pope Francis assigned women to handle key responsibilities in the upcoming Synod on Synodality, providing a golden opportunity to appreciate the role of women in the Church,” she says.

In welcoming participants to the conference, Rev Dr Marcel Uwineza SJ, principal of HUC notes “Our goal is to amplify the voices of African women in theological discourses and to prompt the well-deserved respectful listening of African women theologians by the Church and society.

“We regret that the women theologian voices often go unheard,” he adds.

The objectives of the four-day conference include: strengthening and channeling the intellectual abilities, leadership, and contributions of African women theologians towards the growth of the Church in Africa and beyond, fostering a spirit that is liberating and empowering for women and creating a network of African women scholars committed to the mission of the Church.

Dr Opondo explains, “With this conference, HUC wishes to celebrate its contributions to women’s theological empowerment and make the voices of African women louder in theological discourses. Hopefully, this conference will significantly prompt the well-deserved respectful listening of African women theologians by the Church.”

Her sentiments are shared by Dr Marcel who highlights “As HUC celebrates its 40th anniversary, we join the intellectual community alongside our ecclesial leaders to celebrate women theologians who continue to serve the Church and society. We continue to ask: who is missing at our “table”? We hope this international conference will be our Synodal testimony of how HUC joins the Universal Church and Pope Francis in the synod on synodality.”