When we see the many challenges in Europe and the Near East such as Migration, the Polarisation of Political discourse, Poverty, Ecological issues, extreme Islam we ask ourselves: “Surely the Jesuit network can play a part in addressing at least some of these?”. With this in mind, 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. We want to influence decision makers in politics, finance and industry with well-founded arguments and with data based on solid research.

Selected Themes

The vast majority of Jesuit Higher Education institutions got together and they chose the themes that were relevant for both their institutions and for the Society of Jesus. In this bottom-up process, the selected and relevant themes were the following:

1. Ecology and Environmental Challenges

2. Economy, Poverty and Ethics

3. Christian Muslim Relations

4. Dialogue Science and Religion

5. Ignatian Studies

6. Anthropology

7. Migrations and Refugees

Expected goals

Hest aims at the Following three goals

1. Provide meaningful and quality research and design a solid dissemination and advocacy strategy for each cluster

2. Pressure for greater multinational cooperation in reforms/activities that would understand the structural causes of poverty and inequality in the world and promote changes

3. Strengthen the Jesuit Identity of Jesuit Higher Education Institutions

Last Wednesday, May 20th, a webinar was organized by the Sankt Georgen Theological Faculty of Frankfurt, the University of Innsbruck and the University of Granada on Islam-Christian relations. The meeting was also attended by a person from the Centre Sèvres in Paris. The webinar was to replace a more ambitious joint study week that was to take place in Granada and which had to be suspended due to the COVID 19. The webinar was attended by the research teams and professors interested in the subject from the three institutions, and the participants included a significant number of Muslims from different backgrounds. After a first round of presentation of each other, the webinar had two main parts: an introduction to the theoretical framework from which we want to work, given by Tobias Specker SJ, who seeks to reflect on the possibility of a contemporary Islamic-Christian civilization; and an introduction to the problem of the presence of religions in society, given by Ignacio Sepulveda, from the University Loyola Andalucia. This webinar, and the study week it replaces, is part of the work of the cluster on Islam-Christian relations of the HEST project (Higher Education for Social Transformation) of the Society of Jesus in Europe. The aim of these efforts is to create a research network on various topics of capital importance for the Society in Europe, such as Islam-Christian dialogue. The joint work and the mutual knowledge of the teams of these three institutions committed to research in Islamic-Christian relations is intended to advance the development of a joint doctorate on this topic.
The third Steering Committee of the HEST (Higher Education for Social Transformation) project took place on 25 November 2019. The coordinators of the different clusters of the project, together with representatives of the JCEP, JESC and the Kircher network took part in it. Specifically, we met:              - Franck Janin SJ: President of the JCEP              - Peter Rozic SJ: Director of JESC              - Philip Geister SJ: President of the Kircher network              - Susana Ditrolio: Executive Secretary of the Kircher network              - Pedro Linares: Representative of the ecology cluster              - Ricardo Aguado: Coordinator of the economy cluster              - Gonzalo Villagrán SJ: Islam Cluster Coordinator              - Jacek Poznansky SJ: Outgoing Coordinator of the Science and Religion Cluster              - Josef Quitterer: Incoming Coordinator of the Science and Religion Cluster              - Eric Charmetant SJ: Anthropology Cluster Coordinator              - José García de Castro SJ: Coordinator of the Ignatian Studies Cluster              - Philip Endean: Collaborator in the Anthropology, Ignatian Studies and Islam Clusters              - Rafael Silva: Assistant at the JCEP              - Checa Romero: Coordinator of the HEST project The meeting was held in a climate of trust and companionship fruit of the work done in the last 3 years in the project. In relation to the content, the meeting had two clearly differentiated parts: in the morning we dedicated to review what had happened in the last year in each cluster along with a brief evaluation of the project to date. The Afternoon, however, focused on looking together towards the future and proposing action plans that could be constituted as the network's strategic plan for the new 2020-2022 period. The meeting ended with a brief sharing in which both the magnitude of the challenge before us and the illusion of facing it were realistically demonstrated. May God bless these efforts and give us all the wisdom and energy to continue building these minimal research communities for the common good.
A HEST Science & Religion Conference in Paris. After almost three years of the existence, the Science and Religion Cluster of HEST reached the highest point of its activities, the conference: “A Powerful Universe – Levels of Powers: Dispositions and Their Applications in Science, Metaphysics, and Theology”. It was a fully academic event which took place 8-9th of October 2019 in Centre Sèvres Jesuit Theological Faculty in Paris. The planning of the conference and our preparations to it took almost two years. The conference was prepared by the survey among the members, the formulation of the research programme, two workshops (in Kraków and Braga) as well as almost 15 skype meetings. During the conference we had a great privilege to host prof. Stephen Mumford (Durham University / GB), the most renowned scholar on the question of dispositions and powers in metaphysics. He was very kind to accept our invitation and was very actively involved in the discussions sharing his deep knowledge of the topic as we presented our own papers. We hosted also prof. Douglas Porpora (Drexel University / USA), a sociologist, prof. William Abraham (Southern Methodist University / USA), a theologian, prof. Alvaro Moreno (University of the Basque Country, San Sebastian / Spain), a biologist. On Skype joined us prof. Ruth Groff (Saint Louis University / USA), a political scientist. A unified philosophical perspective Each one of them presented a paper. All of them are interested in metaphysical underpinning of their work, and the topic of dispositions and powers is an important perspective for them. The group of speakers was very diverse, because we intended to cover all the levels of reality (see the title of the conference) and to ask how the dispositional metaphysics can work on them. We would like to investigated the possibilities of a unified philosophical perspective on the reality which opens space for the divine presence and action in the world in a new way. The discussions were long and very intense (each paper was followed by around 30 minutes discussion session). It was inspiring to have so many people with very different backgrounds, but united in the philosophical quest for deeper understanding of various aspects of the reality. We should stress the fact that all guests stayed from the first to the last hour of the conference. It is also important to notice the presence of some other collaborators from our home institutions. From Newman Institute in Uppsala joined us for the whole conference: Erik Åkerlund, Lapo Lappin, Christoffer Skogholt; from Innsbruck University – Rev. Raphael Weichlein; from Centre Sèvres – for some sessions: Éric Charmetant SJ and Philip Endean SJ. To sum up, we covered a lot of areas started from metaphysical problems, then going to biology, sociology, anthropology, ethics and theology. As the members of Cluster we made a lot of progress in getting the idea on dispositional metaphysics. Book prospectus In the near future we would like to put together a book prospectus and to research the publishing possibilities in a renowned publisher house. In the long run we would like to continue the work of the Cluster and to take on board other important questions in the field of Science and Religion. Last but not least, the Centre Sèvres college and community is a very welcoming and convenient place for such conferences. Many thanks go to François Euvé for keeping eye on all the organizational issues. We are grateful to the Rector of the Community for the kind welcome in the community dinning room and the Rector of the Faculty for the financial support (venue and coffee breaks).
The core group of HEST (Higher Education for Social Transformation) met in Braga, Portugal, between 26-29th of April 2019. Five of us turned up for the meeting in person (Bruno Nobre, Francois Euvé, Ulf Jonsson, Josef Quitterer, Jacek Poznański) and Georg Gasser from Innsbruck joined us on Skype at Saturday’s evening session. We were guests of the Jesuit Community of the scholastics (Jesuits in formation) in Braga. We spend two nice days with them, celebrating masses, eating together and discussing philosophical, theological and everyday questions. Saturday we dedicated to the organizational issues. We started with discussion on our conference which is to take place in Centre Sèvres in Paris, 8th-9th of October 2019. The title of the conference is “A Powerful Universe – Levels of Powers. Dispositions and their applications in Science, Metaphysics, and Theology”. It is the final event of the three years of existence of the Science and Religion Cluster of the HEST Programme. We invited for the conference a number of key scholars on powers and dispositions. We will try to enter in dialogue with them on the important issues concerning metaphysics, anthropology, sciences and God. Francois Euvé informed us about the preparations in Paris, accommodation and other things. Bruno Nobre will take care about the registration issues. We spoke about our guests and the arrangements of the talks. We will design also a website of the conference. The second big issue was the social transformation dimension of our project. Firstly, we would like to get together the scholars from European Jesuit institutions who are interested in science and religion. We want to invite to the conference our colleagues from places like Madrid, Barcelona, Muenchen, Namur, Zagreb, Bratislava, Vatican Observatory. Secondly, we plan to put together the results of our research and conference in an influential publication. We hope to find a renowned publisher house willing to help us in this task. We agreed to continue our cooperation after the finishing the three years period of HEST project. Our proposal is to organize a regular International Science and Religion Seminar for the PhD and MA students. The seminar could use the structures of our universities, and probably we can try to insert this seminar into curricula of our PhD or MA students and provide them with ECTS. We will work a bit more on this proposal and we send this to others for discussion. Sunday, the second day of our seminar, was dedicated to the presentation and discussion of the working papers we had been preparing for the conference. We cleared out our understanding of the concepts and ideas in powers and dispositions, as well as confronted the materials prepared by us with other points of view. We are thankful to the Jesuit community in Braga, and especially Bruno Nobre, for all the great efforts to make our time there as nice and fruitful as possible. We thank also the dean of the Jesuit Faculty of Philosophy and Social Science in Braga for the financial support.
Hest cluster on Ecology. On the 20th and 21st of November, the third HEST ecology cluster in-person meeting took place in Brussels. The two-day meeting was held at the JESC offices and followed the group’s last October webinar, where the main points of the November meeting agenda had been agreed. From the beginning of the meeting, there was an inspiring team spirit and sense of community that provided the group with a great boost of energy and positivity for the following two days. Before the formal discussions, the group shared a nice Paella lunch allowing them to catch up and get ready for the demanding meeting of the evening. JESC After the energizing lunch, the first part of the meeting began with a short presentation on JESC work and mission offered by Fr. Peter Rožič SJ, Director of JESC. José Carlos Romero, the HEST coordinator, presented an update on the HEST program and gave a brief overview on the state of the other six HEST clusters. He highlighted that the steering committee that had taken place the previous day was the most fruitful meeting they have had so far, where coordinators of each group presented what they were doing; their expectations and what they thought was not working. Massive open online course The following part of the meeting revolved around the possibility of elaborating a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the issue of Sustainability and values. After having considered Pedro Linares’ MOOC proposal and provided feedback, the group committed to collaborate on the creation of this MOOC project. Although the length and the exact content of the MOOC has yet to be defined, the main topic will be Sustainability and values and a special focus will be given to food waste, so that it can be also linked to the Research Project. The MOOC will be an introductory course aimed at the general public. Research project Two other main projects were debated during the meeting: the Research Project and the Living Laudato Si’ initiative. For the Research Project, it was decided that the topic would be food waste and that it is to have an interdisciplinary focus, where not only the scientific point of view will be taken into account but where the philosophical, theological and social aspects will also be considered. Even though this project is still in the preliminary phase, it became apparent from the discussions that cities are the right unit to study for this project. The last part of the discussion focused on the Living Laudato Si’ initiative and on possible ways to spread the different reflections that have come out of the initiative. The debate on the Living Laudato Si’ initiative was followed by an enriching and inspiring collective reflection exercise led by Fr. Edmond Grace SJ. After some concluding remarks by one of the cluster’s coordinator, Andreas Carlgren, the group established the dates for the next four webinars. Next year’s in-person meeting in Beirut was also discussed and as a tentative date, it was decided that the meeting will take place in the middle of November 2019. The next webinar will take place on the 25th of January.
The annual meeting of the Steering Committee of the HEST project on 21 November in Brussels. If last year it was the Universidad Pontificia Comillas that hosted this event, on this occasion the meeting took place in Brussels, specifically in the meeting room of the Ecumenical European Chapel of the Resurrection, a work entrusted to the Society of Jesus in the European capital. The place chosen was not by chance. The Chapel represents this meeting place for Christians of different confessions at the very heart of the political and economic life of the Belgian capital. We are Catholics, but with very different backgrounds, and HEST is for us, in some way, the Chapel of the Resurrection. Franck Janin, president of the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials chaired the session, which was attended by the coordinators of the 7 clusters that make up the project, as well as representatives of other networks that collaborate with HEST, namely, Father Philip Geister for the Kircher network, Father Peter Rozic for JESC and Father Jaime Tatay for the network of European cultural magazines. The meeting began with a moment of shared prayer and an address by Father Janin himself in which he welcomed all those present and invited us to celebrate the meeting and to look to the future of the project with renewed hope. Later, Father Philip Geister took the floor, and made a presentation of the Kircher network, which will become the matrix of the HEST project in the future. Once this introductory round was over, we moved on to the core of the meeting, which consisted of a presentation by the coordinators of the state of their different clusters. It was a long and enriching session in which we could see the magnitude of the work done, as well as the difficulties we have encountered along the way. After a brief shared lunch, we moved on to the afternoon session, during which the results of a survey on the evolution and future of the project were briefly presented, and the coordinators were asked to work on some questions arising from the results of the survey. Finally, the meeting closed with a plenary round where the answers to the previous questions were shared. The coordinators of the project finished the day exhausted but at the same time very satisfied to have been able to verify that HEST is already a fact. The project is underway, bearing fruits and looking to the future with optimism. Now is the time to start designing together what we want HEST to become in the long term.