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

At the pace of the discernment of the group, the third meeting of the Ignatian studies cluster of HEST progressed. We wanted to be faithful to the commitment and to the lights that came up during the last meeting in Brussels last September 2017, i.e. "We have to give as much or more importance to “how” we do things than to “what” we want to do. In this way, this meeting was established as a space of common discernment that would lead us to define the action plan of the cluster. To this end, we met again in Brussels: Carlos Coupeau (Deusto), José García de Castro (Comillas), Philip Endean (Centre Sevres), Mark Rotsaert (Campion Hall), Jad Chebli (Saint Joseph Univeristy Beirut) and José Carlos Romero (JCEP). They were two and a half days of work (from Friday, February 23rd to Sunday 25th) in which little by little, we began to express interests, desires and realities. The first day was a personal day of work with some documents: the minutes and echoes of the last meeting, as well as some other inspirational documents; and concluded with a sharing. On the second day, Saturday, we focused on discussing what should be the group's primary focus. A debate that was greatly enriched by Jad's presentation to us on the situation in Lebanon and the work that the Society of Jesus is doing there especially with refugees. Finally, Sunday was the day to gather the sharing and establish the action plan. The group decided on the topic to explore. It will be the meaning of "Social Transformation" from an Ignatian perspective. To this end, the different members will develop individual contributions that they will share prior to the next face-to-face meeting where they will be discussed and enriched with the contributions of others. Gratefully we ended the meeting by sharing a lunch in the always welcoming community of the JCEP in Brussels. In October, God willing, we will meet again.
The arrival of migrants and refugees to Europe has been one of the hot topics for decades and it is even more intense, since the start of the civil wars in Syria and Libya. The unhuman conditions, which they have suffered, and the deaths of thousands in the Mediterranean Sea have generated an outcry in the public opinion. At the same time, the public debate in some of the latest elections (such as in France, Netherlands, Austria or the United Kingdome) have rebuke around the role of migration in society. In this context, the Migrations and refugees cluster as part of Higher Education for Social Transformation Programme (HEST) is fostering the debate from an Ignatius perspective: What is the specific contribution that Jesuits Higher Education and Social Institutions can provide to this topic? Last 21th and 22th in Madrid the Migrants and refugees cluster met for its first meeting at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid (Spain). We started the meeting presenting the general lines of the HEST programme, and afterwards we spent the evening presenting every member and their work related to the topic and getting to know each other. We had 6 institutions represented (Migrations and refugees Research Center of Pontifical University of Comillas Madrid, Human Rights Deusto Institute from Bilbao, JRS Belgium, Global Studies Center from Munich, Jesuits University Ignatiatum from Poland and Escuelas SAFA from Ubeda) with different experiences and competences. In addition, they count with Peter Rozic (from JESC) and Alberto Ares (from SJM) on the first day of the meeting. The second they focused around which opportunities we could have if we combined our strengths as a cluster; what has been done about the social implications of migration and refugee problems and how Jesuit values, the option for the poor and justice can be integrated into real policy decision. At the end of the meeting, an action plan from 2017 to 2019 was developed involving a research project, a workshop and shared publications on the topic.
The Cluster on Christian-Muslim Relations of HEST holds its first meeting. HEST (Higher Education for Social Transformation) is a research project promoted by the European Conference of Provincials. It aims to bring together in a collaborative effort professors and researchers from our Jesuit universities and faculties in Europe and Near East, together with social centres. The ultimate objective is to produce research results on seven key themes (Ecology, Economics and Poverty, Dialogue with Islam, Dialogue between Science and Religion, Anthropology, Ignatian Studies and Migration) that contribute to the transformation of our society from the level of everyday life to the highest political level where decisions are taken that affect us all. One of these seven themes, i. e. the dialogue between Islam and Christianity, is the one that gathered us last September 3 and 4 in Granada to a group of professors and researchers from different Jesuit institutions with experience in this subject. The Faculty of Theology of Granada hosted and coordinated the event. We met with three primary objectives: (1) to get to know each other personally, (2) to learn what we do in dialogue with Islam, and (3) to design a plan of collaboration for the next three years. The meeting began on Saturday evening in the convent of the “Comendadoras de Santiago” (which we should thank warmly for taken care of every single detail we needed). We had the first dinner together and took a stroll along the incomparable “Paseo de los Tristes” of Granada, admiring its impressive views of the Alhambra. On Sunday, we divided the day into two distinct parts. The morning was dedicated to the presentations; we began by introducing all the attendees to the HEST initiative, and we continued with a roundtable presentation of the work that each institution was doing in the topic. After those presentations, we were already able to take the next step: to discern what we could do together. Sunday afternoon was dedicated to this, presenting an open and sincere dialogue in which various possibilities of collaboration emerged. Among them, one seemed to be particularly relevant: the organization of an Academic Workshop in 2018 from which a first joint publication could emerge. The place could be Innsbruck, and the most probable theme: an Ignatian approach to the Dialogue with Islam. The mass and a cultural night tour, accompanied by “Granada tapas”, served as a perfect ending to the intense Sunday day. Monday began with another must-see visit: the Alhambra. We dedicate the morning to enjoy this unique historical enclave that distills memories of encounters and misunderstandings between our two cultures. At the end, we enjoyed a hearty lunch at the Convent and marched to the Faculty where we had our last afternoon session. It began with a master lecture on Al-Andalus by Juan Antonio Macias, and continued with a plenary session devoted to the elaboration of a concrete action plan for the coming times. God willing, this group, will meet again in September or October 2018 in Innsbruck to continue with this exciting task of learning together to dialogue with our Muslim brothers.
The second cluster meeting of the cluster took place in Brussels on July 14 and 15. The Higher Education for Social Transformation (HEST)  campaign is envisioned as a fifteen-year, pan-continental, cross-disciplinary endeavour which will consider a range of issues including; Christian-Muslim relations, the interaction between science and religion, what it means to be human, how to integrate migrants and refugees, and the role of spirituality (especially Ignatian spirituality) in contemporary life. The goal is to produce meaningful and quality research that can be communicated to a range of audiences so as to promote progressive advocacy in each area. The second cluster meeting of the cluster on Economy, Poverty and Ethics took place on July 14 and 15, at the CEP office in Brussels. Dr. José Sols and Dr. Pedro Caldentey, the two coordinators of the clusters, welcomed us and leaded the session. 7 people participated in the meeting: Pedro Caldentey from Universidad Loyola Andalucía Annick Castiaux from Université de Namur Dariusz Dankowski from Jesuit University Ignatianum in Krakow Kevin Hargaden from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin Marcel Remon from the Centre de recherche et d'action sociales (CERAS) in Paris José Carlos Romero from the CEP José Sols from IQS – Ramon Llull University This time, we scheduled a two days meeting starting with the lunch on Friday and finishing with a farewell lunch on Saturday. Since it was the second meeting of the cluster and hence we already knew who we were and what we were doing, we devoted the meeting to discuss the next steps. During the Friday afternoon, we reviewed the situation of the global HEST initiative in general and the cluster on Economy, Poverty and Ethics in particular. Two projects had been proposed as possible focus areas of the cluster, i.e. (1) ‘Towards a humanistic management of the firm. Business activity to enhance integral human development’ and (2) ‘Fourth Technological Revolution, the Crisis of Employment and the Basic Income’. Pedro Caldentey and José Sols presented them and a fruitful dialogue came afterwards in which good insights were provided. Consequently, the second session on Saturday morning focused on the design of a concrete Action Plan for the cluster. Eventually we agreed on meeting again in March 2018 in Madrid and to start working on 4 different publications based on the proposed topics. Speaking after the meeting, Kevin Hargaden from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin said, “To be able to collaborate within such a diverse group of expertise is a real honour. With the professionalisation of research, all too commonly we lose the big picture because we are so focused on the details of our specific field. With the HEST initiative, research communities across Europe have the chance to rediscover the big picture”. Read also 2 articles of the Irish Centre for Faith and Justice (ICFJ): Ivory towers or places of power? JCFJ Joins European Research Initiative for Social Transformation
Jesuit European and Near East Higher Education Meeting takes place at Centre Sèvres, Paris Are the challenges of our institutions and societies distinct one from the other depending on our context? Or are there common sets of challenges that we all need to face together? These two statements are non-mutually exclusive, so an affirmative answer could be given to both questions. However, the balance between them in different times in history is relevant. In the last century, the first statement (independent challenges depending on the context) had by far much more weight and thus it took more space in our minds and on the time we dedicated to address these local challenges, as individuals and as institutions. In this 21st century, the global challenges have gained far more importance and this calls us to review the way we do things. Traditional ways of governing our institutions seem to become each year more and more obsolete. An excellent metaphor for this is presented in a documentary called “In the Same Boat” released in February 2016. In this documentary the experts interviewed share the idea that every human being is currently travelling in the same boat and that we need to coordinate ourselves better to redirect it to go wherever we consider it needs to go. Imagine if someone wants to row in one direction and the other person on another direction. Neither one nor the other will ever reach their destination. We need to understand this dynamic and most importantly we need to agree on where we want to go, the final destination. This was one of the key underlying messages during the recent Jesuit European and Near East Higher Education meeting that took place at Centre Sèvres, Paris from the 9th to the 12th of July 2017. The participants of this meeting were Rectors, deans and people involved in the intellectual apostolate coming from institutions with and ignatian background. There were many highlights from the meeting, starting with the excellent inputs of Madame Sylvie Goulard (Member of the European Parliament) and Sébastien Maillard (from the Croix and the Institute Jacques Delors). These two experts gave an interesting look at the current context we are living in and the challenges we face and what Jesuit institutions can do to address these challenges. This is a very ignatian approach, starting by looking at the reality. Participants also had the opportunity to hear Father Michael Garanzini SJ (Secretary for Higher Education of the Society of Jesus), Father Friedrich Bechina (undersecretary for the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education), Susana di Trolio the Executive Secretary of AUSJAL and Jaime Oraa the president of UNIJES. These four people were responding and giving information to participants about the previous call from Father General to the Universities and Faculties of the Society of Jesus in Europe and the Near East. Father General sent a video to the participants asking them to consider new ways of collaboration and to do that he asked them to reflect on a possible structure for the Higher Education institutions in Europe and the Near East. We are talking about institutional conversion, words used by Father General in his first letter to the whole Society, to reviewing our modes of organization and to examine our institutions. He also reminds us the words of GC36, the governance of the Society is personal, spiritual, and apostolic (GC36 D2,1) From here the participants started working. Many good ideas came to light, which included the risks, and challenges, and benefits that a new structure and way of collaboration might entail. At the end, the participants decided to name a Steering Committee to look into it with more detail and to take into consideration all that was said during the meeting and come with a more concrete proposal in the Worldwide Meeting in Deusto 2018. The cherry on top of the cake was the presentation of the HEST programme by its coordinator José Carlos Romero. This links to our initial point made earlier about being on the same boat. The Higher Education for Social Transformation Programme tries to put institutions in touch and encourage them to work together to reflect on the shared challenges of our societies and to offer sound research and creative ideas to promote changes that will make ours a better world for those who suffer the most. The journey is long but in this meeting good progress was made and the reached agreements will allow our Ignatian boat to reach a safe harbour, our next stop towards our common mission.
The HEST Anthropology Cluster meets at Centre Sèvres to reflect on big questions of our societies. “What human being for the XXI Century?” A big question without an obvious answer! A group of anthropologist experts from several Jesuit European Institutions have decided to work together to do just that, namely, find an answer to this big question. This collaboration is part of the Higher Education for Social Transformation Programme (HEST). Anthropology experts from 4 Jesuit higher education institutions gathered at Centre Sèvres on the 31st of March to find suitable topics that would allow them together and with a focus on what can really make a change in our societies and unite us better as Jesuit institutions. Anthropologists have a difficult task nowadays. We are undergoing so many changes individually and as a society that it is hard to keep track of what it really means to be a human being. Just some weeks ago we were hearing about how Elon Musk wants to connect the human brain to Artificial Intelligence, what are the consequences of that? We have also seen how populist movements have grown around the world by inserting fear in our societies that together with ignorance brings out the hate in us. How can we revert this to move from hate to the solidarity in which the European Union was originally founded? The problem of evil came out again as a question that continues to worry experts and individuals, is evil inherent in the human person? What response can we give as a religious institution that aims to liberate people? Some might argue that we need anthropologists more than ever nowadays but even if there have been times when they were more needed, everyone can agree that in our current world, they are needed to give perspective and depth to these questions we aforementioned and many more that have yet not been answered as a society. That is why this group of experts is knocking on our doors with big questions that are relevant for not only the Society of Jesus but to every human person in this planet. “We need to reach the young population”, said Laura Rizzerio from l’Université de Namur “They are out there, with our same questions, we just need to find the right dissemination strategy to get to them”. The question “What Human Being for the XXI Century” is, as we were saying quite big. The grout of experts decided to start approaching the topic from different perspectives, concretely: Transhumanism and Naturalism Vulnerability Solidarity (from the European perspective) Spirituality The French Province and Centre Sèvres received the group amazingly well. The current Rector, Father François Boëdec SJ made an introductory speech that set the right tone for the rest of the meeting and reminded us the goal of HEST, to bring about change. Centre Sèvres is also undergoing interesting changes these days with the succession of Father Boëdec by Father Etienne Grieu SJ (see article). We will be sharing the development of this cluster during the next months. There is a lot to do but there is passion around this transversal topic that touches more than we might imagine!