Assembly of the International Association of Jesuit Universities
From July the 9th to July the 12th, leaders of 300 higher education institutions from all over the world took part in the Assembly of the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) at the University of Deusto (Bilbao). Under the theme “Transforming Our World Together”, they explored the most urgent priorities for their institutions in today’s world. They also created a network that will help them to face those challenges, in the spirit of GC 36’s call for greater use of networks and more intentional collaboration for the promotion of faith, justice and reconciliation.
The Assembly was inaugurated by King Felipe VI of Spain. Father General Arturo Sosa delivered his main address to the Assembly in the Sanctuary of Loyola. Entitled “The University as a source of a reconciled life”, his words expressed how universities’ endeavours are a way of fulfilling the mission of reconciliation defined by the General Congregation. It is a mission that needs to be carried out with creative loyalty to our tradition and through collaboration. By creating the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) “we can usher in a new era and a new style of fruitful work within the university”. After his address, the Charter of the new institution was signed at the altar of the Basilica by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Arturo Sosa SJ, the Secretary of Higher Education, Michael J. Garanzini SJ and one representative from each of the six Conferences or regions of the Society of Jesus.
Group conversation sessions were held to work on six challenges: leadership in the universities, educating the poor, environmental and economic justice, inter-religious dialogue, peace and reconciliation, and political leadership). Participants shared best practices and learnt what others are doing at their universities to promote those priorities. Different projects for networking and collaboration were presented for the Assembly’s consideration, The Assembly also deliberated on the IAJU Charter and the Strategic Plan. The Secretary for Higher Education Michael J. Garanzini SJ presented the new digital platform of the International Association of Jesuit Universities, a tool on which the Association has set great hopes to carry out its mission.
The week left moments to remember. One of them was when Fr. Arturo Sosa was handed the Basque “makila” or walking stick by the rector of the University of Deusto, Jose Maria Guibert SJ. Handmade by traditional craftsmen and engraved in this case with the emblems of Deusto and the Society of Jesus, the “makila” is a powerful symbol of authority and respect.
Each participant also received a very special gift: a luxury edition of the recently published book on the University of Deusto’s Paraninfo (Ceremonial Hall), where the Assembly had been held. A book on the history of this unique place which, as Guibert said, “you all are already part of”.