Higher Education for Social Transformation

The Higher Education for Social Transformation (HEST)  is a programme promoted by the JCEP (the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials) and the Kircher Network. It is envisioned as a fifteen-year, pan-continental, cross-disciplinary endeavour.

The goal is to produce meaningful and quality research on key topics for the mission of Jesuit higher education that can be communicated to a range of audiences, so as to promote progressive advocacy.

1.Ecology and Environmental Challenges

This cluster was conceived as an opportunity for Jesuit Higher Education Institutions in Europe to collaborate in building a narrative based on Laudato Si’ and on the CG36 decree.Some work has already been done, i.e. Stockholm Dialogue on Sustainability Science and Values and GIAN-Ecology Network, these initiatives are to be the foundations and the partners for the HEST Cluster on Ecology.

The concrete questions we are addressing are the following:

  • ­ What is the specific contribution that Jesuits can provide in this matters? Of the Jesuit values in this regard, which provide added value, what is unique and what has been done elsewhere. Are all Jesuit values covered by previous literature and research?
  • ­ How can we place environmental science in a broader societal context? Again, what has been done before and what can we add to that.
  • ­ What has been done about the social implications of environmental problems, which is also a part of environmental justice?
  • ­ How can we incorporate Jesuit values, the option for the poor and justice into real policy decision? (e.g. energy).

2. Christian Muslim Relations

The topic on Christian Muslim Relations gathers a cluster of Jesuit Higher Education Institutions working on the study of Islam itself, Christian-Muslim interreligious dialogue and dialogue with Islam on social issues. Because the majority of Jesuit institutions interested in Christian-Muslim relations are already part of the Pluriel network, in dialogue with the Pluriel coordination committee, we foresee coordinating our efforts for the HEST project within Pluriel’s network. Therefore, we are moving in the direction of creating a subgroup of institutions inside Pluriel, working among themselves, but also sharing the same common goals of the entire network.

The main trait that all the members have in common is the will to approach Islam and Christian-Muslim relationships in a way that reflects Ignatian spirituality’s main characteristics. The development of an Ignatian inspired methodology of dialogue with Islam – in the line of past historical contacts between Jesuits and Muslims – becomes then a main goal of our cluster.

Because on the main traits of Ignatian spirituality is the desire to contemplate our present world as God does and be moved to action by that contemplation, we take as a goal in our cluster to develop a certain transformative social influence in the field of dialogue with the Muslim tradition. This goal coincides with HEST ultimate inspiration. This influence is extremely needed in fields like education, social integration of migrants, development of religious freedom and other basic rights.

At the same time, as scholars, we feel responsible for doing a high quality and rigorous academic work that includes a deep and long study of Muslim and Christian sources. Only such a work may actually contribute to real progress in Christian-Muslim interreligious dialogue and may offer the Church a view of itself that overcomes prejudices and facilitates entering in relations and working with Muslim communities.

In the best of the Jesuit tradition we want to articulate such rigorous academic approach with a more transformative one as the best way to produce real and fruitful knowledge. The diversity of our institutions and of their contexts may be very helpful in order to achieve such an articulation.

All these efforts will necessarily require a direct contact with Muslim communities and individuals, our relationships and friendships with them will make real our desire to contribute to Muslim-Christian dialogue. We hope to share and foster such key relationships.

Ultimately, as scholars working in this fields and as members of Jesuit institutions we want to be an instrument at the service of the Society of Jesus’s mission in Europe and the Near East, which has as one of its priorities the Christian-Muslim relationships. .



The HEST Cluster on Christian-Muslim Relations will celebrate its third International Symposium this summer, entitled “Universal – Communitarian Approaches to Social Values in Christianity and Islam”. It will be held at the University of Deusto from July 12th-14th this year.

The scholars will discuss the tensions between universalism and communitarianism in contemporary plural democracies, particularly concerning Christianity and Islam. The Symposium´s inquiries are: How can religious traditions appropriate social values, and what ethical references can be used to build a shared morality in plural societies?

The Cluster plans to submit the papers of the Symposium to the Social Compass journal for a special issue.

Access the symposium programme here

The HEST cluster is preparing an Erasmus BIP Student Training for the Study week. The Universidad Loyola coordinates this Erasmus BIP, and its international relation unit is helping the grooup to prepare the project. The Jesuit University Ignatianum- Krakow, Faculty of Theology – Innsbruck University and the Sankt Georgen Jesuit College of Philosophy and Theology – Frankfurt will also participate in the BIP.


Religion and Fraternity: a Muslim-Christian Dialogue Perspective

3. Secularization

The paradigm of human flourishing (eudaimonia) is attracting increasing interest in recent years. Different disciplines, with diverse theoretical (philosophical-moral) and practical (psychological and educational) approaches, have been seduced by the subject. Although there is a certain agreement in understanding it as an ideal of human life, that is, as a realization of this that allows it to be characterized as good, its content has not been specified in the same way by different authors. Within this broad framework, we would like to propose a space for interdisciplinary discussion that addresses two major issues: The identity of the spiritual subject and the contribution of spiritualities to the common good of society.

When reflecting on today’s spiritual subject, we ask ourselves what are the anthropological and, above all, sociocultural conditions for believing and practicing this belief. Contribution of spiritualities to the common good: the approach of the theory of secularity, which has its roots in Weber’s thought, states, among other things, that religions (and spiritualities, we can say) would tend to diminish and disappear from the public space. In recent years, and from different perspectives and authors, it has been shown that this statement is far from being true. Religions and spiritualities not only continue to be present in the public space but do so with a notoriety and significance that was questioned a few decades ago. However, this does not deny that we are immersed in a time of secularity and plurality. The question that arises from this situation is how spiritualities can be, in secular and plural societies, a contribution to the construction of the common good.

The Secularization HEST cluster was established as part of the second phase of the Higher Education for Social Transformation programme. It will seek to develop research on the phenomenon of secularization in Europe, stressing an interdisciplinary approach and a comparative perspective. The group is coordinated by Prof Dr Ignacio Sepúlveda of Loyola Andalusia University, with the support of Sergio Gadea SJ as secretary.

The cluster is developing the research around three topics:

Multiple secularities in Europe.
• Best ways and lessons learned in transmitting faith in the different secularized societies present in Europe.
Relationship and contributions of spirituality and religion to European societies’ democratic dimension.

The group will also seek to transfer their research results to civil societies, especially to the pastoral works of the Jesuit provinces and other Catholic pastoral works.

Symposium on “International Symposium on Human Flourishing and Spirituality”

The members of the Hest cluster on Secularization gathered from the 17th to the 18th of June at Loyola University Andalucia. The cluster met in person for the first time for a fruitful program, organized and coordinated by Dr. Ignacio Sepúlveda, with Dr. Anthony Carroll and Dr. Tomas Halik as key speakers. 

Dr. Anthony Carroll pronounced the first conference: From Catholic Modernity to Religious Modernities. The conference explored the relations between human flourishing and spirituality through the optic of Catholic Modernity

The first conference was followed by three panelsThe identity of the new religious subject: Socio-cultural conditions of possibility for belief in the 21st centurySpirituality and Solidarity: the contributions of spirituality to the communitarian (and political) construction of our societies, and New spiritualities: transcendence or immanence?.

The second day’s schedule started with Dr. Tomas Halik’s conference on Spirituality as a healing power for the world; followed by a panel on Spirituality and Jesuit University: Aperture to transcendence and spirituality; and a final panel with pastoralist. 

“From Catholic  Modernity to Religious Modernities“, Anthony Carroll
“Spirituality as a healing power for the world”, Tomas Halík

Higher education formation for humanized health is critical for the Sustainable Development Goals on “Good Health and Well-Being.” As a result of the Covid-19 global pandemic, this issue has become even more crucial for the formation and training of doctors and health professionals and health policy. Jesuit Higher Education is called to make a significant contribution to the humanization of health. As Jesuit institutions of higher learning, the universities and faculties of the Kircher Network aim to educate future doctors and health professionals who are competent and compassionate.

Under the coordination of Ander Urruticoechea, MD, PhD from the University of Deusto. The project seeks to generate an international collaborative community of faculty members on formation and training in health humanization. The group brings together faculty members from the Kircher Network’s schools of medicine and health sciences and scholars from philosophy and theology. Eighteen scholars from 12 universities and centres of the Kircher Network have joined the new group. The group held its first online meeting last February 21st.

The group will focus on developing teaching and learning competencies in “humanization in health” as part of the degrees and continuing education higher education programs offered by the Jesuit schools of medicine, health sciences, psychology, and social work.

It will aim to develop collaborative virtual teaching resources and a repository of best practices, materials, and tools for the formation of students and the training of doctors and health professionals on the humanization of health. It will also seek to develop academic reflection and research on the humanization of health.

Objectives of the group:

  • To generate an international collaborative community of faculty members and scholars working on teaching and reflection on the humanization of health.
  • To enrich the discussion on the humanization of health and its implications for the formation and training of doctors and health professionals.
  • To develop a collaborative online site with resources, materials, and tools for the formation and continuous training of students and professionals in humanized health.

To generate cooperation opportunities and exchange best practices on higher education of doctors and health sciences professionals in a humanized approach to health.

5.Economy, Poverty and Ethics

The depth of the crisis is undeniable. The Great Recession – which began in 2008 and does not end yet – is of a magnitude equivalent to the crisis of the 30´s or the crisis of the 1970s. It is the third great crisis of the last century, one every 40 years of distance.

Europe is experiencing specific manifestations of the crisis, especially around its joint project of the European Union. A project that is more confronted than ever with its citizens and that has been transformed by the crisis and the enlargement to the new partners. That’s why the debate on the validity of the foundations of the European Union is more relevant than ever.

In a wider perspective, beyond Europe, the special report of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat points 5 big challenges for our society:

severe poverty, social wounds of inequality , The risks of contemporary financialization, the injustice of violence or the neglected fragility of the land as our common home.

The special report is clearly inspired by the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium of Pope Francis and his references to the effects of the economy of exclusion, the idolatry of money, money that governs instead of serving, or inequality that generates violence.

The report also hopes to appeal to the new vision (Promotio Iustitiae No. 121, 2016/1, 23): “To be effective, any response to these challenges of poverty, inequality, unregulated financialization, social conflict and Environmental degradation will have to be shaped by a strong vision of the common good. By participating in the common good, people are linked in a shared social life, which enables them to realize their human dignity. The effective promotion of the common good counteracts the serious threats posed to human dignity by the realities of poverty, inequality and social conflict. (…) A vision of the common good of the human community and the ecological community will therefore be an essential guide in responding to the challenges pointed out by Pope Francisco”

From this analysis and after the first meeting which helped us place in the activities that each institution was carrying out, the coordinators of the cluster promoted a process of consultation that eventually came up with a proposal to divide the work of this cluster into two complementary research projects, and the invitation to the researchers to link to one of them. The first would be about the concept of humanistic management of firms and the second on the welfare society and the basic income. Two concept notes have been developed for each project and contributions are already being collected. The short-term objective will be to develop technical articles on the subject in order to propose a joint publication.

6. Dialogue Science and Religion

The cluster on the Dialogue Science-Religion of HEST found a consensus on the theme for the research work of the cluster: “power” as a key concept for the dialogue between science and religion. Josef Quitterer, dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of Innsbruck, offered to prepare a concept note on that. In April this document was distributed to all the members of the cluster requesting contributions to it. At the beginning of the next term the coordinators will organize a webinar to pool these contributions and set out the lines to follow. This methodology of periodic webinars will be used by the group to ensure the continuity of the research.