During the 2022 Ignatian week, at the Institut de Théologie de la Compagnie de Jésus (ITCJ), AJAN was invited to take students through a one-week workshop on AJAN HIV and AIDS Prevention Program for the Youth (AHAPPY) that was led by Fr. Ismael Matambura SJ, AJAN director, Mrs. Pascalia Sergon Capacity building Officer who are both part of the AJAN secretariat (Nairobi) and Mr. Euloge VIHO from Centres Sociaux Loyola, AJAN affiliate Centre in Togo
ITCJ, one of the two theological university colleges of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM), in Ivory Coast, West Africa Province (PAO), played a host to the five-day AHAPPY workshop, that was attended by the first- and second-year Theology students. The AHAPPY workshop at ITCJ was the third training done for Jesuits in formation which came after other training that had already been undertaken at Philosophat St. Pierre Canisius (St Peter Canisius Philosophate in Kimwenza and Noviciat Notre Dame Mère de la Compagnie de Jésus (Novitiate Our Lady Mother of the Society of Jesus), Kisantu both in Central Africa Province (ACE), Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The AHAPPY training could not have taken place at a better time other than the Ignatian week which was in between the school holiday and before the start of a new academic year. This presented the students of ITCJ a period they could dedicate for non-academic seminars and workshops
To start off the AHAPPY workshop sessions, we had Kibikula Herve (SJ) student coordinator, who had this to say, “Knowledge is never old, there is always something new even in what you think you already know. I invite us to profit from this occasion by AJAN team. As our founder said, we Jesuits are men for others, this formation on Youth and HIV is very helpful as we prepare for future assignments.” Fr. Ismael Matambura SJ weighed in by emphasizing that, “the aim of AJAN is to widen our reach to the accompaniment of the youth and vulnerable people, as stipulated by our Universal Apostolic Approaches (UAPs) and more importantly bringing young Jesuits in theology formation on board. One of the ways of doing this is by sharing the tools available to us. This training is part of this endeavor. AJAN embraces and supports all those, not only Jesuits, but all those interested and passionate about supporting weaker members of the community.”
The training brought up discussions around various AHAPPY modules, major exciting observations and suggestions were made. For example, in a discussion concerning the high number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa, a participant in the workshop said, “we have heard about HIV and AIDS since we were in high school to date, I agree partly with those who argue that HIV is no longer a crisis as was before because it can be managed, and people can live with condition. Should we, in our time be talking of HIV as a crisis? According to me, the discussion should be approached from the perspective of ethics. We therefore need to reorient our dialogue on the issue of HIV.”
We also had another participant, who took the presenter to task and asked, “Regarding HIV infection and prevention; we say that the conventional proposed methods like use of condoms, do not provide 100% solution, what do you/we propose as the sustainable way?” “Formation of the conscience.” Came the answer. In response to the same question Fr. Ismael Matambura Sj added, “When the young person for example is given the right education and values, they act from the right mind frame. The decision and choices they make on the face of conflicting needs arise from deep convictions, enhanced sense of responsibility and the appeal to do the right thing.”
According to Tinashe Kunze Sj one of the participants, in his testimony of the AHAPPY workshop he says, “With AJAN we have seen that on social networks, people teach us to drive by acceleration, but they do not show us the brakes or the seat belt. I have retained that as a creature or a being well loved by God, I have to go everywhere with my own identity. It protects me and protects others. The world constantly gives us the means to live, but God gives us reasons to live and to hope. If I can lose all of this training, I retain that the right to choose what to follow on social networks is entirely mine. I am motivated and inspired to work to achieve a happy generation. No one is protected alone until we are all protected. It is a common task and responsibility to protect each other.”
Towards the end of the workshop facilitators challenged participants to always move beyond superficial conventional narratives by engaging their knowledge in critical analysis, to see beyond the obvious and challenge underlying assumptions held by the population including the youth or about a social issues like HIV/AIDS.
The workshop ended with the presentation of AHAPPY booklets and certificates to the participants where they were encouraged to develop the habit of pursuing in-depth understanding of realities afflicting populations they serve (AHAPPY Module B), to act reasonably (AHAPPY Module C), not only to improve existing situations but to transform (Magis), to contribute to sustainable solutions for the greater glory of God.
At the close of the workshop, the dominant feedback was “we have learnt a lot” “the sessions were enriching,” “thank you for considering taking time with us, it was worth it.”
By, Dennis Owuoche and Ms Sergon Pascalia