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AJAN General Assembly 2024: Charting a Course for Collective Progress

The AJAN General Assembly convened at Roussel House, Donum Dei Centre in Karen, Nairobi, Kenya, from the 18th to 21st March 2024 marked a pivotal moment for the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) as various members of the AJAN Network gathered to reflect upon and assess our collective progress. This gathering brought together key stakeholders, 39 members of the AJAN network including, the AJAN secretariat, Directors/Representatives from 19 AJAN field centres present in 17 countries, AHAPPY Trainers and Coordinators and Kenya Prisons Chaplain.

Holy Mass presided over by Fr. José Minaku Lukoli, SJ., the President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM).

The gathering commenced with a Holy Mass presided over by Fr. José Minaku Lukoli, SJ., the President of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM). Following that, Fr. Ismael Matambura, SJ., Director of AJAN, officially inaugurated the AJAN Assembly. In his introductory speech, he urged all participants of the General Assembly to contemplate the directive from Father General Arturo Sosa, “The path we seek to follow with the poor is one that promotes social justice and the change of economic, political and social structures that generate injustice; this path is a necessary dimension of the reconciliation of individuals, peoples and their cultures with one another, with nature and with God’ [RF Arturo Sosa, 19th Feb 2019].

Fr. Ismael Matambura, SJ., Director of AJAN, during the official opening of the AJAN Assembly 2024.

Fr. Matambura proceeded by urging members of the network to collectively pursue our shared vision with solidarity, emphasizing the importance of walking together alongside partners and beneficiaries. He correlated this call to Pope Francis’s emphasis on solidarity, “caring for vulnerability, for the vulnerable members of our families, our society, our people”. In offering such service, individuals learn to “set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, before the concrete gaze of those who are most vulnerable… Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, ‘suffers’ that closeness and tries to help them. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people,”. Quoting from “Fratelli Tutti” (115: Solidity and Solidarity), he expounded on Pope Francis’s view that genuine service involves setting aside personal desires and power in favor of attending to the needs of the vulnerable. Service, as articulated, is not driven by ideology but by a commitment to serving people directly and selflessly.

Furthermore, Fr. Matambura referenced Pope Francis’s concern about social injustices, particularly the lack of access to adequate healthcare, especially among those living in poverty worldwide. “It is a matter of social injustices that many people do not have access to adequate healthcare, especially those around the world living in poverty”.  He drew attention to alarming statistics regarding diseases such as HIV, Malaria, Tuberculosis, and Hepatitis, noting that Africa, in particular, is heavily impacted, with a significant portion of the global HIV population standing at 39 million people of which 25 million reside in Africa. He emphasized that “Young women and girls are the most affected among these individuals, and young people also account for a significant portion of the new HIV infections. Our mission is to make sure we are protecting the youths and we can support what they are doing in terms of creativity and initiative. As we reflect during this Assembly, it is not an option but an obligation for us to focus on the youth.”

Following the opening session of the AJAN Assembly, Fr. José Minaku Lukoli, SJ., the President of JCAM, delivered remarks. You can access the full text of his speech through the provided link >>>

The key deliberations of the General Assembly saw the members engage in substantive discussions to evaluate our progress aimed at shaping the future trajectory of the AJAN network. Throughout the assembly, participants tackled a diverse array of topics, ranging from evaluation of the AJAN strategic plan 2025, policy formulation and operational optimization. Key highlights included the launch of the Jesuit Youth Social Entrepreneurship Action (JYSEA) program and the consensus reached during the evaluation of the AJAN strategic plan underscoring the depth and breadth of our deliberations.

Handing over of the JYSEA Training manuals by Dr. Bro. Jonas Dzinekou, COMB (2nd from left) to Fr. John the Baptist Anyeh Zamcho SJ., Socius and HR at JCAM (Centre), Fr. Ismael Matambura SJ., AJAN Director (2nd from Right) during the AJAN General Assembly Day Two.

On the third and fourth day, stakeholders engaged in rigorous analysis and reflection to assess the effectiveness of our current strategic initiatives and chart a course for future success. Through collaborative dialogue held in group discussions and insights shared by what each field centre is undertaking, consensus emerged on key areas of strength, areas needing improvement, and strategic priorities for the remaining two-year period. Mr. Levi Koyio and Ms. Samantha Waki, consultants who participated in the development of AJAN Strategic Plan 2021-2025, expressed their satisfaction with the progress of the organization. They noted that over the past three years, they have observed a noticeable improvement in the cohesion of the AJAN network. They emphasized that there is now a stronger sense of unity and collaboration among members compared to three years ago. Additionally, they remarked that the network has transitioned from the “storming” stage to the “performing” stage, indicating a positive evolution in the organization’s dynamics and effectiveness. Overall, they expressed encouragement and optimism regarding the direction in which AJAN is heading.

In his closing remarks of the AJAN Assembly 2023, The President of JCAM, Fr. José Minaku Lukoli, SJ., said,

We have just experienced four intense and instructive days, listening to each other. There have been exchanges of stories that have taken place, not only in this room, but also during informal gatherings. That is the grace and magic of in-person meetings. There is a movement, a dynamic that is created, propelling us forward. I sincerely believe this, as I think it is here and now, and I hope that when you return to your respective centers, you will convey this same momentum. The present moment unfolds seamlessly.

During these meetings, you had the opportunity to inaugurate phase two of JYSEA (Jesuit Youth Social Entrepreneurship Action). This initiative is a clear sign that you have listened to the world, to the challenges of this world, and that you have been inspired by the spirit, without diminishing what we traditionally do in our centers. I believe this initiative propels us towards the future, and I strongly encourage it.

The format of our meetings should be unambiguous, moving away from the NGO model. We remain attentive to the rapidly changing world, forming a body attentive to the spirit of God guiding our mission within the Society of Jesus. These are the universal apostolic preferences, the references that should guide us and show us the way forward.

Looking at the exhibitions from different centers, I note that one of the major challenges lies in the lack of resources. At the AFRICAMA coordination level, we have seen how joint projects further unite us. We truly rely on these joint initiatives to strengthen the network, financing, and collaboration with other works, as emphasized at the JCAM conference, for example with JENA (finding ways to collaborate with this network to strengthen our capacities in financing and advocacy).

We must remain attentive to the suggestions made here regarding the revision of our research and publication capacity. We must have concrete and effective means to strengthen this. There was also mention of the need to strengthen protection, with a dedicated service for this. It is certainly possible to link services to achieve better results. I sincerely thank you for your generosity and congratulate Father Matambura and the AFRICAMA team for their leadership and hard work that I see materializing every day. I promise you my support and accompaniment throughout this journey. Together, in service to those who are marginalized, I encourage you to bring the fire, the light, and the energy that you have generated here. Thank you very much.”

Members take part in group discussions during the deliberations of the AJAN Strategic Plan 2021-2025.

Towards the very last day of the Assembly members got to engage in spiritual conversation, which ultimately yielded significant outcomes; through the assembly, we found consolation, forged new friendships, and drew inspiration from the collective experiences of members from various centers. The discussions served as a poignant reminder of the valuable lessons gleaned from others’ contributions and highlighted areas for improvement upon returning to our respective centers. Moreover, the exchange of ideas fostered encouragement to persist in our endeavors, drawing upon the collective wisdom of fellow members and the image of the church. It is comforting to recognize that we have been blessed with God’s grace to serve, knowing that we are not alone in our journey and that we stand united in our shared mission for the greater glory of God even at a time when we are asking ourselves, how the AJAN network can ensure its own sustainability in the foreseeable future?

Members partake in spiritual Conversation in groups

According to Fr. John the Baptist Anyeh SJ., “The spiritual conversation provided an opportunity for every member to speak from their heart, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Everyone could share a bit of their own intuition and inspiration from what they have lived through this Assembly. What the society of Jesus discovered about the spiritual conversations; the spirit wants us to act from the heart, and this has been demonstrated in all the groups where the heart is and we have listened. During the assembly, people mentioned a lot of challenges and questions, but all of us said we are in consolation; that is the work of the Holy Spirit and that is the spirit we want to listen to and the spirit is telling us, yes there are challenges but we have received energy to go forward.”

“Gathering of minds and spirits: United at the AJAN Assembly ✨ #StrengthInUnity”

Appreciating the journey we have made as a network, AJAN is instilling hope in those who feel despair, thereby offering hope to Africa as a whole. Through the various initiatives carried out by its centers, AJAN provides services without passing judgment on those it assists. The spirit beckons us to strengthen our connections with the youth and the vulnerable with a spirit of resilience and optimism. We are urged to develop a deeper affection for our work, resulting in actions that bolster our mission of reconciling with vulnerable members of our community. This also entails a commitment to persistently seek the good in others, requiring a readiness to observe, assess, and take unified action.

By, Dennis Owuoche,

AJAN Communications Officer.

Dennis Owuoche

Dennis Owuoche Shadrack is the AJAN Communications and Research officer, Having joined AJAN in 2022 he has a broad experience in content writing; statements, press releases , website management, brand development, developing communications strategies and managing the social media, disseminating knowledge products, preparing flyers, reports and spreading other materials in order to enhance awareness about HIV and support Holistic development of the young people as a AHAPPY Trainer.



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