Friday, February 23, 2024
The 2024 Theological Symposium that the School of Theology of Kenya-based Tangaza University College (TUC) has organized aims to demystify the “missionary mandate” that Jesus Christ gave to his disciples, an organizer of the two-day event has said. [ACI Africa]

In a Wednesday, February 21 interview, Fr. George Kocholikal told ACI Africa that the February 22-23 symposium that is to have Robert Cardinal Sarah, the Prefect emeritus of the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, as the keynote speaker also seeks to help students of Theology embrace the missionary mandate of Jesus Christ.

“Just before his ascension, Jesus spoke to the apostles and told them ‘I commission you, I send you to go all over the world, teach them, make disciples of all nations’. We are here as Christians simply because people were faithful to this call. Now, in our time, in 2024, we want to reflect about that mandate, some elements, the challenges, possibilities, demands, is it updated or is outdated? That is what we are trying to deal with in this symposium,” said Fr. Kocholikal.

He added in reference to Christ’s missionary mandate, “Some people say it is already outdated; it is not relevant anymore. So, we want to look at it again. Why did Jesus say, ‘Go all over the world, teach and baptize’? Have we finished that mandate? Do we need a new mandate? And what are the problems people in this area of promoting Christ, the Kingdom, face?”

Organized by the Department of Dogmatic Theology at TUC’s School of Theology, the symposium has the theme, “Make Disciples of all Nations: The Missionary Mandate of Christ (cf. Mt. 28:19-20) in the Religious, Cultural, and Social context of Africa Today.”

Archbishop Philip Anyolo, the Local Ordinary of Nairobi Archdiocese, Kenya’s Metropolitan See that hosts TUC is to deliver the opening address. Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese, who doubles as the Vice Chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) is set to address the symposium at TUC,  a culturally diverse institution that is jointly owned by 22 Religious Orders and Societies of Apostolic Life and with students and faculty from over 40 countries.

In the February 21 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Kocholikal said that one of the primary goals of the 2024 Theological Symposium “is to strengthen and empower students here, who are preparing for ministry. It is primarily empowering them, then clarifying misunderstandings, misconceptions, clarifying, or responding to accusations about this, (and) about that.”

The Indian-born member of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), who heads the department of Dogmatic Theology at TUC highlighted some of the topics to be covered during the symposium, including religious fundamentalism, the challenge of secularism, family, and young people, among others. 

“There are many religions in Kenya and Africa and there are challenges like the Shakahola tragedy,” he said, referring to the massacre at Shakahola Forest in the Kenyan coastal town of Malindi, Kilifi County, where one, “pastor” Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, allegedly convinced his followers that starving themselves to death would hasten their departure from this life in order to “meet Jesus”.

Fr. Kocholikal continued, “People certainly ask questions like is this the purpose of religion? Should we still preach the gospel? Occultism, false religiosity, dangerous sects, are a challenge. How do you distinguish one from the other?”

The SDB member, who co-founded the Philothea Mission Society Africa went on to explain why the topic on the family was significant. “The family is in serious problem; misunderstanding between the spouses or single parent families or young children not being taken care of, the phenomenon of abortion, contraception, the difficulties of the two people living together in mutual harmony, peace,” he said.

The Catholic Priest continued, “How do we tackle these problems? How can Christ be the answer to the growing number of divorces, separation, domestic violence, abuse and especially children who suffer in this. There are many children who have been abandoned on the streets. So how do we strengthen the family? Is Christ's message still relevant to the families? What is that message that we have to keep teaching and then leaving it?”

Alluding to the speakers drawn from a variety of Church institutions and academic and pastoral backgrounds expected to give input during the two-day symposium, Fr. Kocholikal said, “We want to have a type of inter-university approach, especially Catholic universities.”

“Then because it will be a reflection on evangelization, and Bishops are primarily responsible for evangelization, we had to bring on board the Archbishop of Nairobi and the Archbishop of Kisumu,” he further said, adding that Cardinal Sarah was chosen as the event’s keynote speaker because “his wisdom can direct the whole generation of future ministers if they take his words seriously.”

“Cardinal Sarah is an enigma of his own. He is a person who writes wildly; he reflects on the scenario of the church and society; he's a great, great person and he loves Africa,” he said about the Guinean-born Catholic Church leader, who, in expressing his opposition to Fiducia Supplicans (FS) said, “We do not oppose Pope Francis, but we firmly and radically oppose a heresy that seriously undermines the Church, the Body of Christ.”

Cardinal Sarah, the Salesian Priest said, “loves to strengthen the church in Africa and especially the Christians.”

“I think in his heart he has lots of vision for our young people, young ministers who will be future Priests, Bishops, etc. and this is a whole part that we have to walk because life in this world is not easy, the right path is not easily known,” Fr. Kocholikal told ACI Africa.

In getting Cardinal Sarah to address the 2024 Theological Symposium, he said, “our hope is that … he can help our students at theology to think deeply and also chart the way forward, the right chart where the Gospel of Christ, which is the Gospel of life, light, joy, peace, can be taken from.”

ACI Africa