The Univ Forum started in 1968 under the inspiration of St Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. In the last 54 years, about a hundred thousand university students have each year met in Rome to discuss and share ideas on various urgent topics, whilst celebrating the Holy Week beside the Holy Father.
This year’s question was only too urgent. The theme was phrased, ‘Rebuilding Together: the strength of human relationships. The aim was to get answers to, “Why do I need relationships? How do relationships influence our happiness? How do they contribute to our health?”
But why this topic? The Univ Forum Website answers in the introduction, “in the last two years we saw the world pass from full classrooms, concert halls and sports stadiums to the complete isolation of every household on earth. We distanced ourselves from each other in order to protect our health and save lives. Time went by and little by little this separation led us to observe that not everything was well, that we wanted to be with our loved ones, spend time with friends, go for walks or travel to Rome for UNIV. We began to feel the need for the relationships that we had before.”
40 students from 5 universities in Kenya met at Mbagathi Study Centre to discuss this topic. Every year, as a way of giving a taste of the Univ Forum to those unable to travel to Rome, a local chapter of the Univ Forum is organized here in Kenya.
A total of 9 submissions were made, including papers, essays, poems and videos. The 9 presentations were all intellectually stimulating. But it was impossible to distil all the answers in such a short day. Yes, there were answers to this topic, but more were further questions, keener debates. The forum was a primer, an enlightener, to a greater and unending discussion. A greater discussion that only is only completed if its fruits are applied to real day-to-day life. The papers presented on the day can be accessed here.
The presentations were not the only sources of light. Mbagathi Study Centre was host to four guests well versed in the topic. Giving the keynote address was Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch and her husband Dr Joseph Aluoch, a couple 50 years married. But are greatly qualified professionals. Lady Justice Joyce Aluoch is a former Vice-president of the International Criminal Court, The Hague. She has for 44 years sat on the judge’s bench. Her husband is a leading Chest specialist and is acknowledged as the ‘father of Respiratory Medicine’ in Kenya. Dr Aluoch has received numerous accolades in his 55 years of medical practice. In a humorous and informal session, they, together, fondly spoke about their married life.
Mrs AmyRose Opiyo and Mr Kanjama drew from their considerable professional experience in discussing the nature of relationships at work. Mrs Opiyo is a human resource consultant with 15 years of experience working with local and international firms. Mr Kanjama is a leading Advocate of the High Court and the Managing Partner of Muma & Kanjama Advocates. There was much to be drawn from this discussion.
Various presenters won awards based on different award criteria. And from the enthusiasm shown in this year’s chapter, one could tell that the next one would be even better!