Father Athanasius graduates
Father Athanasius Akunda graduated last night as a Doctor of Theology (DTh) at the University of South Africa (Unisa) in Pretoria.
His thesis was on Orthodox dialogue with Bunyore culture.
Father Athanasius grew up among the Banyore people in western Kenya, and he became Orthodox with his family when he was about 12 years old. The Orthodox Church was planted there by Bishop Arthur Gathuna and other missionaries from Kenya, but during the Mau Mau emergency in the early 1950s, when most of the Orthodox Kenyan clergy were detained in British concentration camps, they also received ministry from clergy from across the nearby Ugandan border.
The graduation ceremony was conducted by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor because the university Vice Chancellor and Principal, the Revd Nyameko Barney Pityana, was himself among the graduates. In spite of having numerous degrees, including doctorates, he graduated as a Master of Laws (LLM) in the field of Labour Law, thus epitomising the university’s principle of lifelong learning.
Another student who graduated with Father Athanasius was my friend and colleague Zuze Banda, whose thesis on African Renaissance and missiology: a perspective from mission praxis was supervised by Prof. Willem Saayman, who supervised my own doctoral studies 15 years ago.
Father Athanasius worked long and hard on his thesis, taking advantage of trips home to Kenya to conduct interviews among people in the Bunyore Orthodox Churchs, though his own experience in growing up in the area helped a great deal. It also entailed a great deal of reading, to see how Orthodoxy was inculturated in other places, such as Alaska. The external examiners for the thesis were from other universities in Greece, Kenya and South Africa, to ensure that the thesis met international academic standards. I have over 30 versions of his thesis on my computer, and perhaps they could themselves be the subject of a doctoral thesis on how a thesis develops from the rough first draft to the final product! The last version is yet to come: Fr Athanasius must go through it one final time, to incorporate improvements suggested by the examiners, and the final product will go into the university library, and will be microfilmed for distribution to other university libraries.
The university puts on a cocktail supper for the doctoral graduates, their supervisors and guests, which is where most of of the photos were taken.
So congratulations to Father Athanasius! Many years!