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Reconciliation with creation: Updates on JCAP’s strategy on ecology

15 January 2013

A mural on the wall of Mindol Metta Karuna in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo credit: Pedro Walpole

Pedro Walpole and Iris Legal

The awareness and gratitude for our human environment and our place in a global ecology continues to grow amongst Jesuit people – Jesuits and lay people who share at the institutional, social, formational, and community levels of our mission.  Areas of concern are continuously emerging as issues and occasions for reconciliation.

The Scholastics and Brothers engagement in Cambodia last December 2012 moved seamlessly between the flood ecology, livelihood, and cultural rights interacting in the life of Tonle Sap, coupled with the inheritance of peace in the face of war and the Khmer Rouge and of people and the temple city of Angkor Wat.  While broadly covering interreligious dialogue, livelihoods, paths of peace, ancient and natural water systems, cultural migration, regional economies, human development and the human spirit, the simplicity of relations gave us, Jesuits, the occasion to know the integrity of how we need to live amongst others.

The Jesuit Conference Asia Pacific (JCAP) continues to seek venues to strengthen reflection and network through participation in the different formation programs, institutional and province reviews.  In Asia Pacific, there are the continuous challenges of social and environmental injustice, limited basic education for the poor, and the needed revision of values in a culture of consumerism.  Some Provinces and Regions have environmental agendas, while others have yet to express the ecological dimension of the mission.  The current scope of experiences and connectivity is already very broad, yet emphasis is given to depth of internalization, communication, and listening to the signs of the times with compassion, as it is always the poor who suffer first and graves.  The publication of Healing a Broken World with the letter of Father General sustains the direction and support for ecological work.  A global report was prepared, at the request of Father General to know what the Conferences have done last year.

The effort is to support Provinces and Regions to deepen and communicate learnings from ongoing ecological initiatives and to encourage others to begin their consideration of ecology as part of the mission.  Many Superiors are finding occasions within existing formation and structures to undertake a reflection workshop to internalize Healing a Broken World and Our Environmental Way of Proceeding.

In formation programs, we give time for the experience of gratitude and ‘finding God in all things,’ eliciting integral reconciliation of the person in all relations that continuously seek depth.

The greatest stumbling block scholastics are trying to get over is a new manualia or laborandum – the need for waste segregation and recycling and the use of water and electricity in our houses.  Our ‘convent’ life accumulates and our seasonal assignments and schedules do not lead easily to assimilation, simplicity, and sustainability.  Every encouragement is necessary for us to transform our resource management at the household level.

It may be helpful to identify the stages in moving from awareness to engagement and the options for deepening commitment for reconciliation with creation.  If spirituality, lifestyle, and occasion for commitment grow, the challenges of simplicity, creativity, and deepening will emerge and can, in time, be the source of strength and networking needed in addressing the human and natural ecology of which Pope Benedict speaks.

The online newsletter Ecology and Jesuits in Communication (Ecojesuit) is seen as an effective tool for exchanging ecological experiences, learnings, and concepts to Jesuit people across the region and beyond.  It has generated interest amongst scholastics and brothers.  Major Superiors can write to all their communities and encourage them to review the newsletter and subscribe if found useful, as comments and suggestions are most appreciated.

2013 strategic direction, for planning and coordination

This year, we seek to accompany and strengthen each of the “Father Greens” in their work on ecology through network and communications.  We reaffirm our commitment to Reconciliation with Creation and continue to work on green campus management and lifestyle audit, create creative learning-venues for Jesuit people, develop transformative courses that include environment, ethics, and spirituality with the Education Apostolate and Ministry, and collaborate with other institutions and networks, both in the region and global, in research and development of processes for engagement.

  1. We seek occasions to meet and listen with Father Provincials to develop capacity on how to accompany institutions and Father Greens in their ecology work.  Initially, we seek opportunities to explore possible engagements with Japan and Korea, if seen appropriate.
  2. There is a sustained partnership with Basic and Secondary Education Secretary Father Chris Gleeson, along with Jenny Hickey and Tarcisius Sarkim.  The ongoing discussion on sustainability and curriculum review seeks to broaden opportunity and strengthen the proposed sustainability officer training course and program in the region.
  3. An implementation Model for Flights for Forests is proposed to present operating strategies, implementation activities, and framework for linking initiatives to budget and results.  This also provides stakeholders a view on how the project will be managed and scaled up, taking into account the various partnerships, technical, financial, management information systems, and communication requirements.  The nursery program of Father Gabby Lamug-Nañawa at Banteay Prieb in Cambodia can be a learning site while seeking other possible sites for funding.
  4. Transformative courses for Jesuit scholastics and young professionals and leaders in Asia Pacific will be offered through the JCIM-Asia Pacific Contextual Theology for Engagement Programme and the Asia Leaders Programme (ALP) of the UN-mandated University for Peace, a dual campus Master of Arts programme in peace building.  Father Jojo Fung is proposing a three-week program to young Jesuits, seminarians, nuns, and lay people who are interested in learning about contextual theology and engagement with indigenous communities and will be offered in 2014.  Father Pedro Walpole is an invited professor for a three-unit course in the ALP that integrates human development in resource management and is offered every summer in Mindanao, Philippines.  The course is a requirement for Asian students enrolled in the master’s degree program and is also open to scholastics at the Arrupe International Residence and Loyola House of Studies as a credit elective course.
  5. A weekend reflection workshop will be conducted with Father Renato Repole for Arrupe scholastics for greater integration of Jesuit mission and ecology to formation.  Father Greg Soetomo has a similar plan to engage scholastics in Indonesia.
  6. Engagements will be sustained with the scholastics and brothers in Asia Pacific through support for their efforts in the World Day for Water campaign on 22 March 2013.  This initiative is linked through the GIAN-Ecology 2013 Water for All agenda and Ecojesuit.
  7. Collaboration on disaster risk reduction and adaptation will be pursued.  There is an expressed interest from the East Asian Pastoral Institute and Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan to have an introductory course on disaster risk reduction (DRR) management and adaptation.  Jesuit Refugee Service in Asia Pacific, though generally focused on disaster relief, is open to transitioning some of their commitments and integrate DRR elements in their work program, with assistance from the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC).  There are possibilities in opening a broader Asian initiative to include Jesuit interests, where expressed.
  8. ESSC continues to provide technical support to research initiatives on resource management, such as with Father Gabby Lamug-Nañawa on further understanding the dynamics of the Tonle Sap catchment and with Father Fernando Azpiroz in seeking partnership with a local community and parish in Yunnan through community resource mapping.

Many initiatives in the Conference are yet to be documented.  Establishing further links and communications within and among institutions for a more coherent and comprehensive response to Reconciliation with Creation is a recognized need.

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