Broadening cross-apostolate collaboration through zonal networking

Broadening cross-apostolate collaboration through zonal networking

Through the leadership of John Kennedy Savarimuthu SJ, the Ecology Coordinator of the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA), zonal networking is being actively animated as key in proceeding with the ecology mission, with each of the zonal leaders coordinating the work in their constituent Provinces.

Ecojesuit held a conversation in February with representatives from the Conference to listen to Province-level actions on climate justice and ecology and how these are moving since the virtual gathering of the JCSA ecology delegates in December 2023. Exploring ways to strengthen communication with the Conference to enable a regular exchange of local and regional stories and experiences was also discussed.

Many JCSA Provinces work with schools and universities through agroforestry and organic farming activities with students, recognizing the important role of education in the ecology mission. Identifying civil society groups is also a key action point to enable greater involvement in policy advocacy.

Frazer Mascarenhas SJ, Coordinator of the West Zone, shared its current focus on scoping funds from private firms through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandate to assist institutions in shifting to renewable energy.

In the Central Zone, Prahbat Kennedy Soreng SJ mentioned that social action centers are engaging academic institutions in ecological activities, acknowledging that social and education cross-apostolate collaboration is key in effective networking.

According to Antony Samy SJ, Coordinator of the South Zone, Provinces are in the process of forming an ecology commission in partnership with local non-government organizations, Jesuits, and affiliate institutions.

Basil Toppo SJ, North Zone Coordinator, shared that local officials are engaged due to deforestation concerns that exacerbate water security concerns of communities.

Effectively capturing the diversity of contexts in the South Asian region is a challenge, and the inadequate communication in sharing Province and zonal level stories across the Conference was shared. Vernard Antonyraj SJ, Conference Communications Coordinator, suggested that in moving forward, the use of social media and producing audiovisual presentations is a key strategy to enrich visibility of stories. Stories emerging from the Conference will be regularly shared with Ecojesuit.

The group emphasized the importance of strengthening advocacy actions and lobbying at the policy level, especially on the fossil fuel phaseout movement, which are difficult to pursue actively in South Asia.

An article entitled What did COP28 achieve written by Sacaria Joseph SJ in the February 2024 issue of JIVAN, a magazine of stories and reflections of Jesuits in South Asia, elaborated on India’s position in its dependence on coal for electricity generation in the foreseeable future. “As we grapple with the complex realities of a ‘just, orderly, and equitable transition,’ let us hope that beyond rhetoric, concrete action will be taken in terms of phasing down fossil fuels, investing in renewable energy, and climate financing,” the article stated.

Thus, the global platform provided by the climate COP is an important space and opportunity for raising and supporting voices from the Global South and in calling for accountability of the Global North. The group affirmed its commitment to engage with COP29 this year in Baku, Azerbaijan.

In April, the four zones will facilitate in-person meetings to share planned and ongoing action plans and strengthen fellowship and synergy. Drawing from the results of the conversations with Ecojesuit, Fr Kennedy affirmed JCSA’s commitment to the following actions:

  • To nurture social and education cross-apostolate collaboration on ecology
  • To network with non-government organizations and civil society
  • To strengthen linkages with corporations by tapping into their CSR mandate, and
  • To enhance communication strategies to increase visibility of the ecology actions of the Conference and zonal networks in JCSA and in the global.

Ecojesuit will continue to explore further collaborative actions with JCSA as well as opportunities for cross-Conference collaboration that can help form a broader collaborative agenda from local and regional experiences.

In a recent Ecojesuit article by SM John Kennedy SJ (the Ecojesuit Conference Coordinator), the Ecojesuit network in JCSA was described as follows:

In the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA), there is an appointed Conference coordinator for the global Ecojesuit network under the Conference Secretariat for Ecology and Justice (CSEJ). This was formerly Jesuits in Social Action (JESA) South Asia in 1973 then re-named as Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) South Asia in 2019, and further re-named in 2022 as CESJ.

Each Province in the Conference has one Province Ecojesuit Coordinator with a few Jesuits and others as Ecology Commission members.

The Conference Coordinator animates and guides in the evolution and implementation of the action plans of the Provinces and regularly connects and meet with the province coordinators to share and plan together. There are also four zonal coordinators appointed for the South Zone, Central Zone, West Zone, and North Zone.

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