Brex Arevalo and Raiza Javier
Conversion, commitment and connectedness – these were the three steps the Ecojesuit team undertook during the 2019 Annual Meeting in Mumbai, 22 to 24 November. The team gathered in India to strengthen the “wirearchy” by promoting deeper relationships throughout the global network.
“We are not a hierarchy. We are wired into Conferences, provinces, and social institutions, and it all connects back,” Ecojesuit Global Coordinator Pedro Walpole SJ said. “We are looking for the wires connecting, the sparks and the dynamism for change.”
The process started with a day of conversion to reflect on desires for and struggles with networking and the narrative the team is shaping. The network’s development over the past year, was reviewed, noting strengths and weaknesses in different regions. From here, the team sought to draw deeper commitment towards the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) and Ecojesuit’s three strategic objectives of promoting global cooperation, accompanying regional actions, and sharing and promoting local initiatives.
This aided the team in mapping collaborations through a calendar of actions and commitments for 2020, where engaging in climate action emerged as a common theme throughout the Conferences. This process opened opportunities for inter-Conference community engagements to facilitate learning and build solidarity.
To enrich the sessions, approaches to networking were shared by Dr Vaishali Patil of Ankur Trust, the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA) Ecoteam led by Lumnesh Kumar SJ, Tarumitra, and the Don Bosco Green Alliance. These inputs brought focus on the importance of people’s voices on the ground and bringing these to a global level. This highlighted the importance of communication and the opportunities that digital media, particularly video, provide in reaching a broader audience.
The team also had a learning session in video-making, starting with the review of previously published materials such as Thinking Big on a Big Little Continent, Voices of Integrity: A Call to Climate Action, and Why the Margins Persist in a Growing Economy, after which they made their their own videos to experience producing video content using a simple phone camera. This session encouraged the team members to make use of available teachnology in communicating diverse actions in their respective Conferences.
The meeting was capped off by a dialogue with George Pattery SJ, President of JCSA, who shared his thoughts on Laudato Si’, the unsustainability of the prevailing development model, and the need for a conversion to an ecological way of thinking in society.
“The ecological way of thinking changes our mindset and our perspective. Therefore the other is not the nature. The other is not the other man or woman. The other is in me – I am part of the entire system. Therefore the entire concept of the other is demolished,” he said, summing up the three-day process by emphasizing the interconnectedness and relationship shared, not only in the network but with everything in Creation.
The team witnessed this interconnectedness in the South Asian context through a visit to local communities and youth in Gujarat state after the meeting. Ecojesuit had a dialogue with Aadi Aushadhi (“Original Medicine”), a group of tribal healers accompanied by Lancelot D’Cruz SJ, a member of the JCSA Ecoteam, who shared how a livelihood program on traditional medicine empowered the community to protect their forest, enrich their cultural knowledge, and educate the youth in their tribe.
With the help of nongovernment organizations, the Gujarat Jesuit Ecology Mission (GJEM) continues to support the Aadi Aushadhi in entrepreneurship trainings, marketing their products, and scientifically documenting their medicinal knowledge.
Ecojesuit also visited Saint Xavier School Bharuch, where they witnessed an exhibit of alternative energy projects presented by students through the Leaders in Environmental Action Force (LEAF) program that GJEM established. Over a hundred workshops have been organized with the youth through the LEAF program since 2014.
Learning from these visits and discussions with the youth and communities gave a renewed energy to the team as a model for similar initiatives in different Conferences and an opportunity for global collaborations, according to Fr Walpole.
“This is what a network is for – creativity, flexibility, resilience,” he said.