Ecojesuit Meeting 2023: In our nature

Ecojesuit Meeting 2023: In our nature

Janark Gray/Sue Martin

At the beginning of August, Sue Martin, project officer for the Care for our Common Home Committee of the Society of Jesus in Australia, attended the Ecojesuit Meeting 2023 in Sitio Bendum, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines. “Travelling to Bendum to stay at the Balay Laudato Si’ centre, which is a place that walks the talk of ‘listening to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor,’ was an amazing experience!” said Sue.

The journey from Laguindingan Airport to Bendum is almost 200km, roughly a five-hour car trip. Regardless of the distance, delegates were treated to a tranquil setting in a rural area of the Philippines, which they called home for the three-day gathering.

Sue with Ecojesuit Global Coordinator Pedro Walpole SJ, joining other participants for the forest walk and visits to the work areas of the APC Forest, Farm, and Leadership in the Margins team.

The Ecojesuit Global Coordinator, Fr Pedro Walpole SJ, welcomed delegates from around the world to Balay Laudato Si’, a culture and ecology centre in the ancestral domain of the Pulangiyēn community. The centre, built by Fr Pedro and the local Bendum community, provided an inspiring backdrop for attendees as initiatives on ecological justice were discussed over the three days.

A call to Commitment, Communication, Collaboration was the theme of the conference as highlighted in a welcome message by Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, the Secretary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat at the General Curia in Rome. Fr Pedro shared that the gathering is an effort to strengthen commitment and communication by listening to the contexts and challenges of ecological engagements at the Conference and Province levels, to renew a sense of broader collaboration by identifying cross-Conference linkages and partnerships, to strengthen Ecojesuit’s actions and connectivity, and to enhance communication strategies for effective advocacy.

Ecojesuit online is a twice-monthly web-based newsletter of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN). It’s a platform for Jesuits and Jesuit partners throughout the world to understand and share in the critical work of reconciliation and responding to ecological concerns (GC35 Decree 3).

Participants were involved in workshop sessions for each of the three days, with three main objectives:

  • Day 1: Listening 
  • Day 2: Building the Framework of Collaboration 
  • Day 3: Networking and Communications

Day 1 consisted of listening at three different levels: global, regional and local. Delegates listened to the contexts and challenges of ecological engagements to strengthen Ecojesuit’s actions and connectivity. Participants presented local realities, stories, and actions about climate and agroecology, youth engagement, ecclesial networking, policy advocacy, and energy.

Sue shared ecological efforts of the Australian Province and some of the challenges in the Asia Pacific region.

The second session of the day was about building the framework of collaboration. Christopher Bacon of Santa Clara University led an online session on student-led community-based research on food and water justice. The session highlighted the importance of community-based research in grounding global advocacy and environmental justice. Participants explored how bridges can be built between other movements, processes and systems.

Day 2 involved engaging with Indigenous Peoples and the youth where the ‘local to global’ approach brought local voices to the forefront for a shared global advocacy. Mr Jason Menaling, from the Forest, Farm and Leadership in the Margins team of the Apu Palamguwan Cultural Education Center (APC), guided participants on a visit around Bendum, describing the different programs on forest and water management, organic farming, and bamboo processing for sustainable construction of learning facilities in the community. These are youth-led programs that enhance technical skills and integrate cultural and traditional knowledge and practices, hone leadership skills, and build confidence in sharing their stories. The last session of the day involved broadening partnerships with effective networking between institutions and conferences.

The final day focused on networking and communication with an aim to strengthen the network’s communication strategies and processes for effective activities. The final session of the day involved advocacy and ways forward. It can be challenging for the Ecojesuit network to bring local and regional contexts to the global stage. The conference concluded the gathering by discussing plans and actions for the next international climate summit, COP28, which is the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). COP28 UAE will take place from 30 November to 12 December 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Sue found the experience very beneficial, saying the group felt energised and rejuvenated with their ecological advocacy work. “Being part of the global Ecojesuit gathering gave us inspiration to continue networking together; we hope COP28 will see opportunities for our young Creators of Hope in the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific to connect with other Conferences’ youth programs, such as the Caravan of Hope in the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar.”

This story was originally published in Australian Jesuits. Mr Janark Gray is the Communications Officer of the Australian Province Society of Jesus, where Ms Sue Martin also serves as the Project Officer for the Care for our Common Home Committee.

The JCAP team who joined the Ecojesuit Meeting 2023 included Fr Gabby Lamug-Nañawa SJ (JCAP Reconciliation with Creation Coordinator), Sue Martin and Sylvia Miclat (JCAP Reconciliation with Creation Assistant Coordinators), and Louie Bacomo (Director, Jesuit Refugee Service-Asia Pacific).

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