Pedro Walpole SJ
Food insecurity and the climate and biodiversity crisis worsen as one, with widespread vulnerability exacerbating conditions for the poor. The war in Ukraine continues as do the conflicts across many continents. The last extended La Niña was disastrous for many and so too is the probable transition to El Niño and droughts in this region. In critical global discussions, economic development still overshadows integral human development and ecological justice for present generations. Yet the challenge of seriously focusing on the Global South persists.
These are the tensions held daily as we speak of a shared mission, of a world needing peace, including especially the vulnerable, the accompaniment of the youth, and the care for all life.
Decree 6 of GC 35 is an invitation to promote international networking. “The Society works more effectively as an international body and seeks synergies in service of its universal mission. The Society’s government at all levels is encouraged to explore means by which more effective networking may take place among all apostolic works associated with the Society of Jesus.”
But how we do this is the main reason why we are here.
In 2019, Ecojesuit as the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network for ecology held a meeting in Mumbai to strengthen our sense of effective collaboration. There was wonderful energy as we listened to how regional teams could form, communicate events, map ecological initiatives as we put our houses in order and build support for regional church networks. We continue this today as we seek to listen to the vulnerable and act justly while promoting global cooperation.
Ecojesuit continues to grapple with its role in coordinating collaboration and connecting with the broad ecological movement to sustain effective global engagement. As each institution has its own agenda, the challenge is to seek a more collective process of engagement than just the concepts and plans. The process of change entails listening to the concerns of the most vulnerable, finding experiences of trust especially with the youth, and building together regional and global platforms for engagement.
Over the last 70 years since 1952, climate change has been projected as an emerging reality, but deliberately sown with doubts and misinformation by some. We have had 50 years of the limits of the green revolution and now the carbon costs of fertilizers.
People are becoming more aware of the ecological challenges and social realities, more fully understanding of the connections between what they do and see locally, hear and view globally. They are asking questions, but finding they are disempowered to act by the status quo. The continuing social neglect of the most vulnerable is a painful reality and only with hope in our daily experiences can we heed the call for greater witness and better accompany.
There is a need to shake off negative attitudes and seek pathways though the complexities without getting exhausted, while accompanying those in need. Politically today, there is at least a national call for greater effort and this gives opportunity for local stories to flourish. These realizations are calling for deeper change and for conversion – a wholehearted identification with the margins.
In the landscape of networking, we begin with discernment: looking within ourselves and our contexts where we are often disturbed yet hopeful of action. In this process, we hear and give space to local stories. We learn the value of listening to the narratives of other contexts while our horizons are widened. This helps us realize the interconnectedness of our experiences. We are inspired to be creative in sharing our energies with one another. We pour out the context of our actions and local initiatives in working towards greater participation and shared commitments until this brings us to new moments of discernment, giving life to the network.
These are some of the hopes for these zonal gatherings; as we pick out pieces of the jigsaw, we are called to:
- Go beyond Province commissions and activities of old to find new structures and freedom recognizing differences with renewed links, communications and committed participation.
- Form teams and platforms in ways we have not yet done and understand how and who sustains them.
- Form new collaborations with sensitivity and energy where the youth feel trusted and at ease, reducing the anxieties and frustrations.
- Support cultural leaders who form local integrity and speak out.
- Share stories of local challenges and changes in attitude from the ground, provide platforms for marginal communities, Indigenous Peoples and the youth, further building up social data and reports and building support for regional church networks.
- Show the “transaction of realities” of change that compound the global crisis – not doubt – in weather changes for example.
- Communicate, collaborate, and connect with ecological efforts of the local to the Zone and Conference and on to the global.
- Build commitment within a Conference and support across-Conference links from the South to North.
- Understand the complexities and seek to simplify action, as institutions and societies may hold a very simple binary understanding of the global relationships and impacts.
- Struggle for greater accountability and legitimate and effective policies, knowing that the climate vulnerabilities are not just in the South nor the transgressions just in the North.
Different approaches, growing flexibility to work with existing institutions and grounded context are opening “new times” as we hear new voices shared at the center. As the West Zone Network for Integral Ecology forms and further defines its role in response to integral concerns, it is hoped that you may find value in connecting globally by sharing your stories and contexts with other Conferences, uplifting what all of you are doing.
Our hope is to find new ways of participating and partnering, coherently “connecting the dots” and to uphold a sense of solidarity in meeting the challenges in broader society while caring for creation.
The consolation of sharing in Jesus’ mission found in the process of synodality, reconciliation, ecclesial networks, and the Universal Apostolic Preferences, connects us as we share in the experiences and dialogue leading to greater commitment and hope.
This article is the opening message of Pedro Walpole SJ, Ecojesuit Global Coordinator, during the West Zone Workshop on Ecology Networks held at the Pastoral Centre in Nadiad, Gujarat, India from 27 to 29 March 2023.