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How can the Ignatian family collaborate towards a sustainable development for our common home?

9 July 2019

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In an effort to explore building a broader solidarity through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a platform and international framework for collaborative action in the Ignatian family and beyond, a Jesuit delegation is taking part in the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) from 9 to 18 July in New York, USA, with the help of partners from Christian Life Community.

The HLPF is a UN forum that gathers leaders of UN member states annually to assess the progress made on the SDGs and plan for further actions, and the theme for this year’s forum is Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality. The main objective is to review the implementation and achievements gained in six SDGs through the Voluntary National Reviews of countries and organizations from around the world. The goals under review are SDG 4: Quality Education, SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 16: Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions, and SDG 17: Partnership for the Goals.

“This is an important event for the Society of Jesus, first of all because we have a long experience of working in all these fields in numerous places in the world: accompanying excluded persons and communities, working for justice and reconciliation, and for the care of our common home.” Father General Arturo Sosa said in his video of support. 

Given the Society’s long history in formative education, accompanying marginalized people, community development, and our ever-growing networks, we believe we can have a meaningful contribution. Our context of faith and our integral approach could give voice to the marginalized, the poor, and the youth in an effort to “leave no one behind,” as the SDG motto goes.

2019_06_30_Reflection_Photo2Jesuit and Ignatian ministries are also gathering at the USA Northeast Jesuit Conference Center in a side event to the UN forum on 11 July for a conversation on perspectives, networking, and action on urgent issues of sustainability and inclusion. This gathering seeks to highlight and promote collaborations within and beyond the Ignatian/Jesuit family, to develop further clarity on the role of Jesuit/Ignatian ministries and other religious in fulfilling the SDGs, and to deepen our understanding of the integral connection between people and creation. Topics to be discussed include environmental causes for migration, ecological justice for Indigenous Peoples, sustainability and circular economics, climate change and human rights.

This is also a significant way to build a more responsive Church of hope that fosters greater collaboration by developing deeper relationships with global leaders, as Pope Francis encouraged the process in 2015 when he endorsed the SDGs in an address to the UN General Assembly.

Jesuits are contributing to the SDGs, and participation in global processes such as the HLPF is a useful way to network and connect more broadly with circles outside the Jesuit world, and heighten the role and participation of communities. How we communicate Jesuit actions in creative and effective ways is key and we share some suggestions:

 

  • Write articles on how each of the Conferences is contributing to the achievement of the SDGs, and a broader one on how the Jesuit mission connects with the SDGs. Perhaps we could link this with the UAPs and the various messages of Pope Francis, such as during the recent International Conference on Religions and SDGs.
  • Write stories that highlight the perspectives of the marginalized and indigenous communities, such as the integral ecology conference in March, and what will happen on a bigger scale in the Synod for the Amazon in October. The work of SJPAM in the Amazon is an example where the Jesuit ministries accompany indigenous communities.
  • It is also good to take action inbuilding interest and momentum for SDG events. For example, CIDSE released a documentary on community-based efforts for clean energy transition called Energy to Change, and organized events to get young people to share their thoughts and discuss it in open forums.
  • Share what the youth are doing. In many schools, SDGs are presented as a learning context for greater social responsibility and cohesion and need for action. There are many community initiatives that students are in contact with. What are our universities doing to teach SDGs as a career path? In many countries the youth are taking a stand in calling for great action, particularly in Africa where the challenges are growing fastest.
  • A section showing priorities for each SDG is useful and for this, it is helpful to listen. For example, youth-led organizations from around the world are making their concerns known using the SDGs as a framework. In Africa, there is the African Youth SDGs Summit that released a Youth Declaration, and in Asia Pacific, the 2030 Youth Force, a youth-led network that brings the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs to all.
  • Develop a document that lists Jesuit contributions and case studies according to SDGs. The Annotated Bibliography on Religion and Development by DanChurchAid, a Danish humanitarian NGO, provides a good inspiration for this.

Another useful reference is the 2018 Voluntary National Review of Sri Lanka, where a simple linear framework shows current status and trends, gaps and challenges, and ways forward (pages 42-102). One way we could begin this is to review the targets and indicators of SDGs. It might also help to review the different Conference websites, Jesuit publications like Jivan from the Jesuit Conference of South Asia, Ecojesuit, and Ecostream, among others.

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