Rigobert Minani Bihuzo, SJ
Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar or JESAM and collaborators met in Nairobi, Kenya last 12 to 14 April 2013 to chart a way forward in incorporating ecological and environmental sensitivity and action into our ministries for the next three years, as we reviewed the environmental and ecological dimensions of the mission of the Society of Jesus in Africa and Madagascar.
“Generative themes” were identified from our own experience and from the work of other Jesuits across the world and are considered Africa and Madagascar’s contribution to the action of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) on Ecology. These include: ecological spirituality, eco-theology and eco-philosophy, environmental conscientisation, biodiversity, climate change, sustainable agriculture, deforestation and bush fires, ecology and conflict situations, management of natural resources, management of waste, business responsibility, potential partnerships, and the justice dimension which informs all our works.
The work was undertaken through two task groups. The first produced strategies for environmental conscientisation in our pastoral work, our formal and informal educational and spiritual ministries, as well as in the formation of Jesuits ourselves. The second task group produced an ambitious plan of action for the Jesuit apostolic network for the next three years. This plan identified general aims, specific objectives, as well as expected results and activities. The proposed activities include a continent-wide tree-planting day for all of our apostolates, research and publication, an ecological retreat for Jesuits and our co-workers in each province and specific actions with regard to water, sustainable agriculture, etc. All of our apostolates across the continent will be invited to participate in these activities. It was agreed to establish a working group to implement the plan of action and produce a guide for raising awareness that will be shared with Society of Jesus in Africa and Madagascar.
This is our response to the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus in 2008 that called Jesuits “to appreciate more deeply our covenant with creation” and to realize that the care for the environment “touches the core of our faith in and love for God.” And in his 2011 letter to the whole Society of Jesus on ecology, Father General Adolfo Nicolás, SJ repeated Pope Benedict’s exhortation that we respect creation more seriously and profoundly, and that we take decisive measures to protect creation. Father Nicolás reminded us of our call to restore and heal broken relationships with creation. He recommended to our prayer and consideration the document Healing a Broken World published by the Jesuits’ Task Force on Ecology in 2011. The document proposes ways to examine our personal life, and the lifestyle of our communities, as well as our institutional practices. It challenges us to contribute to the sustainability of the planet in every dimension of our life and our mission. This means adopting new ways of living, of exemplifying good practice, of spreading knowledge and promoting research, and if necessary, of exercising political influence. “Healing a Broken World” implies that as individuals and as institutions we be credible signs of integrity and coherence between our words and deeds. It requires a change of heart and profound conversion.
The participants came from Jesuit agricultural institutes in the provinces of Madagascar, Central Africa, Zambia-Malawi and the region of South Africa. Convened by the coordinator of the African Jesuits’ social apostolate, the meeting was held at the Institute of Peace Studies and International relations at Hekima College.
Rigobert Minani Bihuzo, SJ is the coordinator of the social apostolate of the Jesuits in Africa and Madagascar and Director of the Jesuit African Social Centres Network and he may be reached through his email rigomin(at)gmail.com.