JCAP Social Apostolate
Decree 4 of the General Congregation (GC) 32 of the Society of Jesus in 1975 defines the mission of the Society as the service of faith with the promotion of justice as an integral part of that mission. At its publication, this document confirmed the strategic choice made by the Jesuits in Asia Pacific to express their solidarity with the majority of the people in the region who were suffering from oppression, poverty and the ideological division of the Cold War.
Today, 40 years later, Asia Pacific is a very different place. It is the world’s engine of growth and has witnessed an evolution of relatively stable political systems. Unjust structures, however, remain and have taken different forms. At the heart of these injustices is a development model which generates wealth for some while destroying the environment and marginalizing indigenous people and the poor. At the same time, the perceived threat from emerging China combines with the bitter experience of past conflicts among nations to fuel a wave of militarization which seriously threatens peace in the region. These challenges require an organized response that is based on solid social analysis and inspired by the social teachings of the church.
Reflecting on these points at the JCAP social apostolate gathering on 3 to 7 August 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, we see that our collective role as the social sector in the Society needs to be sharpened in these dimensions: “To be with, to think with, to act with, to pray with.” Therefore we urge that greater effort be made in the following areas:
To be with
Being with the poor is an indispensable part of the life and mission of the Society, the ground of our authority and a life-blood of hope for all. Our provincial planning and formation need to be guided by a criterion of meaningful presence with the marginalized. This includes at least three aspects: having a committed and relevant social apostolate working closely alongside the poor and vulnerable; having opportunities for those in formation to be immersed in these communities; and having a common lifestyle that witnesses to solidarity with the poor.
To think with
Our social ministries need to deepen in social analysis and discover new paradigms and approaches in responding to the challenges of today. Central to this attempt is the unique perspective and voice of the poor themselves. At the same time, the social sector needs to step up its role in forming others, bringing greater awareness about the poor, the issues of social and ecological justice, and the signs of the times. It needs to play a more prophetic role in provincial deliberations, keeping the justice dimension alive, and animating other sectors so that their work is fruitfully contextualized in present social realities.
To act with
Increasingly, our desire to be transformative in the world calls for us to collaborate with others in civil society, other faiths, and in international coalitions. In such collaborative efforts, we must encourage the poor themselves to be agents of change. Within the Society, the nature of today’s problems also requires the social, pastoral, intellectual, educational and other sectors to act together. Across provinces, the social apostolates need to improve networking and sharing of resources, as well as identify common priorities and take concerted actions in advocacy.
To pray with
Finally we acknowledge God’s initiative in responding to the cry of the poor and of creation. As God’s co-operators, our work is a process, open to failure, but anchored in hope, prayer, and individual and communal discernment. It is this path which enables the transfiguration of all our experiences and the suffering of the poor.
The JCAP Social Apostolate released this statement on the 40th Anniversary of Decree 4, GC 32 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when they held their annual meeting last 3 to 7 August 2015. For a related story, please go to JCAP e-News.