Ecology coordinators from Asia Pacific, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and South Asia journeyed on the first week of August to the Ecojesuit Meeting 2023 on Commitment, Communication, and Collaboration at Balay Laudato Si’ in the ancestral domain of the Pulangiyēn community in Bendum, Malaybalay City, Mindanao, Philippines. Partners from the Jesuit Refugee Service-Asia Pacific, Centre Arrupe Madagascar, and Christian Life Community also joined and shared their own networks’ experiences in ecological engagements and possibilities for further collaboration.
Datu Menaling, the tribal leader of the Pulangiyēn community in Bendum, showed how important the welcome is in people’s busy days, and which can be viewed as a challenge to the Church to give a greater welcome to the poor. Xavier Jeyaraj, Secretary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) and Pedro Walpole, Global Coordinator of GIAN-Ecology or Ecojesuit reiterated the call to collective commitment, urgency, and renewed focus on communication and collaboration.
In his welcome, Xavier shared the Society’s journey towards ecological awareness and advocacy by tracing back the early recognition of environmental challenges 50 years ago with the publication of Limits to Growth, to the participation of six Jesuits in the Earth Summit in 1992, and the establishment of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Networks (GIANs) in 2008.
He also reminded participants of the inseparable link between justice for the poor and care for the environment and highlighted in the General Congregations (GCs) 34 and 35 of the Society of Jesus. The 2022 GIAN Governance Document: A Pathway to Deepen Collaboration promotes a collaborative, spiritual approach, encouraging Conferences, Provinces, and Regions to address global challenges. The call for genuine ecological conversion is echoed in Fr. Sosa’s 2023 message De Statu Societatis, stressing that tangible actions with UAP4 Care for the Common Home are urgently needed, moving beyond good intentions. The Ecojesuit Network is called to “renew its commitment, enhance collaboration, and strengthen communications towards effective advocacy.”
Pedro highlighted the need to strengthen commitment and communication by listening to the contexts and challenges of ecological engagements at the Conference and Province levels, while taking note of the sustained crises and mounting global challenges. He recalled that the previous Ecojesuit annual meetings always listened to stories – in India, in the Amazon, in Bonn – and are about where there is hope that can be formed, and always involved some engagements with local communities.
Local and regional efforts in caring for our common home in the Conferences and partners
For the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials (JCEP) efforts to respond to ecological and environmental challenges emphasize the importance of networking and collaboration. There are five networks and includes migration, social centers, schools, justice in mining, and advocacy. In the context of the European Union, emphasis is placed on food systems, agriculture, lobbying, and advocacy, notably in relation to the Green New Deal package and climate legislation. The JCEP engages in a carbon footprint initiative, collaborating with Jesuit institutions to measure and reduce emissions, and promotes involvement in the European Parliament elections for advocacy. The Conference underscores the importance of engaging with legislative processes to promote positive ecological outcomes and highlights collaboration with schools and partners to drive sustainable practices.
At the Conferencia de Provinciales Jesuitas de América Latina y el Caribe (CPAL) (Conference of Jesuit Provincials in Latin America & the Caribbean), ecological initiatives and commitment to integral ecology emphasize addressing environmental and human rights issues, collaborating with communities and educational institutions, and fostering ecological responsibility. The CPAL Ecology Reference Group (El Grupo de Referentes de Ecología de la CPAL) brings together representatives of works and networks of the social and educations sectors in the region. There are strong efforts in the promotion of ecological values in education through the Fe y Alegría network, youth engagement, the focus on the Amazon, and collaboration with bishops through ecclesial networking in REPAM. CPAL’s multifaceted approach involves diverse representation in various networks, sectors, and regions beyond institutional structures.
The Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) initiatives in ecological and environmental justice include a project, Creators of Hope, that features young heroes in different countries in the region and their ecological actions. The JCAP flagship project, Caring for Communities and Creation, has a three-pronged approach focusing on Transitioning to Cleaner Energy, Youth Leading the Future, and Strengthening Local Communities. There is also the Creators of Hope project that searched for 10 young individuals within the region whose work and commitment to ecology are sources of hope for others. JCAP is also on board the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, along with the Australian Province. Australia is also bidding to host the two-week climate summit (COP31) in 2026 with a Pacific island nation, opening an immense opportunity for Ecojesuit and RAOEN to work with various faith communities.
Amid a volatile and uncertain political situation, the Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA) identifies sustainability and ecology as core areas of interest, with various project and networks addressing renewable energy, resource management, migration, justice in mining, education, and advocacy. All provinces emphasize equality in collaboration efforts. Jesuit schools play a crucial role in promoting awareness, and the conference aims to implement measurable action plans with zonal coordination and engagement of various sectors beyond education. JCSA is exploring collaboration with other provinces and social centers such as those in Gujarat and Ranchi, and connections with ongoing projects. This is taking a holistic approach that involves various sectors, institutions, and regions for a more comprehensive impact.
For the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the US (JCCUS), resource persons from Loyola University Chicago and Santa Clara University ran online workshops with the Ecojesuit meeting participants on three topics: 1) broadening partnerships between the social justice and ecology and the higher education apostolates to promote economic and ecological justice; 2) on community-based research and accompaniment; and 3) on communications for advocacy.
The Christian Life Community (CLC) emphasizes key aspects of their community initiatives with acknowledgement of the ecological concerns and the work needed to respond, and with gratitude and witness as well, especially in their networking and solidarity through the International Ecology Working Group. They also sustain a global engagement through active participation in conferences and initiatives, representation at international events like UN climate conferences, and collaboration with local efforts for sustainable agriculture.
The mission of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Asia-Pacific region in addressing displacement, migration, and refugee issues through justice and service places JRS at the forefront of mounting ecological challenges. Responding to these are the organization’s global collaborations and key projects such as the “40-4-40” tree planting initiative and climate research project with ESSC. The importance of communication and collaboration within JRS was also emphasized. Challenges, reflections, and future directions especially with resource mobilization, including a focus on climate-induced displacement and advocacy, were also discussed highlighting JRS-Asia Pacific’s efforts to address the complex challenges in the region.
Working towards stronger commitment, effective communication, and wider collaboration in caring for our common home
With the GIAN governance settled, the next steps are to see how the Ecojesuit network wants to operate and how the network members want to collaborate. One method is to identify the ecology-related actions happening at the local, regional, and global, and to explore what can be added or explored. Another method is to explore how to connect to the five themes that the Conference ecology coordinators previously identified.
As such, participants at the Ecojesuit Meeting 2023 identified current areas of socio-ecological engagement that the Conferences connect with and are actively undertaking, illustrating existing commitments to actions. Agroecology in relation to food and water security emerged as a common local and global concern that can be a focus for action and communication as a climate justice advocacy.
In building the framework of collaboration even beyond the Conference structures, the experiences of networking at the local, regional, and global provide important lessons.
Ecojesuit as a network aims to strengthen local initiatives, accompany regional activities and actions, and promote global cooperation. This is the nature of a global network. A network is defined by relationships which are in solidarity with the context and are not just stories. What the Ecojesuit network is trying to build is the enhancement of resources, methods, and way of doing things.