Social justice has long been at the heart of the mission of the Society of Jesus. Our mission today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. This makes the social ministry a fundamental aspect of the work of the Society of Jesus, and perhaps the broadest of all Jesuit ministries in terms of scope and reach.
As the social sector in the Society of Jesus, our collective role across the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific is “to be with, to think with, to act with, to pray with” the poor and marginalised. Hence we provide direct services to those in need; do social and cultural analysis; encourage theological reflection on questions of injustice; advocate for change; and campaign alongside others striving to make our world a more just place. Across our provinces and regions, there is a range of engagements from local social services within provinces and regions to work with the prison services, indigenous persons and for others in need. There are also several Jesuit social justice organisations working for peace and justice for all of those in need.
In addition to these, the Jesuit Conference has committed to two priority engagements in social justice - Migration, in which refugees are a special category, and Reconciliation with Creation.
Reconciliation with Creation has been an apostolic priority of the Jesuits in Asia Pacific since 2010. We were encouraged the following year by the publication of Healing a Broken World in which Father General, Adolfo Nicolás SJ, emphasised the need for all Jesuit ministries to engage in reconciliation with creation. In 2011, the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific also initiated Flights for Forests, a carbon-offset scheme to reduce the impact of air travel on the environment.
In 2015, we enthusiastically welcomed Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si, appreciating the attention he drew to the urgent need for reconciliation with creation. In a statement issued after their July meeting that year, the major superiors in our Jesuit Conference urged “all the members of our Conference, our colleagues, and all those we seek to serve to make a thoughtful and generous response to the Holy Father’s plea”. They highlighted the need to continue to examine the issues of migration; pollution; nuclear power; sustainable energy; stewardship of resources; and the dignity of every human person — all issues that Pope Francis raised in his encyclical.
Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ often spoke of “our way of proceeding”, and one of the first steps the Conference took when it made Reconciliation with Creation a priority engagement was to discern our way of proceeding in relation to the environment.
In 2011, the Ecology Task Force of Asia Pacific developed Our Environmental Way of Proceeding, a document that provides us with a framework and an operative spirituality that guides us in an experience of, and deepens our relationship with, creation and Creator. It guides our ecology strategy and action plan.
Our Environmental Way of Proceeding consists of seven points that deepen our response to the challenge of reconciliation with creation in our lives and institutes.
Disaster risk reduction is a major concern of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. Our geographic region experiences more natural disasters than any other part of the world, and increasingly countries are recognising the need to plan for a natural disaster rather than focus on what to do after a disaster strikes. There is a need for capability training in disaster event warning and evacuation strategy where the ability to interpret and utilise scientific information is expanded. Also, the disaster management cycle generally described as having four phases — mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery — is beginning to be seen as having a fifth phase of redesign. Beyond an overall approach, more specific opportunities are needed to enable collaborative action.
At the Conference level, we have developed a protocol calling for greater integration of capacity and networking, and we are encouraging our various provinces to develop their own protocol. The Philippine Province, which experiences natural disasters every year, was the first to develop a province protocol.
In addition, many Jesuit education institutions have relief and disaster risk reduction and management in their planning and processes. Having a broader system for coordination will increase impact and deepen responses. Greater social preparedness integrated with scientific analysis, in the event of the typhoons and cyclones prevalent in the Pacific, is needed.
With the increasing incidence of more intense storms and other climatic hazards, stakeholders are actively seeking opportunities to respond to needs. The Hyogo Framework for Action details the work required from all different stakeholders to reduce disaster losses. It outlines priority actions and offers guiding principles and practical means for achieving reduction in disaster losses through building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.
A large part of caring for creation is ensuring that the next generations continue and even take today’s actions in reconciliation with creation further. Thus, education in sustainability is also a focus of our Jesuit Conference. Through a variety of practical sustainability courses and training programmes, we seek to provide people with the analysis of the changing context that will help them form their values and perspectives. Our priority groups are Jesuit scholastics as well as young professionals and indigenous youth who are seeking broader meaning in life, human integration and sustainability.
Sustainability courses and training programmes offered include Human Development and Resource Management in Asia: An Outdoor Course, Sustainability Coordinator’s Course, Leadership and Sustainable Management: An Ignatian Field Course, and Understanding Ordinary Time for Mitigation and Preparedness: Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Protocol.
For more information about courses and training programmes, contact Ms Mariel de Jesus marielecojcap [at] gmail [dot] com.
Migration is one of the defining global issues of the early twenty-first century, with more and more people on the move today than at any other point in human history.
Asia is the largest source of temporary contractual migrant workers in the world, with China and the Philippines among the top 10 suppliers and Indonesia and Vietnam in the top 25. Forty percent of the world’s domestic workers are from Asia.
Migrant workers (both foreign and internal), foreign brides, undocumented migrants, including victims of trafficking and smuggling; and people in immigration detention centres are among the most vulnerable people in the world, and in need of support and assistance. Of these, migrants from rural areas, those who work alone in isolated settings such as domestic workers, and those who do not work within a legitimate corporate structure, such as undocumented persons, are at greater risk.
Jesuits and collaborators, including the Jesuit Refugee Service, serve vulnerable migrants at the local level by providing casework, medical and legal help, social and learning activities, accompaniment, chaplaincy work and pastoral care. We also foster capacity building among non-government organisations working in aid of migrants within this part of the world.
The focus at the Jesuit Conference level is on improving and strengthening collaboration and coordination between the countries from which the migrants come and those to which they go (sending and receiving countries), and on developing ways to communicate more effectively and advocate for changes in policies and practices affecting vulnerable migrants.
In the Jesuit Conference, the main centres working with migrants are Sahabat Insan in Indonesia, Tokyo Migrants’ Desk in Japan, Yiutsari in South Korea, UGAT Foundation in the Philippines and Rerum Novarum Center in Taiwan.
A lot of the work with refugees in Asia Pacific is done through Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), which was founded on November 14, 1980, by Father Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Society of Jesus at that time. JRS Asia Pacific was set up in 1981 in response to the need for emergency refugee care in the region, but its work has since expanded towards a longer-term commitment.
JRS works with refugees, asylum seekers (individuals who have made an application for protection but whose status has not yet been determined), forcibly displaced persons and internally displaced and stateless peoples. Many have fled extreme poverty, generalised conflict, economic collapse, etc. In host countries, they are regularly denied access to basic services such as social welfare, education and health care, and the right to work. It is in this denial of access and the consequent need for action in justice that the work of the JRS begins.
In addition to JRS Asia Pacific, JRS has local offices or representatives in Australia, Cambodia, Indonesia, director [at] jrsap [dot] org (Myanmar), phl [dot] po [at] jrsap [dot] org (Philippines), Singapore and cd_thailand [at] jrs [dot] or [dot] th (Thailand).