Speaking in South Africa to Radio Veritas South Africa, on the 7th August 2019 ,during the JENA Annual Assembly in August 2019, Fr Xavier Jeyaraj, S.J Director of Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat focused on what his role as the advisor of Fr. General entails, that is simply to help Father General understand where the society is, with regard to the works of social justice, economic, political and ecology justice in the world. He highlighted on 4 main concerns on what is happening in the world and their links with Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAP). These concerns are in line with the UAPs that were announced in February, 2019 and are in line with the 4 Global Ignatian Advocacy Networks the Secretariat has been working on during the past few years.
Highlighting on the extreme importance of the environmental concern as a crisis that world is experiencing presently and how the Society of Jesus is responding to it, he called on people to care for our common home as well as take to genuine climate action.
Fr Xavier underlined that scourge of environmental crisis cannot be ignored because of the detrimental effect that it has on humanity and the planet. He brought out this, with a clear illustration of how environmental crisis leads to human displacement, migration and refugees. For example, some parts of Africa experienced cyclones in the past few months and displaced people in the southern parts of Africa.
He echoed the words of Pope Francis saying that mining should be at the service of humanity and not vice versa. Mining in Africa is exploitative, resources are taken away and people are left languishing in abject poverty. This is why justice in mining network was established to deal with natural resources expropriation which a big crisis that the Society of Jesus is working on how to help poor people working in the mining areas.
On the Jesuit spirituality, Xavier mentioned on how Jesuits contribute to the Church through their spirituality and discernment and how Pope Francis called upon the Jesuits to offer discernment and spirituality to the people that they minister to and to the world. This is to show people way to God amidst challenges of secularism. Jesuit spirituality is a deeper alternative to secularism. A mature secular society will allow a greater and better exercise of religious freedom, recognizing the complex dimensions of human freedom.
The UAPs invite the Jesuits to walk with the youth. The youth are the ones who are very much affected not only because they do not have the job or unemployment but also they are misled for criminal activities and sometimes are misguided and they need accompaniment. The youth are creative and they need to be listened to and allowed to contribute to the wellbeing of the world. Jesuits need to accompany them and learn from them. Through the Jesuit spirituality, young people can be helped in faith development and creatively adapt the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises so that they can personally know Jesus in ever deeper ways and follow Him more closely.
On transparency of dealing with cases of abuse of the minor and vulnerable, Fr Xavier asked the Jesuits to heed to the call of Pope Francis and Fr General and take strong steps in handling such matters. In the UAPs, this is seen as a matter of justice and hence the Secretariat recognizes that People who are affected need to be listened to and they need to have the justice. This is why the Society of Jesus has appointed a coordinator under the secretariat to study and understand this issue for the purpose of helping the vulnerable children and women.
The Secretariat plans to address the issue of abuse of the minors during the 50th Anniversary social apostolate Congress in November and listen to the survivors or victims of abuse. The society accepts that there have been failures. This is an important point. We cannot just say that it is somebody else’s problem. It is a problem within the Church and within the Society as well. We need to address it squarely and we are addressing it in African conference. JCAM president and everyone in the Jesuit Conference is taking it seriously. It has not only articulated clear policies and protocols but the Conference is conducting trainings for everyone in order to change the ‘culture of silence’.
Listen to the interview below here:
Article by Elizabeth Auma
JENA Communications officer