By S.M. John Kennedy, SJ
We have only one earth to live in, to care for and to share with our future generations. But we indulge in unrestrained exploitation and destruction of the rare resources of Mother Earth for quick profits. We live an unchecked life of luxury and consumerism, causing the emission of enormous chemical wastes and industrial toxins. In agriculture we resort to disproportionate use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, unethical experiments to produce genetically modified vegetables. As a result our earth and its environment are terribly polluted and contaminated. Air, water and food on which we depend for our sustenance and subsistence are all tampered with. The earth is dangerously deformed and becoming increasingly unfit for the sustenance and continuance of life.
The mode of development, being followed or blindly enforced is at the heart of today’s ecological crisis. We use science and technology as instruments to dominate and exploit nature. A capitalist, consumerist economy, industry and social organization promoted by the affluent countries and the powerful elite in the Third World countries determine the quality of environment we create. This leads to a few accumulating wealth and the poor and the earth becoming helpless victims.
Global Ecojesuit network was evolved and is involved in addressing this huge challenge of ecological crisis and take up eco-restoration activities through networking with other groups with similar aims.
Fr. Pedro Arrupe was elected the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus on 22 May 1965. He appointed Fr. Francisco lvern SJ as the first advisor of social concerns in September 1968. He became the first Secretary of Jesuit Socio-Economic Development Secretariat (JESEDES) in 1969.
GC 32, 1974, Dec. 4 declared in the document on ‘Our Mission Today’ that ‘the Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice is one of the principal degrees for social commitment’. Following this, JESEDES was renamed as ‘Social Secretariat of SJ Curia’ in 1980. JRS (Jesuit Refugee Services) was started on 14 November, 1980 as an extension of Social Secretariat of SJ Curia. In 1992, this secretariat was renamed as Social Justice Secretariat (SJS). With the birth of Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) in 2008, SJS was renamed as Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES). As a part of SJES, GIAN has four networks for Ecology, Mining, Migration and Education. In 2018, fulltime coordinators for each network were appointed in all the Jesuit Conferences.
The Birth of GIAN
In 1995, recognizing the ecological problems of the world, GC 34 recommended to Fr. General (D. 20) to make a study and orient the Society of Jesus in its mission. At the invitation of Fr. General, the then Social Justice Secretariat (SJS) made a study and published its results in “We Live in a Broken World: Reflections on Ecology” (Promotio Iustitiae 70/1999).
In 1995, recognizing the ecological problems of the world, GC 34 recommended to Fr. General (D. 20) to make a study and orient the Society of Jesus in its mission.
In 2008, reflecting on the context and challenges faced, GC 35 called to establish right relationships with God, one another and creation (D. 3). It invited everyone to reconcile with creation and “move beyond doubts and indifference to take responsibility for our home, the earth” (#31). To do this in an organized and collaborative way, the GC invited the Jesuits to “build bridges between rich and poor, establish advocacy links of mutual support…” (#27).
Taking the invitation to establish advocacy links seriously, the Social Justice Secretariat organized an “Ignatian Advocacy Workshop” in El Escorial, Spain (10 – 16 Nov 2008). It was in this workshop, that the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network (GIAN) was born, with the understanding that ecology will be its main focus.
GIAN – Ecology
The term ‘Ecojesuits’ stands for Global Ignatian Advocacy Network Ecology (GIAN-Ecology). It is the global ecology network of Jesuits and collaborators seeking integral ecology through facilitating and enabling dialogue that includes the voices of local communities, indigenous peoples, faith leaders, farmers, policy makers, economic experts, and more.
Goals of Ecojesuit Network
The main goal of this network is to facilitate engagements among Jesuit social, educational, pastoral institutes, as well as other religious congregations and the Church to address Laudato Si’s broad call for action. In order to achieve this, the following actions are undertaken:
* Promote local-global cooperation: Dialogue to discern, with the scientific community and with belief systems, on the role of values and civil society in achieving effective change;
*Accompany regional actions: Collaborate to encourage links with regional networks and with diverse stakeholders
* Support local initiatives: Network to strengthen local efforts in ecological conversion.
The main goal of this network is to facilitate engagements among Jesuit social, educational, pastoral institutes, as well as other religious congregations and the Church to address Laudato Si’s broad call for action.
The Functioning of the Network
Ecojesuit is a part of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat. Planning, execution, and evaluation is done together with the six Jesuit Conferences and partners. The Secretariat facilitates and guides discussions in monthly dialogues or meetings with Ecojesuits globally or with Conference Coordinators and their teams. Further evaluation in terms of project reporting is done by the Secretariat.
Ecojesuit Network of South Asian Conference
South Asian Conference’s Ecojesuit Network is a part of the SJES of the Conference. Fr S.M.. John Kennedy SJ (MDU) is the Conference coordinator for the Ecojesuit network. Each Province in the Conference has one Province Ecojesuit Coordinator with a few Jesuits and others as Ecology Commission members. Conference Coordinator animates and guides in the evolution and implementation of the action plans of the Provinces. He also regularly connects with the province coordinators and conducts meetings to share and plan together.
For effective coordination of our works, four zonal coordinators have been appointed: South Zone: Fr. Antony Samy, Central Zone: Fr. Prabhat Kennedy, West Zone: Fr. Antony Suresh, and North Zone: Fr. Basil Toppo.
Action Plans of the Provinces
Here is a list of the action plans of the Jesuit provinces of the South Asian Conference for 2023-2024:
The collated summary of the action plans under different categories:
I. Community, Institution and Energy related:
* Reduce consumption – practice the principles of refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle
* Efficient waste management
* Plastic and pollution free campus
* Adopt alternative and natural energy sources
* Simple, eco-friendly personal and community life style
* Integrated natural resources management
* Courses on Environmental science
* Training eco-audit teams and executing eco auditing
* Resource team for eco-awareness and eco-spirituality
* Making our campus a biodiversity campus
* Promote sustainable development through regeneration of natural resources by mobilization, promotion of non-conventional energy and judicious use of natural resources especially water, forest and land
* Promote environment-friendly practices in all our institutions
* Build biogas cum toilets for rural families
II. Awareness/Motivation to students and our people in our various ministries
* Organize competitions and encourage creative presentations
*Reconnect to nature by exposure visits
* Promote tree plantation, protect the planted trees
* Promote gardening and horticulture
* Display relevant awareness materials in and around our campuses
* Organize cultural programmes, debates etc.
* Produce and disseminate clippings, snippets, short videos etc.
* Propagate through the social media
* Promote indigenous food, medicines
* Organize eco- week celebrations
* Create awareness and conscientize communities for conservation and regeneration of natural resources, sustainable livelihoods and participation in the care of the commonhome
* Make use of our already existing eco-centres like Anglade Institute of Natural History at Shembaganur in Kodaikanal, Xavier Solar at Irudayakulam in Tirunelveli dt., Tarumitra in Patna, Eco-watershed management training centre at Hivrekorda etc.
*Promote awareness on climate change and COP 28
* Form and strengthen of the eco clubs
* Conduct cultural activities, assemblies, exhibitions on this
* All celebrations and festivals to have this theme
* Motivate farmers to take up organic/natural farming
* Promote meditation, Ignatian spirituality
* Organize eco-retreats, eco-liturgies, recollections
* Prepare, publish and distribute resource materials
* Set eco-spirituality network to bring about a true indepth ‘conversion’ and transformation in attitudes of individuals, communities and institutions regarding creation
* Use ecology as a platform for dialogue among religions and cultures
* Promote organic farming
* Support farmers and natives
* Organize organic farming workshops, farmer schools
* Promote environment inclusive agricultural development
* Ensure the efficient management of land and water resources
* Propagate of biodiversity centres at different spots
* Network with the already existing eco activists, NGOs and peoples’ movements
* Identify and attend to the local ecological issues
* Create eco care centres
* Organize eco justice campaign, rally
* Involve in advocacy and policy level interventions
* Promote the best eco-practices
Why is this urgent?
Addressing the ecological concerns is our livelihood issue. It is now or never. If we do not intervene and act now, we will not have a healthy life and sustainable environment. There will be no safe home for the future generation of humans. Hence, let us collectively get involved in the protection of our Mother Earth. We all flourish or perish together.
Fr. S.M. John Kennedy, SJ (MDU) is South Asian Conference Coordinator for Ecojesuit Network. He can be contacted at email@example.com.