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Jesuits involved in Social Work in South Asia have resolved to creatively collaborate with people of goodwill to work for a just and equitable society.

“We are committed to invest our resources and live in solidarity with dalits, tribals, ethnic groups, women, children, minorities, tea plantation workers and people who have suffered injustice due to internal and external conflicts,” said the activists at the end of their 20th triennial convention that ended in Pune on October 15.

More than 100 delegates from 20 Jesuit provinces and regions attended the four-day meeting that deliberated on the theme “Collaboration and networking for harmony.”

They have resolved to “stand firmly on the side of our optioned people” after proper discernment at individual, community and institutional levels.

They said they are pained to see in society a “toxic mix of right-wing fundamentalism and neo-liberal corporate agenda that undermines pluralism and secular democratic values in South Asia.”

Another challenge for them is the majoritarian hegemony that disregards rule of law, right to dissent, freedom of expression, leading to declining quality of education and health and control of public institutions. It also encourages hostility toward marginalized groups and tries to subvert pro-poor policies and shrink civil society space.

The increasing number of malnourished and stunted children, especially among the dalits and tribals in the region, with bleak and alarming future has also spurred the Jesuits to seek ways to work for social transformation.

They also decried aggressive economic and development policies such as demonetization that lead to unemployment and affect people’s self-determination, privacy and dignity.

The Jesuits, who had in early 1970s realized that they can meaningfully live their Christian faith only if they adopted a preferential option for the poor, regretted the prevalence of discrimination and violence based on caste, class, gender, religion, language and ethnicities. Such violence, they noted, is fomented by vested interests, divisive politics and greed for power and wealth.

The South Asian Jesuits have witnessed in the region how sectarian riots have reduced people homeless, internally displaced.

The ecological crisis due to rampant pollution and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources, leading to displacement of communities and alienation of people from their land and culture also worries the members of the largest Catholic religious congregation for men.

They drew strength to respond to these challenges from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” that urged the world to make Earth our common home and heritage.

Another source of inspiration came from their own 36th General Congregation that invited and challenged Jesuits worldwide to discern, collaborate with the like-minded people and invest resources and personnel in networking for reconciliation and justice.

The Jesuits see reconciliation as the work of justice and want it to permeate all their activities such inter-religious activities and programs that celebrate pluralism and diversity of life.

They have decided to continue building awareness and enhance skills by educating stakeholders, especially youth through socio-economic and cultural analysis.

Another way forward is to network with civil society organizations, rights activists, peoples’ movements, and others who share their vision of a just and equitable society.

They have also resolved to lead eco-friendly lives, promote secular and democratic values, help the nations to fulfill their commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goals and Human Rights.

The Jesuits will embrace social media and alternative forms of media in a greater way to communicate humane values.

On the practical side, they plan to raise local resources to support all their programs and activities and study ways to accompany migrants.

“We are committed to We resolve to be prophets of Hope in our quest for a just, humane and inclusive society,” they concluded.

By Irudaya Jothi

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