A unit of the Society of Jesus in India.
Posted on: 18 May, 2015
Modified on: 21 May, 2015
Ever since its creation, the Ranchi Jesuit Society is engaged in multiple ministries—education, pastoral, social justice, human and tribal rights, spirituality, etc. As of now there are 10 Commissions trying to take the mission-vision of the Province forward. In the last few decades Ranchi Province has undergone a transformation from a mission province to a missionary province and spread its wings in Africa, Cambodia, Egypt, Guyana and Israel. In the Indian sub-continent itself, Ranchi Province has expanded to Assam and the Andamans. The Province has some presence in national and international houses. The India Desk is also trying to consolidate the relationship between Ranchi and Belgian Provinces. The efforts for the beatification of Father Constant Lievens are in progress.
Thus, despite many challenges faced by the Province, we continue to make our presence vibrant and meaningful to bring about a quality change in the lives of the people. However, we are not highlighting our contribution sufficiently to the national and international constituencies. It is, therefore, desirable that the Province comes out with a regular Annual Publication to highlight the activities, achievements, challenges and opportunities of each year beginning from 2015. We do all this being at the crossroads of history whereby we experience the following tensions and contradictions on a daily basis:
First, the tension between tradition and modernity: While some people would like to stick to the traditional values and ways of responding to the emerging socio-cultural, economic and political realities, there are others, primarily from the younger generation who would like to assimilate the values of modernity, which very often are not compatible with the former. A balanced approach retaining the good of the traditional and assimilation of the best in the modernity is the need of the hour.
Second, the tension between traditional concept of development and the modern: The modern paradigm of development has not been sustainable. Some tribal practices of development have been ecologically viable but they are also not sustainable. The United Nation is encouraging studies on incorporating Indigenous ways of development in the mainstream development discourse. But the tension between the old and the new continues. We need to put in concerted efforts to bridge the gap.
Third, the tension between the traditional education in conformity with one’s culture on the one hand, and modern education on the other: The mainstream modern education today has become very complex, commoditized and competitive compared to the traditional systems of education that cater to the marginalized sections of society. Hence, there is a tension whether to make our education inclusive thereby keeping the doors open for the poor and the marginalized who cannot afford to send their wards to the elite institutions. On the contrary, there is also a craze among people to send their wards to English medium and elite schools with modern infrastructure and facilities in view of making their students scientifically, technologically and professionally competitive so as to face the challenges of the modern world. Thus, there are some who are struggling for their ‘survival’ while others are striving for ‘excellence’ in their lives.
Fourth, the tension in the Society between the global and the local is nothing new. However, in the light of the current developments in the Society of Jesus in relation to the restructuring process for universal mission, thinking out of box to be able to think for the next 100 year from now, is perhaps the biggest challenge before the Province. This also brings to the fore the global-local or universal-regional discourse. It becomes all the more challenging because some interpret ‘universalisation’ in the Society as an adverse impact of the process of globalization from the perspective of the subalterns. The call before the Province at this juncture, therefore, is to rise above its narrow domestic boundaries and respond to the universal needs with an “apostolic agressivity”. Father General invites every Jesuit to respond to this call and Ranchi Province cannot remain a mute spectator to the changing trends.
God created humans in His own image and likeness (Gen.1:26), and that has today been distorted due to various socio-economic, political and historical processes. Jesus precisely came to restore that lost image and likeness. He started his public life with Luke 4 in view of giving sight to the blind, heal the sick, release the prisoners, etc.
Father Ignatius also experienced a similar brokenness of the humanity when he saw The Holy Trinity looking down upon the world which was full of chaos and confusion. His Mission therefore was the mission to bring the world closer to God thereby restoring the lost image and likeness of God.
I believe that we are operating within the framework of the same mission-vision and here are some of my reflections on the opportunities before Ranchi Province in the coming years:
The Society for the Poor
After the installation of Pope Francis I, he said, “I want the Church to be a poor Church, for the poor”. Given the current scenario in the region and the various tensions of our times, resonating with the Holy Father and in conformity with the mission-vision of the Society, we are inclined to say that we shall strive to become a Province “of the poor and for the poor.” By ‘poor’ the Holy Father does not mean a simplistic and naïve understanding of the poor but ‘poor’ with serious implications and a witnessing value. It will be a sad thing if there is class formation in the Province in terms of some Jesuits being rich and others poor. Whatever assets we have are at the service of the people and not for ourselves. The absence of a sense of poverty can be concern for a rich parish or a poor parish, for an elite institution or an ordinary institution. All are invited to re-commit ourselves to the Jesuit Way of Proceeding in our everyday life.
The Restructuring Process
The process of the restructuring of the Province requires our collective discernment in the area of formation—novitiate, juniorate, regional theologate; Inter-Province collaboration in areas of—building up Bagaicha as a hub of research, capacity building and grassroots and policy advocacy; exchange of regents with other Provinces across the world; strengthening lay leadership (LNN) and Jesuit Education Board; strengthening Hoffman Law Associates as a hub of legal and human rights network activities. We will explore possibilities of linking it up with national networks in Delhi and international mechanisms in Geneva and New York under the aegis of UNO; prioritizing ‘intellectual thrust’ of each of our apostolates whether they be spirituality, education, social action, communication, dialogue, pastoral and others. This thrust will enhance our capacity, competitiveness and visibility in the national and international arena and we will be ready to send our men for any need of the Society anywhere in the world with our intellectual and spiritual caliber.
A Holistic Approach to the Ministries: We have a common mission and vision of ‘faith that does justice’, which needs to be equally promoted by all the Ministries. Hence, we need to discern on the ways in which we can engage in inter-ministerial and inter-sectoral collaboration so that all our ministries become a means in achieving the larger goal of restoring the sacredness, dignity and self-esteem of each human person in the image and likeness of God.
A Forward Looking Province: The process of restructuring of the Province has started within the framework of the mandate of the Superior General of the Society. We will carry on with a forward looking attitude. In the orientation programme for the new Provincials on 25 and 26 April 2014 in Bhubaneswar, Fr Lisbert said that there is no structural change without cultural change in terms of changing the mindset. Hence, we are invited to be part of the joint apostolic plans in conformity with the Universal Society. We will try to have corporate thinking for all the works of the Assistancy.
We envision the engagement of the Province as outward and forward looking. Hence, a possibility of being a global player will be explored in terms of the Universal Mission of the Society. It does not mean that the domestic needs will be neglected. Initiatives will be taken to study the way in which local needs can be addressed with fewer people and the Universal Mission can be strengthened. In this regards, efforts will be made to consolidate our mission in Assam and the Andamans.
Synergizing Our Capacities: Our society is complex. If we want to address individual and societal problems, we need to understand them holistically, as a conglomeration of many entities. We need expertise to handle each of the entities individually and collectively. Each of them is so very complex in its own way.
Thanks to the efforts taken by my predecessors, Ranchi has a great future. We have a dream of making pools of resource persons with their expertise in various fields, such as (i) spirituality, (ii) theology, (iii) social sciences, (iv) education, (v) dialogue (which would also include addressing the problem of fundamentalism), (vi) leadership, (vii) linguistics, (viii) formation, (ix) social action and people’s movements, (x) rural and urban development (which would also include innovations for income generation activities for the poor and also for the Province), (xi) human rights issues, (xii) gender issues, (xiii) environment, (xiv) issues of tribals and indigenous peoples, (xv) media, (xvi) agriculture, (xvii) management, (xviii) vocational training, (xix) finance, (xx) formation, and so on.
Each of these areas requires expertise. I am wondering whether some of our men are authority in one or more of these areas. Their opinions are sought by other societies, congregations, civil society, universities, policy makers and other stake holders. If possible, let us initiate the process of making Ranchi Province that ‘powerhouse’. It will not happen overnight but let us initiate the process. Institutions and mechanisms are in place. We have to instill innovations and rigour to make our centres real hubs of Magis/excellence for highlighting the social issues in the media, analyzing and publishing them on a regular basis, engaging in policy intervention and policy analysis that are favourable to the weaker sections of society. This concept is not something ‘revolutionary’. We have enormous capacities, capabilities and resourcefulness. Let us try to harness them. Let us synergize them.
Intellectual Apostolate — Need of the Hour: There is need of serious research and analysis on the emerging socio-economic, religio-political problems of our times. We need to read the signs of our times. The intellectual apostolate that I envisage does not restrict itself to a club/group of the Province men engaged in writing. It extends to parishes, schools, colleges, Jesuits in social action and others, who can analyze the developments and engage youth and others, for common reflections and action. Hence, while a group of Jesuits can exclusively engage in intellectual activities, others can also pursue their intellectual engagement irrespective of their ministries.
Education Network: Ranchi Province has more than ninety schools. As per the observation of the Society’s Secretary for Education based in Chicago, we are doing a wonderful work in the field of education by educating and empowering the poor. He also insists that “poor education for the poor cannot be a solution.” Hence, there is need of network and coordinated work among various schools. If there is a team of educationists or an educationist supported by his team, a network can be created to support one another and also to learn from the best practices of one another. This coordination or network will engage educators in giving a thrust to education. These will be the ideologues. Instead of only one or two educationists, there is a space for many more. We will be open to train these ideologues in education and give them exposure nationally and internationally so that they give direction and orientation to our educational institutions as our Jesuit schools in African and Latin American countries are doing. We will explore the possibilities, so that if any information on education is required, Ranchi Province is the centre for educators, researchers, policy makers and administrators.
Contextualizing Education in the Province: Education of the marginalized sections undoubtedly has improved considerably in the last 146 years ever since the arrival of the first Jesuits in Jharkhand in 1868. However, there is still a long way to go. The forms of discrimination and deprivation have now changed. Irrespective of the rise of the middle class, the gap between the rich and the poor has widened. Thanks to the missionaries who opened up dehat (village) schools like mushrooms, because they were convinced that education was one of the powerful ways of giving the tribals a life of self-esteem and dignity as enshrined not only in the Social Teachings of the Church but also in the Constitution of India.
The Jesuit Province of Ranchi has come a long way but has a great task ahead to concretize the Good News of liberation, empowerment and healing to the last and the least, and be ready to go to the frontiers (not necessarily physical) as GC 35 articulates it.
The Scheduled Tribe (ST) population of Jharkhand State, as per 2001 census was 70,87,068, constituting 26.3 per cent of the total population (2,69,45,829) of the State. The STs were primarily rural as 91.7% of them resided in villages. Gumla district had the highest proportion of STs (68.4%). The STs constituted more than 50% of the total population in Lohardaga and Singhbhum West districts. Ranchi and Pakur districts had 42-45% tribal population. If we look at the Human Development Index (HDI), the tribals of Jharkhand were at the bottom of every indicator—literacy, health, mortality, human rights, and so on. Except in the districts of Dhanbad, Ranchi and Singhbhum East, the literacy rates of females in all the other districts were below 50%. The education level of women was much lower than that of men in all the districts.
The Jesuit Province of Ranchi is concerned about the migration of hundreds of thousands of tribal drop out girls to mega cities and urban areas as domestic helps. We are aware of the fact that many of these girls are exploited—physically, economically and emotionally—in the cities. The Jesuit education in Ranchi is therefore faced with the challenge of providing quality education to children and youth, so that they can live a life of dignity wherever they are.
The overall literacy rate among the STs increased from 27.5% in 1991 census to 40.7% in 2001census. Despite this improvement, the literacy rate among the tribes was much below in comparison to that of all STs at the national level (47.1%). Like the overall literacy rate among the STs, male and female literacy rates (54% and 27.2%) were also considerably lower than those at the national level (59.2% & 34.8%).
Among the total tribal literates, 33.6% were either without any educational level or have attained education below primary level. STs with primary level education were 28.6%. STs with Middle level were 17.7%. STs up to matric /secondary/higher secondary constituted 16.5%. This implies that every 6th tribal literate was a matriculate. Graduates and above were 3.5%. Non-technical & technical diploma holders constituted a negligible 0.1% only.
The data show that the proportion of tribal literates declined sharply in higher level of education as the percentage of students after matriculation dropped down to almost one third in higher secondary level. Out of the total 19.8 lakh tribal children in the age group 5-14 years, only 8.5 lakh children had been attending school constituting 43.1%. Alarmingly, as many as 11.3 lakh (56.9%) children in the corresponding age group had not been going to school. Among the major STs, Oraon, Kharia and Munda had more than 50% school going children whereas Santhal, Ho, Lohra had 36–47% children attending school.
I present this data before the Province because I am convinced that the education policy of the Province should be shaped by these stark realities. The Province needs to discern on the need for expanding our higher level education (Degree) to areas outside Ranchi. Collective discernment is also required if we seek ‘University status’ for our centres of higher learning. In the next 50-100 years, it is likely that we will move out from the primary and middle education to university, professional and vocational education. The lower levels of education can be managed by others. We should move out to the unreachable, unimaginable and unthinkable “frontier” areas. But for that, we need to be dreamers.
Many tribal boys are put behind the bars under the pretext of being ‘Maoists’. There are more than 6000 such boys languishing in the jails of Jharkhand. I am glad that BAGAICHA has already started an advocacy research to help the innocent out of the prison. To remain silent spectators to the above-mentioned situation will be a betrayal of our commitment to the mission-vision of the Society.
Vocational Training Centres: It is a fact of life that even if we give students education either in Hindi or English not all of them will get either government or private jobs. Hence, it will be important for the Province to explore possibilities of self-employment as some Provinces are doing. We can learn from the best practices of other Provinces too in this regard.
Income Generating Activities: Ranchi province has enormous properties and many houses. But most of them, with a few exceptions, are economically not viable nor are they self-sustaining. It will be worth exploring whether some income generating ventures, like floriculture, can be initiated in some of our properties. This also implies marketing strategies and a network with groups/persons in cities near temples and churches.
A similar effort can be reinforced for production of goods and marketing of goods coordinated by AROUSE. If poor homes can be the units of production and if centres like AROUSE, Gram Uthan and Satya Bharati can coordinate the marketing, we do not see why the quality of life, at least of the marginalized sections of society, cannot be enhanced.
For these efforts we need to have professional and business managerial skills. We will be open for training of our men in collaboration with others. There are many things which can be coordinated by Jesuits in collaboration with the lay people.
We would like to create structures/institutions which are financially viable and sustainable. We cannot afford the poor to receive poor quality of education. We will have space for evaluation of our schools, colleges, other ministries and commissions and strategies to make our systems more competitive in the world market. The marginalized sections of society should feel comfortable in our institutions.
Building up Persons, Families and Villages: We need to further strengthen efforts of building up communities. We need to build families and rebuild broken families. There are several of our men in various ministries doing similar things in different ways and are trying to promote pro-people and pro-life values. They need to be further consolidated.
Integration of Tribal Culture and Universalism of the Society: While we need to be rooted in our own culture, we also need to inculcate an outward looking spirituality of St Ignatius that cares for the people. There is a saying in the Mouri tribal culture in New Zealand: An Elder was asked “What is the most important thing in the world? And the answer was, “It is the people; it is the people; it is the people”.
As regards tribal culture or any other cultures for that matter, I would like to state what was mentioned during the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues on 12 May 2014, “In the last one century 600 languages were lost. One language disappears every two weeks.” Do we Ranchi Jesuits want this to happen to our rich cultural heritage? If not what is it that we can do to preserve, protect and promote our cultures?
It is my dream that every member of the Province has at least one international exposure in his life time which is very much in conformity with the vision of the Society. This exposure is likely to help the Province be rooted in its tradition on the one hand but also be connected to the universal mission of the Society. In order to operationalise this opportunity we will be open to negotiating with some Provinces in other countries to send our young men for training. Integration of tribal culture and universalism of the Society may also encourage us to be open to mixed vocations from outside the tribal regions. We will seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be able to discern on similar issues pertaining to the governance of the province for the Greater Glory of God.
Extension of Medical Facilities for the Aged and Sick: Our men, who have slogged all through their life and are not as active as before, deserve not only our prayerful support but good modern health facilities. We shall explore the possibilities of the ways in which this can be done on an urgent basis.
God bless each one of us! God bless Ranchi Province!