A Province of Society of Jesus in South Asia Assistancy
Jesuit Mission in the Context of Globlization
Posted on: 4 Jun, 2019|Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014
By Fernando Franco SJ
These Reflections have been structured in such a way that every statement is followed by its implications/practical consequences. I have tried to be brief and to the point.
1. THE CONTEXT
Statement: Understanding our apostolic mission in South Asia today requires understanding the new context and in-depth analysis of the effects of globalisation.
• India is emerging as a new economic (and technological) superpower and elicits new responses (many of them ‘negative’) from the world community and other countries of South Asia. At the same time, the challenges of economic exclusion for many remain real. In this regard, the Society needs to plan a strategy vis-à-vis the heterogeneous group of semi-rural, OBC masses.
• India is looking for a much greater geo-political role in Asia: establishing an Asian common market.
• Analysis of the socio-economic situation in the region should avoid easy generalisations or facile slogans.
• Jesuits need to start ‘positioning’ themselves vis-à-vis this new scenario. Such ‘positioning’ needs to critically examine India’s “ambitions” and how compatible they would be with an overall strategy in favour of the marginalised groups?
2. UNITY IN THE DIMENSIONS OF OUR MISSION/CHARISM
Statement: Any apostolic intervention in South Asia today requires attention to be given to a faith, justice, cultural and inter-religious dimension. “Our service of faith” is inseparably linked to the justice, cultural and religious dimensions.
• The issue of religious fundamentalism needs to be looked at from all these four perspectives.
• Traditional differences between ‘direct evangelization’ and ‘inter-religious dialogue’ may disappear when looked at in this perspective: for example, we need to uphold the right of marginalised (and everybody else) to change their religion and simultaneously the right of groups to maintain their culture and religion.
• Rooting our apostolic commitment (social and educational mainly) in our faith seems indispensable. The ‘ascetic’ tradition and the popular religiosity of love (bhakti) and compassion must nurture our commitment to justice.
• We need to reflect on how to promote the culture of the marginalised while helping them face the challenge of a globalised world – implications for our educational work.
3. THE CHALLENGES OF IDENTITY (INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION)
Statement: The process of modernisation and of economic and social transformation is throwing up may crucial cultural issues related to identity formation.
• While the promotion of the marginalised (dalits) on the basis of a caste identity has been very positive, the excesses of stressing one identity to the exclusion of the others has been pernicious.
• How deep is our Jesuit identity? What kind of Jesuit identity we want to promote? These issues needs to be addressed at all levels of our communitarian life and in formation. So called primary identity markers (caste, geographical birth, language, etc. ) are conceived by some as almost ‘genetically’ defined and this impedes group cohesion. A functional understanding of identity needs to be stressed and practiced.
4. CHALLENGES OF EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP
Statement: In fostering effective leadership in the Assistancy a balance needs to be kept between an elitist (up-down) and a down-up approach to leadership.
• Our globalised world generates confusion, and fear. Effective leadership becomes more important than ever. Programmes for the formation of effective leaders need to be implemented at the Assistancy levels. These programmes should go beyond good managerial practices and touch socio-cultural issues.
• Extreme care should be taken in generalising comments on the suitability of certain ethnic or regional groups for leadership. The Society has a historic obligation to foster leadership from below, and leadership from marginalised groups.
• Creative solutions to identity and cultural challenges applied in plural societies and contexts (in UK agreed upon code of conduct among various ‘communities’ to the election of local officials) may be thought to tackle some of our problems of leadership which seem to be mired in identity issues. For example: appointment of a Provincial.
5. ESTABLISHING APOSTOLIC SYNERGIES
Statement: to be able to respond to the challenges of a globalised world and to the pluri-dimensional character of our charism and mission, we need to establish inter-sectoral, inter-provincial and international linkages in our ministries.
• It may be useful to start in each Province with a re-vitalised Commission of Ministries that addresses issues with an inter-sectoral approach. Need to promote Provincial Apostolic Plans stating priorities, outlining inter-sectoral linkages and institutional collaboration, fixing mechanisms for monitoring and setting independent evaluation mechanisms.
• A social audit or a strategic planning of all social institutions (social centres) needs to be carried out. It does not seem feasible in the future to continue to have a social centre because one Jesuit had the money to start and run it. A zonal-wise integration of centres to avoid duplication and spare resources, especially for research, seems imperative.
• A similar strategy needs to be extended to the whole Assistancy. International (and specially in Asia) apostolic linkages need to be strengthened through the identification of some nodal points or agencies.
6. COMMUNITIES OF SOLIDARITY
Statement: on the basis of our experience, the concept of ‘communities of solidarity’ (GC 34, D 3) needs to be reformulated and defined within an Asian tradition.
• A reflection on the apostolic character of our community life seems to be important. The concept of communities of solidarity (GC 34) may be understood as stable groups of Jesuits and lay persons (even non-Christians) sharing the same apostolic thrust and having frequent moments of spiritual reflection. They may be characterised by ‘inclusiveness’ and a desire to transform a given situation.
• In a few cases these communities may adopt the style of open houses or ‘ashrams’ in the midst of the poor and excluded.