Outline of the Program
The Service Learning Program（SLP）is one of many programs of the AJCU-AP (Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities-Asia Pacific). It focuses on providing a place for Jesuit university students to apply Ignatian Pedagogy in their everyday life. It is an approach to teaching in higher education that is consistent with the pedagogy of Jesuit education. It attempts to link academic studies with practical experience of community service. The Service Learning Program was initiated in August 2008. This was its 5th year. Each year member universities send students and faculty members to a 3-week program hosted by a member institution.
In 2008, SLP was hosted by Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan, with the theme Education for Social Justice. In the year 2009, it was hosted by Sanata Dharma University, Indonesia, with the topic Education for Constructive Dialogue. It was Sophia University’s turn in 2010, but it was conducted in Cambodia with the theme Preserving Culture–A Way for Preserving Identity. SLP 2011 was hosted by Ateneo de Davao, Philippines, with the topic Education for Environmental Stewardship–A Model towards Reconciliation with Creation. This year, 2012, SLP was again hosted by Sanata Dharma University with the theme One Earth Many Religions–Constructing dialogue and solidarity towards the Integrity of Creation. SLP for 2013 is planned to be held at Ateneo de Naga University, Philippines.
2012 SLP in Indonesia
I participated in the 2012 program from August 4 to 14 as an accompanying faculty member from Sophia, Japan. This was my second time to join SLP. The first one was in 2010, when Sophia was the host university for the SLP conducted in Cambodia. This year’s SLP (One Earth Many Religions–Constructing dialogue and solidarity towards the Integrity of Creation) was conducted in Indonesia from August 5 to 26.
There were 38 students from four Jesuit universities–8 from Japan, 4 from Korea, 10 from the Philippines, and 16 from Indonesia, with 12 faculty members accompanying them. Four faculty members and 15 assistants from Indonesia served as organizers. Three faculty members (Dr Fukutake Shintaro, Fr Suzuki Nobukuni SJ, and Sali Augustine SJ) joined this year from Sophia University. The topic for this year was very significant and particularly relevant, as it was held in Indonesia, a multi-religious society in East Asia.
Dialogue Experience and Reflections
The program focused on understanding socio-ecological issues and was based on experiential learning in various religious communities. Blueprinted from the Ignatian Pedagogy, the general framework of the program followed the cycle of context-experience-reflection-action-evaluation.
In the first phase, the participants encountered the Indonesian context, represented in Yogyakarta’s surrounding areas, where the people live religious values in their daily life. These communities, which practice various religious (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Indigenous Religions), have agricultural roots, where nature and ecological concerns become the main factors in their life. All participants had some activities with various communities to figure out how inter-religious dialogue can become a powerful means of responding to ecological issues.
In the second phase, participants lived around the slope area of Mount Merapi. This area has a religiously plural community still recovering from the volcanic eruption in 2010. Participants helped plant trees in an effort to reconstitute the Mount Merapi slope area as a livable place, irrespective of religious differences. The participants then had living experience in a religiously different context in the Somohitan area. Through this program the students were exposed to different ways of experiential learning on their own initiatives. The learning experience in particular was as follows:
1．Knowing Indonesia’s socio-cultural, religious diversity and the people through personal interviews with a variety of people in Jogjakarta (Driyarkara).
2．Knowing and interacting with Indonesian religions (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity).
3．Dialogue/interaction with a Hindu priest, a Buddhist monk, and Muslim leaders through interaction with a Buddhist priest at Vihara Medut Temple and having dinner with the monks, and experiencing Buddhist hospitality. The monks’ talks and discussions were impressive. Another experience was interaction with a Hindu priest at Pura Jagatnatha and joining in Hindu prayers.
4．Joining religious (Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian) ceremonies and festivals, with personal experience of a Ramdhan with people in Jogjakarta and interaction with Muslims in a Mosque at the “breaking of fast ceremony” at Pasar Ramadhan, Kampoeng Ramadhan Jogokariyan.
5．Reflection and sharing among groups of students on their experience through interaction with people at Kotagede, Tamansari.
6．Living with families and interactions among different religions.
Input sessions were followed by direct experience of culture and religion. There were input sessions about Indonesia, its culture, tradition, religion, and various issues. Fr Heru gave a critical analysis of a religiously pluralistic society and the difficulties and prospects of religious dialogue in such a society. Having this input and their own direct experience, the students had a deep experience of differences following on deep reflection in each group. The experience of having Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Christian and non-religious members as participants was a wonderful experience of sharing religious convictions. There were 5 Muslims, 1 Hindu, 1 or more Shinto, 2 or more Buddhists, more than 15 Catholics, and some Protestant members in the group, while some members from Japan and Korea claimed that they didn’t belong to any religion. It was therefore a good chance for the students to learn about “One Earth with Many Religions” as they themselves were experiencing and sharing the differences. It is difficult to link all this experience immediately with peace and solidarity, but it was good for all to know and experience different religions. From such exposures people get to know about other religious, just as the monk in Vihara Medut spoke about the Middle Path of Buddha, the meaning of Lotus, Nirvana etc. while opening these up for everybody.