50 Years of Personal Experience
Anselmo Mataix, SJ

Fr. Mataix, who has been a professor for many years at Sophia University with a long experience of social research and practical commitment to social problems, is my respected teacher during my University years. The other day a celebration was held for his 50th anniversary of arrival in Japan. He shares here his 50 years as a pioneer in the study of social justice issues and the sending of students to Third World countries for exposure programs.
[Note from the editor, Shibata]
I just celebrated a few days ago my 50th anniversary of arrival in Japan. Now, I am facing my computer to make a general evaluation of all the time I spent in Japan, teaching at the University and dedicating myself to social issues.
Half a century ago nobody spoke about Vatican II, and, naturally, the Society of Jesus I belong to, was not engaged in a task of how to improve Jesuit apostolic involvement.
In spite of that, I felt a deep interest in social problems and I was somehow conscious of social realities. That was due to my parents and to the influence I received at the school.

Education Received from My Parents and Teachers
My mother always taught me a simple awareness: "Human persons are all equal." We had a servant at home because we were a large family. I remember that she had come to the city from the countryside and did not receive much education. My elder brother and myself made sometimes fun of her, but then my mother who was usually softhearted, would angrily scold us in severe manner: "What are you doing? Have you forgotten that all human persons are equal?" Those words became the basis of my social awareness and they measure my very self.
On the other hand, I learned from my father the spirit of sharing with others in simple ways. My father was a university professor and at that time, most probably, he could enjoy a comfortable life style. He never had a car, out of his own will and he will not ride even on a taxi, we never saw him doing something luxurious. There were some slums in the city of Madrid at that time and, after my father died, I happened to know that he visited the people there and provided scholarships to their children.
This way, since childhood, I learned at home moral values like, simplicity, the attitude of sharing with others and the principle that all persons are equal. Those were living values not just theoretical knowledge and have shaped, since then, my whole personality and the direction of my life.
The school helped me to receive a similar education in human values. I remember that I spontaneously worked in the slums teaching the children, or rather spending my time with them, and used my pocket money to buy school materials for them.
The school helped me to receive a similar education in human values. I remember that I spontaneously worked in the slums teaching the children, or rather spending my time with them, and used my pocket money to buy school materials for them.

The Birth of the Students' Group "Meguko"
I cannot forget the year 1975 that made a definite change in my life. A few university students came to me with a plan to begin "mobile seminars", that have lasted for a period of 26 years, to visit Europe. The truth is that, in the first one we paid a visit to India in our way that provoked a change in my life. I had been in India several times before, but that time I felt I saw the real Indian realities. The students I contacted were supra elite students of various famous universities. The wrong image I had of Indians, from former visits, was that everybody speaks English and is well educated, but it will not be exaggerated to say that I met at that time with real Indians, the hidden India, the majority of Indian people living in extreme poverty. From there I went to Europe with the students.
After returning to Japan, some of the students who went abroad with me gathered together and we decided to do something. That gave birth to "Meguko" (in Japanese it means "the needy children"), a pet name for the group Extending Warm Hands to the Needy Children (Now it changed its name to "Action for the Self-Reliance of the South Children"). Almost unknowingly the members, as well as donations increased. We started to assist Filipino and Indian children, providing them scholarships to go to school. As a result, I discussed with the students ways to assist people in those countries.

"Meguko" Policies
The beginning was to try visible assistance projects. As a result, we didn't want to raise money just to send donations abroad. Every year we paid visits alternately to the Philippines and India where we met with local NGOs we could trust to plan together educational programs and to meet the children with whom we played and danced. From the beginning, we looked for mutual assistance programs of giving and receiving and not for one-way assistance.
Certainly we assist people in other countries with donations we receive, but at the same time the poor give us a lot. One reward we receive is the opportunity to change our life styles. Luxury should not be allowed in front of people suffering from misery. Simple life must be the pattern all persons should follow. We came to use mutually principles and expressions like, "sharing, living together, communication of hearts, cooperation and colleagues." Unless we embrace a global future vision the world cannot be saved.
We called the journeys to the Philippines and India "exposure tours." Is not today's education too much "theoretical" oriented? An education that remains at the intellectual level will not become personal. Of course, experiences that are not accompanied by study and reflection will soon disappear. The journeys to third world countries were one-month long. Every evening we met to reflect together on the experiences of the day. For instance, if we had visited a school we discussed our impressions of the visit and its meaning. This is what I call real study together.
I remember with nostalgia the interviews to the students who wanted to participate in the tours. I offered them three conditions to join the groups. The first one was not to have many likes and dislikes in what one eats, the second one was to be insensible to dirt and the third one was be ready to become sick. I am quite happy to be able to report that, in these 25 years everybody, except one, accepted those three conditions.
I could go on endlessly, but let me tell something else I thought important from the very beginning: all valuable donations received went to assist the children of the South. Thus, not to spend money on hiring an office, my room at the University was used and the students did the office work needed working as volunteers. There was no expert accountant and we had a difficult time to prepare a good balance sheet.
Thinking generously, the work done was genuine, but one could also say that it lacked responsibility. Thanks to the efforts done we put gradually out a nice balance sheet.
I guess that about 300 students have joined the "exposure tours." They are all literally scattered around the world. Some are directly involved in development works of third world countries and, I think, that most are trying to live as "fellow companions." Actually, when I retired from Sophia University in 1999 God gave me Fr. J. Puthenkalam as successor. I am convinced that it is the work of the hand of God.
"Meguko" has also a branch of adults or participating graduates. We selected, as slogan, "Meguko till death," but because the name does not sound so good, we decided to change it to "Always Meguko." Ad multos annos, Meguko banzai!

Sophia Institute for the Study of Social Justice (ISSJ)
I was for many years also working at the Institute for the Study of Social Justice. Sophia University established ISSJ back in 1981. It was a symbol of the new Jesuit orientation, the Promotion of Faith and Justice, launched at the 32nd General Jesuit Congregation.
The expression "social justice" did not sound familiar in Japan at the time, but we anticipated that it would later take roots, as in fact that happened. The purpose of the ISSJ is to investigate the conditions of social justice in the domestic and international areas of third world countries, through research, education and action programs. The decision of Sophia University's President in 1979, Fr. Pittau, actually the General Secretary of the Vatican's Catholic Universities Association, to have all the students participating in activities with refugees from the Indochina region was the direct occasion for the establishment of ISSJ. Students and University staff visited, by turns, Sakheo and Caodan Cambodian refugee camps located in the North East of Thailand and helped as volunteers caring and playing with the small children. The activities developed in such a way that about 180 volunteers visited the camps and had a direct experience with the suffering refugees. The University established ISSJ with a future vision of making contributions to the promotion of international justice, trying to develop experiences obtained in refugee camps. I became ISSJ director from 1981 to 1993.
Looking back at the activities of the Institute, ISSJ has organized yearly International Symposia for the promotion of justice. The following are some examples: "In Search of Human Dignity and World Order," Mr. & Mrs. Mische, etc. (Global Education Associates), "Development and Justice Issues in Asia," Ms. Tsurumi Kazuko, etc. "Liberation Theology," G. Gutierrez, A. Pieris, etc. "The World Refugees," Ogata Sadako, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) representative, Deiter Scholtz, etc. "The Challenge to Peace," Peter Henriot (America's Center of Concern), etc. "The Characteristics of Jesuit Education," J.Y. Calvez, etc. By inviting specialists, from both local and abroad institutions, we tried to obtain an interdisciplinary vision of the conditions for peace and justice. The results are published annually and are brought to use as complimentary educational materials to promote justice.
With regard to education activities there is something I could never forget. I was privileged to be able to invite three times to Sophia University Mother Theresa who was beatified last October 19th and provided an opportunity for many students to meet with her there.The words of Mother Theresa put into action by her, like "The opposite of love is lack of interest in the neighbor," "Love to the poorest of the poor is gratuitous," "Love starts from the family," "Let's respect and foster life," made certainly a deep impression in the young students.
Again, Poland's "Solidarity" Workers' Union President, Mr. Walesa, came to Sophia University, during his visit to Japan and explained to the students how Solidarity workers, with a real respect for human work, cooperated together with fortitude to fight the evil authorities during the cold war. Public reports have been distributed to all University staff.
Outreach activities started in 1981 in African refugee camps, through the implementation of field surveys together with volunteer students. We have paid visits to refugee camps in Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania, etc. and, though modestly, continue the financial support of urgent as well as self-reliant programs, like food, medical assistance, medical care for HIV/AIDS patients, well-digging, building facilities and schools, scholarships, the urgent rehabilitation of refugees and internally displaced persons and their self-reliance, etc. IJJS promotes such activities through "Sophia Relief Service," a subordinate group to assist the world poor. The Institute, in close cooperation with JRS in Asia and Africa, has been up to now committed to the issues of the poor in the world. I feel greatly encouraged by the fact that ISSJ is even more active now than it was. I pray that an increasing number of graduates could bring to realization, in the middle of our complicated modern times, an awareness of fellow companionship, upon receiving an education for love and justice with a Christian humanism that is the spiritual basis of Sophia University.
In passing, I take the opportunity to mention that I retired from Sophia University in 1999. Immediately after and due to past relationships I became the President of Our Lady's Women University College. Although it looks strange after finishing my 4 years term I was just reelected this year for a second term. I often tell the students the words of Mother Theresa: "Everybody is a VIP. Orphans and abandoned children as well as old persons living lonely in the streets, all are important persons. Let us become persons that provide always joy. Let us exchange greetings at home and at school. Communities where members greet each other are healthy and God dwells there."

This way, I feel that, to some respect, I have carried out my principles and my spiritual believes. From now on, always ready to the call, I want to accept it with a smiling face.
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