Jean-Yves Calvez,sj
The Jesuits are all over the world. There are around 20,000 of them, in approximately 140 countries. They run Colleges and Universities, high schools, parishes, retreat houses and missions, but they also take part in many works for social justice, the prisoners and the sick, the migrants, all those in need, and they take part in advocacy for the same. And this is what I am asked to remind to you today on the 25th anniversary of the Tokyo Social Center.

Ignatius already                      
The founder, Ignatius of Loyola, gave the example of a commitment to those in need, concretely through an institution for the prostitutes of the city of Rome, Saint Martha. He also gathered help for the poor of Rome… during a war. He wrote in the basic document of foundation to be approved by the highest authority in the Catholic Church, that the members of his community would take to heart to engage in the proposition of the Christian faith but would also employ themselves "in peacefully resolving conflicts, in reaching out with sympathetic support to those who languish in jails and hospices, or by taking up any work that love inspires as being for God’s glory and the good of all". Ignatius also recommended to the companions he sent to the great and solemn assembly of the Council of Trent (second half of the XVIth century), that they should spend their spare time in the hospitals. Hospitals were then rather asylums (homes) for poor people, they existed in that sense in most European cities. He wrote once to some of his companions how much he expected them to have some poor as their friends. The Jesuits have done a lot of different things in close to five centuries of history but they have never stopped giving part at least of their attention to the poor sections of the populations.
JRS, Jesuit Refugee Service
One of the most outstanding recent achievements in that area is the JRS, Jesuit Refugee Service. Not only Jesuits work in this service, but other catholic religious men and women too, lay people as well. It began one night in the terrible period of the boat people adrift in the Chinese sea, along the coast of Indonesia too, ransacked by pirates… Father Pedro Arrupe, superior general at the time, listening that night to radio news on the plight of those people, generally of Vietnamese origin, had his secretary write immediately - that very night - to the Jesuit superiors of the Far East and South Asia, on the one side, and to those of Europe and America, on the other, to ask them to figure out what they could do in order to help either locally, close to the scene, or in countries capable of receiving those refugees because, in the presence of such a misfortune, the Jesuits could not "do nothing". He received a great amount of suggestions not to speak of commitments. He created JRS, a very small JRS when it began. But it grew... Father Arrupe, the founder of JRS, had spent 27 years of his life in Japan, was very well-known in Japan, is still known of many I think. He had lived in Japan the difficult war years, he had even got imprisoned some time then, under the suspicion of being a spy - because, being a foreigner of Spanish origin, he owned a radio capable of international communication. He was, later, in the outskirts of Hiroshima at the moment of the atomic explosion and helped with his medical knowledge -he had been a student of medicine -, he did his best to serve a few hundred people terribly burnt and irradiated by the explosion. No wonder that he remained extremely sensitive to all mishaps, hazards and violence suffered by people whom he encountered all over the world. Not by mere chance he spent the last active day of his life, before a brain stroke, in the refugee camps of Thailand on the border of Cambodia at the worst moment of the Cambodian crises.
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I know that students of Jochi University have served in many ways with JRS particularly in Cambodia. If I also try to go back to my personal memories of Japan, which I visited a few times through the years, I remember with emotion a day and a night spent at Kamagasaki, near Osaka, observing how a few Jesuits and their collaborators took care of the day workers living there, undocumented, and without social protection... as a witness of love for some of the most unhappy of the people in Japan.
The Jesuits have worked in all kinds of ways, too, in the many countries of Latin America suffering from the military dictatorships in the seventies of the last century, too often persecuting the poor people who suffered and protested. They simultaneously tried to work for pacification, speaking with the insurgencies, as in the case of El Salvador in Central America, running great risks as a consequence. Six of them, together with their cook and her daughter, were thus savagely slaughtered in the Fall of 1989 at the Jesuit University of San Salvador in El Salvador. Other Jesuits have died in Latin America in those years for similar causes. I am thinking of one, a Brazilian, Burnier, who was killed just for having tried to get some information for his relatives on the fate of a poor man imprisoned by the police in Mato Grosso. All this was action for social justice, involving high risks. Not all times are as dangerous, anyhow the work for people in great need goes on in favelas of Brazil, in rural areas of central America, in precarious urbanization of Argentina or Santo Domingo, in the Philippines as well. And no less in Europe, think of some sectors of Berlin or of Marseilles or of Brussels, of Barcelona.

Actions for peace                  
Actions for peace have developed too at important moments as in Sarajevo during the Balkan wars following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, or in Belfast when there was a wall in that city too and when a few inter-religious communities had established themselves near this wall in order to give an example of reconciliation and cultivate a spirit of pacification between the two sides in confrontation. Similar actions are in progress at this very moment in some so called peace zones in Colombia, South America, in these peace zones there live populations who refuse to share in any of the causes of the different guerrillas and profess to live unarmed, running risks of course on the different sides but giving examples nevertheless of a pacified Colombia. If justice is a goal for the Jesuits, so is peace and pacification, too, a similar goal. Peace is for them the outcome of justice.

The 32d General Congregation of the Jesuits (1974-5)
A great moment for the Jesuits and their friends and collaborators was the winter of 1974-75. It was little after a Roman gathering (a synod) of Catholic Bishops which had dealt with "Justice in the World", 1971, and spoken of the commitment of the Church in that area, "a constitutive dimension of the preaching of the Gospel", they had said. A General Assembly of the Jesuits gathered in its turn, during the winter of 74-75, in order to make a general review of the activities of their community. They tried to listen to the voices of poverty and injustice in the whole world at that moment, and confronted these voices with their foundational documents. They concluded by declaring that their service of the faith in God, concretely speaking service of the Christian faith, of necessity includes a service to men and women in need of justice as well: today as ever, maybe, but nevertheless very especially today. They made the promotion of justice -these are their words- an "intrinsic" part of their fundamental activity, service of the faith. Thus they gave a new start and a new look to a traditional commitment in that area, it was so to say modernized and began to develop anew, including everything I have said at the beginning, very specifically all that which has to do with the refugees, the other kinds of migrants too, being a cause of such magnitude in the present world. There is hardly any country today where the problem is not acute. There is the case of the people who run away to escape political, ethnic, even religious persecution, there is the case, too, of those who try to escape hunger and destitution in countries with hardly any hope of development (as are maybe some sub-Saharan sahelian countries, quite distant from the seas which would give them a chance to trade, constantly threatened on the other hand by the great uncertainty of the rains). The plight of those people is generally very hard, the situation on the other hand involves most difficult political issues. If you want to work for justice, you have to get involved in both. The Jesuits are indeed involved in them in many places. Advocacy is a part of their social activity in these times too. Concerning for instance the poor people from Black Africa trying to cross the Mediterranean sea in order to get to Europe today.
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A precondition for all this activity stated a more recent General assembly of the Jesuits, (1995), summing up that of 1974-75, is the encounter with the poor and marginalized, a life in solidarity with them, and readiness to take up their cause. "Our hearts, says the 1995 assembly, will be powerfully drawn to such a mission by the contact with these ‘friends in the Lord', from whom we often learn so much [too] about faith". "Our communities should whenever possible be located among ordinary folk". Another precondition for this service being "dialogue rooted in respect for persons, specially the poor, so that we share in their cultural and spiritual values while we offer them our own treasured culture and spirituality". To which one can add, according to the 1975 document, "solidarity and ready availability in face of the international dimensions of the major problems of our day", first of all great awareness of those dimensions. Finally, all this should be practised by all Jesuits, not only by those specifically in social action or social apostolates. And they should not be afraid, a special mention being certainly made by the 1975 assembly, of the "fears" as well as the "apathy" that may come in the way of this commitment.

The final why of all this      
The why of all this passionate involvement is in the interest shown by the Christian churches towards the issues of justice, peace, reconciliation all through the last century, and even more than a century if you go back to the Letter of pope Leo XIII in 1891 on the condition, that is in fact the plight of the working people in the ascending period of industrialization.
Reading a number of autobiographical narratives which have been gathered recently, this very year, in another publication of the Jesuit headquarters, The spirituality of Jesuit social apostolate, one realizes that what has led to the deep personal involvement of individual Jesuits or friends of theirs, has generally been, as I already said, the encounter, on whatever occasion, with people in situations of destitution, in great need, with migrants, people in jail, people about to be deported, etc., treated in a way in which mankind should never treat any of its members. You read this, case after case, in the publication I quote.
"I was shocked, says a woman collaborator of the Jesuits, and demoralized that we allow human beings to live like this. How can the economic policies of our world allow hundreds of millions of people to go hungry every day". A Spanish Jesuit then tells how he went to Germany to study philosophy, there came across the "large numbers of Galician and Andalusian immigrants... working in wretched conditions, far from their families, supplementing the precarious Spanish economy with their remittances to their loved ones back home". "It was then, he says, that I learned to distinguish the hidden mechanisms at work within our historical and social reality".  This reminds me, by the way, of Father Arrupe visiting the Spanish speaking people in the New York jails, on his way to Japan just before World War Second, being profoundly struck by their treatment as real underdogs in comparison with American nationals. The Spanish Jesuit I was just quoting adds for his part: "I also witnessed radical Christian living there such as I had never seen before; for example, Marcelino, a Spanish diocesan priest, an intellectual and a mystic who lived in the hovels of the working-class ghetto while completing his doctoral thesis". Others of our storytellers have decided to change neighbourhood after discovering humbler people, poor and disenfranchised. Others have met the marginalized populations of the huge Amazonian area of Brazil, especially "the villagers of the riverbanks". For still another one, everything began with a soup kitchen in his novitiate in Sri Lanka: "I remember the bright-eyed Veeran who coughed badly in the soup kitchen queue... I still remember him and sometimes wonder whether he died early of TB. Why was he so poor?"

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Some commentators of the aforesaid narratives note that today's Jesuits in comparison with some of thirty years ago do not feel themselves as capable of offering great solutions, or, it is said, they are "soberly aware of the limitations of all earthly political and institutional projects" so that they'll be satisfied with "being" or "living" "with the poor", they feel by the way that "the poor are often revelatory of the best of humanity". Or they discover that "the religions' ability or willingness to set the world aright appears thin". At the same time it is the companionship discovered in some foundational encounters that leads to the unrelenting work of quite a few for justice and more human social order.
A number of them, I would even say most, refer their encounter of some poor, very poor people, people suffering injustice, to their encounter of Jesus of Nazareth, who, as you know, is at the center of the Christian religion and appeared typically poor and humble, close to the poor of his time and people, he is of course the most essential reference for the Jesuits. In the back finally of all this, there is currently among the Jesuits a view of God himself, as the poor one near us, not the mighty, paradoxically (paradoxically because we say he is God) as the one who deprives himself of everything for us even if we do not repay.
Already as he creates us he gives of himself, he gives himself (the Gospel says he lets his sun shine for all, good and evil people alike). It is a religious view of this kind which animates the Jesuits, many of them at least, in their attention for the poor, the sick, the people in need, the disenfranchised, it animates them in their love for all these, one can say. Not just a moralistic or an ethical view, it is rather a question of encountering that Jesus of Nazareth and of encountering God himself in the poor and humble people and when working for them. That does not say that they do not build up an ethical view as a consequence, but the spring of their action is then directly religious too.
Why did all this finally get so much enhanced in the years 50 to 80 of the last century? Probably, it was because poverty and injustice have struck more in the aftermath of the 2nd World War and because war was fought by quite a few in order, among other things, to free people "from want". In certain countries too there was the feeling that all, including the poor, had terribly suffered from the war, and that the poor deserved as a consequence to be really recognized as equal partners and citizens, which they were not always before. In the Church it led to a Council, Vatican II, which presented the war against injustice as an essential element of the Christian commitment. It is there that the Jesuits themselves of course belonged and still belong, with the hope that this attention to the poor and to all the unjustly treated never die in their community.
St. Ignatius Church, Tokyo,
July 8, 2006
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