[ HEADLINES ARTICLES ] From Social Justice Secretariat, Society of Jesus

 Narratives:  Philip Amaral, Policy & Advocacy Officer, JRS-Europe, Brussels
Most of my workdays are spent in front of a computer. This is not a complaint, but a mere statement of fact. As a policy and advocacy officer for JRS-Europe, my tasks are more research- and policy-intensive than people-intensive. Of course, part of my job is to meet policymakers. But if I were to spend all my time doing that, then I wouldn't be able to fulfill my other tasks, and for that I must sit in front of a computer.
I am a social worker by training. Prior to JRS I treated persons with severe and chronic mental health illnesses. While I had that job I used to ask myself, "Wouldn't it be nice to have a quiet office job?" Now that I have a (relatively) quiet office job I ask myself, "Why am I sitting in a computer chair all day?"
This has led me to reflect on two important points. Firstly, everyone has a role, or roles, to play in life. Secondly, if you look for it, every role has a meaning. Two experiences put this in perspective.
Last year JRS-Europe organized an event in the European Parliament. We invited three refugees to come and mingle with MEPs. Two of these refugees, two women in fact, volunteered to offer a five-minute testimony of their experiences as refugees in Europe. One of the women was detained for 12 months before being granted protection and the other was left destitute for several months before she got her life going. Both spoke with a level of clarity, passion, dignity and courage that captured the attention of all who were present. They were better advocates for themselves than any NGO worker like myself could have been. My role was to put these two women in the same room as the MEPs. The women did the rest.
I am currently writing a report about asylum seekers and irregular migrants in detention. It is based on 685 one-on-one interviews with detainees collected from 21 EU countries. I have coordinated the project, analyzed the data and written the report without having interviewed one single person. I only see their words on my computer screen. But these words speak volumes. Each "case" has a name and a story and a lifetime of heartache. My role is to put the words of these detained persons onto paper and to ensure that the people who make detention policies read them. The words do the rest. [May 2010]

 Eco-news:  Establishment of a Jesuit Mission and Ecology Task Force
The Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat has been authorized by Father General to establish a task force to help implement Decree 3 of General Congregation 35, which encourages all Jesuits, "to appreciate more deeply our covenant with creation" (D 3, 36). The task force will take into account how the environment "touches the core of our faith in and love for God" (D 3, 32) and follow the lead of Pope Benedict XVI, who devoted chapter 4 of Caritas in Veritate to this theme. The pope stressed the importance of protecting and respecting the environment in his January 1, 2010, Peace message entitled "If you want to cultivate peace protect creation."
This is an appropriate time to have an aggiornamento with our Jesuit tradition. Ten years ago saw the publication of "We live in a broken world: Reflections on ecology" (1999), prepared by our Secretariat in response to Decree 20 of General Congregation 34. The Secretariat is attentive to reading the "signs of the times," noting the urgency of several environmental issues, including climate change, as well as the lack of good governance in dealing with the exploitation of natural and mineral resources. This calls for a response from the Society, and it needs to discern its specific contribution.
The Task Force will consist of a 5 Jesuits and one lay person: Jose Alejandro Aguilar SJ (Colombia), Leonard Chiti SJ (Zambia), Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ (Spain), Pedro Walpole SJ (Philippines), Joseph Xavier SJ (India) and Nancy C. Tuchman (USA). The co-conveners of the Task Force are Fernando Franco SJ (Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology) and Paul Locatelli SJ (Secretary for Education).
Together, they will be entrusted with the task of quickly preparing a report with practical recommendations. There will be two levels within the report: proposals for concrete ways to make the concern for ecology a "dimension" of all our ministries, and suggestions for concrete projects (action plans) with an inter-disciplinary dimension. The stress will be on global and international aspects and issues and methodologies in which the Society can use its distinctive strengths. Father General has encouraged the Secretariat to pursue this direction. [May 2010]

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