Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Ecology and Jesuit Mission

Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center Tokyo)

Beginning this year 2010 the Social Justice Secretariat, located at the Jesuit headquarters in Rome, changed its name to "Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat," showing a new determination to take ecological issues seriously. As a first step, the Secretariat established the "Jesuit Mission and Ecology Task Force" mentioned on page 5 (Headlines) of this Bulletin, consisting of 5 Jesuits and one lay woman. The co-conveners of the Task Force were Fernando Franco SJ (Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology) and Paul Locatelli SJ (Secretary for Education).

Jesuit General Congregations and Ecology

The impetus for establishing the Task Force came from General Congregation 35 (2008). Its Decree 3, "Challenges to Our Mission Today - Sent to the Frontiers," deals with ecology as a contemporary social problem. Issues like reconciliation with creation, over-exploitation of natural resources, environmental destruction and indigenous peoples, and ecologically displaced people are thoroughly discussed there. Decree 3 is seriously concerned about the close links between poverty and the destruction of the environment and it urges Jesuits to promote studies and activities focused on the causes of poverty. In addition, Decree 3 indicates special "global preferences" like reconciliation, Africa, China, the intellectual apostolate, and migration and refugees.
One might get the impression that Jesuit involvement in ecological issues has just started but, in fact, it began about ten years ago. On the other hand, the Franciscans have had a much older ecological involvement.
General Congregation 34 (1995) took a serious look at the social issues of the time in its decrees: "Our Mission and Justice," "Our Mission and Culture," and "Our Mission and Interreligious Dialogue." Even though ecological issues were included in the decree on "Our Mission and Justice," it was considered necessary to publish another document entitled "Ecology," recommending to Fr. General that a study be made regarding issues like how our Ignatian spirituality provides us with a foundation for a universal response with regard to the contemporary debate between development and ecology (which is often posed as an opposition between First World desires and Third World needs). There was also the issue of how our apostolates can contribute in their specific ways and can also further effective collaboration. The study was also to include how ecological issues affect our lifestyle and decisions made in our institutions. The results of this study were to be communicated to the whole Society.
In 1999 the document "We live in a broken world. Reflections on Ecology" was published by the Social Apostolate Secretariat (Rome) in Promotio Iustitiae no.70. Our Tokyo center did a Japanese translation of the document that was sent to all Jesuit communities. Please refer to: http://www.sjweb.info/sjs/index.cfm

"We Live in a Broken World"

This document (A4 size, 80 pages) takes an overall view of ecology and provides the basis for Jesuit involvement in ecological issues. The following is a summary of the booklet.


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