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Vol. XVI, No. 2 6 February 2012
Visit to Vietnam. On the occasion of his trip to Australia to attend the Meeting of JCAP, the Jesuits Conference of Major Superiors of Asia Pacific (see Electronic News Service no. 1, 17 January 2012), Father General made a visit to Vietnam to meet the Jesuits of this young fast-growing Province which has suffered so much. The three-days' visit was a great encouragement, and busy with meetings: with scholastics, brothers, novices, candidates to the Society, Province consultors, the rector of scholasticate, the sick and elderly in the infirmary, etc. The Assistant for Asia-Pacific, Father Daniel Huang, who is accompanying Father General on this trip, notes: "Father General had a fruitful dialogue with the young men in formation of the Vietnamese Province. He encouraged and challenged them to aim to serve not just Vietnam but the universal mission of the Society, and to deepen the spirit of Saint Ignatius in their lives . . . Of the approximately 160 members of the Province, over 100 are in formation." A highlight of the visit was the Eucharistic celebration with all the Jesuits who were able to attend: this was followed by a fraternal, convivial encounter. As is usual in these trips, there was also a meeting and a Eucharistic celebration with the collaborators and friends of the Society, including a cordial visit to a good friend of the Society, the cardinal archbishop of Ho Chi Minh city, Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man. Father General's visit coincided with the Têt, the celebration of the Lunar New Year, the most important Vietnamese holiday.
From the Curia
Jesuit Refugee Service Strategic Framework 2012-2015. Father General Adolfo Nicolás has recently approved the Jesuit Refugee Service Strategic Framework 2012-2015. This is the product of extensive consultation with JRS's regional directors, its Administrative Council members, and the staff of its international office. The document provides an inspirational and challenging set of strategies for all ten JRS regions. They will make use of this Framework in developing their regional strategic plans and their annual action plans. Driven by its mission to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced people, the Framework highlights JRS's identity as a Catholic organization and a work of the Society of Jesus. Inspired by deeply held values, JRS has committed itself during the coming four years to the following four goals: 1. Compassion for humanity on the edge; 2. Rooted in faith, acting in justice; 3. Kindling hope through learning; 4. A stronger, more united JRS. The new Framework is firmly rooted in the values of subsidiarity and participation. In a foreword to the Strategic Framework, Father General described it as a creative, inspiring and challenging document which will demand hard work and involve considerable risk. He expressed his joy because in this document, "imbued with Christian commitment and Ignatian vision . . . we see faith, justice and collaboration joined once again in a single unified vision." The entire text is available on the JRS website: www.jrs.net.
Father General has appointed:
- Father Fratern Masawe General Counsellor and Regional Assistant for Africa (AFR) succeeding Father Jean Roger Ndombi. After being Provincial of East Africa and President of JESAM, Father Masawe is currently in his sabbatical year. The change will take place next September. Father Fratern was born in 1956, entered the Society of Jesus in 1978 and was ordained a priest in 1987.
From the Provinces
CAMBODIA: Serving the Poorest of the Poor
Banteay Prieb, a training centre set up by Jesuit Service Cambodia for Cambodians maimed by the war or by landmines, recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. The Centre of the Dove, as it is called in English, is located in a former military communication centre, prison and Khmer Rouge killing field: it is now transformed into a place for peace, justice and reconciliation. In the beginning, most of students of the centre were former soldiers, from four different opposing groups, who had been physically disabled during the war. Upon arriving at the centre, they found that they had to live with their opponents in the same place. The reality that they were all physically disabled made them slowly start to talk with each other and to eat together, and they eventually became good friends. Today, as Cambodia has slowly found peace and there are ever fewer victims of war and landmines, the centre mostly takes in individuals with physical disabilities which have resulted from accidents or diseases, such as polio. Now, more than half of its students are polio victims, many from poor families across Cambodia. During the 25-year civil war, most children were not able to get the polio vaccine and so polio is prevalent. Twenty years after its establishment, Banteay Prieb continues to be true to its original purpose, which is to serve the poorest among the poor. Everything in Banteay Prieb is dedicated towards the realization of peace: personal, family, communal and national peace. The Khmer characters beautifully integrated into the wing of the dove of its logo mean "Everything for Peace". For more information on Banteay Prieb, go to www.banteayprieb.org
CHINA: Shanghai Honors Ricci's Disciple
Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai has issued a pastoral letter for the upcoming Chinese New Year urging his flock to learn from Paul Xu Guangqi, the first local Catholic convert whose cause for canonization the diocese is promoting. The letter Xu Guangqi: A Man for All Seasons was published three weeks before the start of the Chinese Year of the Dragon, which began on January 23. Describing himself as "an old fan" of Xu (1562-1633), the prominent 95-year-old Jesuit prelate urged Catholics to respect, commemorate and propagate the sage during this, the 450th anniversary of his birth. Xu, a Chinese scholar-bureaucrat who collaborated with Fr Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), had a mild and flexible character but "it does not mean he easily compromised his faith or had no aggressiveness in evangelization. During the difficult early days of the Church in China, Xu insisted on practicing Fr Ricci's principle of respecting Chinese culture and maintaining a cautious approach in protecting the Church community," Bishop noted. "At the same time, Xu tried his best to explain the Catholic faith to the emperor and to put himself forward as a role model for being both a Catholic and loyal Chinese citizen." According to Bishop Jin, Xujiahui district in downtown Shanghai, which grew around the graveyard where Xu was buried, became a place from which modern Chinese culture developed and spread.
EAST TIMOR: Audiovisual Production
Casa de Produção Audiovisual's(CPA) mission is to share hope through storytelling. As the first non-profit audiovisual production center in Timor-Leste, CPA has been the groundbreaker in developing inspiring and popular audiovisuals of high quality for the country. CPA is widely recognized and supported by people in Timor-Leste, as well as by government and non-government partners, both in the country and abroad. Its programs are oriented towards ordinary Timorese people, especially the young. The production team consists of 15 enthusiastic and creative members each with their roles in producing/scriptwriting, videography, animation, editing and graphic design. The organization needs creative and reliable direction in order to continue to inspire and nurture the skills and energy of its team. Timor is a fragile post-conflict society emerging from a violent history and facing transitional challenges. CPA plays an important role in documenting and nurturing local cultural skills and music, and in recording the people's struggle for peace. Casa de Produção Audiovisual was founded by the Fundaçao Companhia de Jesus em Timor-Leste (the Jesuits) in 2002. The Jesuits do not exercise tight editorial control over CPA, but make sure that it is faithful to its mission and accountable, that it maintains quality, and that it plays its role in the education of youth.
INDIA: Attack on a Jesuit College
On 27 January, an attack took place on the College of St. Joseph in Anekal, 40 km south of Bangalore, (Karnataka). The reason for the assault was the alleged failure to display the Indian flag during the Republic Day celebrations. Extremists attacked the university campus in full view of the police, who took the rector, Fr. Melvin Medonca, into custody for nine hour in the hope that this could disperse the mob. Students and teachers from the school, who tried to defend their rector, were beaten. Jesuits have been working in Anekal for the past 40 years (mainly in social work). In 2010 St. Joseph’s Pre-University College started for the benefit of poorer sections of society. Currently, there are 378 students in the Institute, among whom about 220 are Dalits, and 60 Tribals. According to Fr. Melvin, Hindus stormed the university not because the flag was not displayed (which was not true), but to prevent Dalits and Tribals from being educated. In the last year, extremists have stormed the campus eight times, and they have called for the closure of the Institute. A number of attacks against Christians have been recorded in recent years in the municipality of Anekal. In 1999, a group of St. Joseph College students were attacked by extremists, and in the same year, a Jesuit scholastic was stabbed while returning from a village a few kilometers from the city. In 2011, there have been more than a thousand attacks on Christians and Christian institutions.
ITALY: Ten Years of Fe y Alegría
Jesuit Father José María Vélaz founded Fe y Alegría (Faith and Joy) in Caracas (Venezuela) with the aim of offering an educational program to socially disadvantaged citizens. It soon spread all over Latin America, and it currently operates in 17 countries: this includes Africa and Europe, where it plays an important role for migrant populations. In view of the social changes which result from extensive immigration, and the desire to offer Ecuadorian migrants access to a formation course, the Pilar sisters and Narcisa Soria, together with the Jesuits and with the approval of Fr. Kolvenbach, set up the first Roman office of Fe y Alegria on September 16, 2001. Another one was later set up in Milan, followed by one in Genoa. Since then, about 1,500 young people have studied in the institution, and many of them reached graduation level. This dream has materialized and grown because of the collaboration between the Jesuit and other religious communities, the co-operation of Ecuadorian and Latin American teachers, and the groups of students themselves. Fe y Alegría also offers Ecuadorian detainees a training service which aims to offer an alternative path for social reintegration. Fe y Alegria continues to promote a number of other social, educational and sporting services to strengthen the cultural development of people, and to enhance equality of rights and intercultural dialogue between peoples.
IVORY COAST: Hillary Clinton Visits CERAP
On the occasion of her trip to the Ivory Coast on 17 January, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton paid a visit to CERAP, the Research and Action Centre for Peace run by the Society of Jesus in Abidjan. In her remarks she said: "We know how hard it is to overcome differences and to work toward reconciliation . . . Your country and all Ivoirians can overcome the differences that have, for too long, hurt the progress of your nation. Our political or ethnic or religious differences are not as important as our common humanity . . . Everyone has a role to play in deciding whether the future will be peaceful or not. Whether you are a president of a country, a minister or imam, a young man or a young woman, each person can decide whether to go on hating or to begin living together and working together." In her speech she specifically mentioned the work done by CERAP with the program Search for Common Ground. She said: "It is our hope and our prayer that the work that is being done here will help build a new, strong, peaceful, prosperous Cote d'Ivoire for the young men and women and for all the children to come." CERAP was established by the Society of Jesus in 2002 from the restructuring of INADES, the African Institute for Economic and Social Development, which in turn was founded in 1962. In 2005, CERAP was officially recognized as a private establishment of higher learning. Divided into four departments, the goal of CERAP is to train West African students who have the potential to exercise positions of responsibility in private, public, national and international affairs.
NEPAL: Ordination for a Nepalese Priest
An ethnic Nepalese Jesuit priest from India has been ordained in the country's poorest parish. On December 31, Father Samuel Simick, 32, was ordained by Nepal's Apostolic Vicar Jesuit Bishop Anthony Sharma, in Maheshpur parish, about 600 kilometers east of Kathmandu. He joins three other priests, one diocesan and two Jesuits, who were ordained there by Bishop Sharma last year. The ceremony, concelebrated by about two dozen priests, was held at the Moran Memorial School in Maheshpur, which is set amidst tea gardens. Family members and friends of the priest from India, as well as over 500 other Catholics from across Nepal attended the ceremony: this was despite a series of transport strikes which was gripping the country. The ordination of Fr Simick, who hails from northern West Bengal, increases the number of priests working in Nepal to 68, eight of whom have been ordained by Bishop Sharma since being made Apostolic Vicar in 2007.
SOUTH SUDAN: The Uncertain Steps of the New State
Last year, Christmas was celebrated with a measure of exhilaration and expectancy - the Referendum on Independence for South Sudan was set for 9 January. With the vote nearly universally in favor, South Sudan separated from the North and became Independent on 9 July. The excitement continues, even as it becomes clear that building a nation requires much dedication and commitment. And this New Year carries many anxieties - hard-line northerners continue to oppose southern Independence and to unleash military activities in many border areas. Yes, it is partly a matter of oil and the sharing of resources, but dictatorial leaders, backed by a fundamentalist Islamic ideology, also do not accept the loss of control over the largely Christian and black African communities in the South. The "Arab Spring" is alive across Africa . . . dictatorial leaders and their supporters give up power only reluctantly. International pressure is critical if we are to avoid a return to open war. This is the context and background of South Sudan today. On a positive note, the Catholic University of South Sudan is in its fourth year with more than 500 students. May 12 has provisionally been set for the graduation of the pioneer students. In Juba, some 400 students study in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences; in Wau, 350 miles to the northwest, 120 students are enrolled in the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Yes, the Baby is born and continues to grow, even if her steps often appear to be uncertain and faltering.