Today, Tuesday 11 November, started with a rosy dawn over the plains stretching from El Escorial, where we are, all the way to Madrid, where we have come from yesterday:
Our morning prayer (including this video) reflected on the situation of the world, which we then asked God to transform so that God’s kingdom of justice and peace can grow among us.
Fernando Franco SJ, the director of the Social Justice Secretariat, was the keynote speaker of the day. His talk on GC35* and Advocacy gave us a sense of God’s narrative, God’s vision for the world, and how the efforts at advocacy within the Society of Jesus so far have sometimes been part of that narrative, sometimes maybe not so much. He repeatedly asked us to reflect on the question of so-called “successes” and “failures” which are not always what they seem, either way.
The fact that GC35 included in its documents the concept of Advocacy means, according to Fr Franco, that this concept has a history of “being socialised” in the Society of Jesus. GC35 said that the context of complex problems and rich opportunities that we find ourselves in, especially with regards to globalisation, demands that we build bridges between rich and poor and “establish advocacy links of mutual support”.
The feeling that we are part of a history that is beyond us continued with the presentations of advocacy experiences that followed the talk. Mauricio García from CINEP, the Centre for Research and Popular Education in Bogotá, Colombia, presented the work of the centre with regards to human rights violations in Colombia. The ongoing internal conflict, in which 56,827 civilians have died (in addition to about 35,000 armed forces) and 4 million have been displaced, is the difficult background on which CINEP promotes the passage from victims to citizens for those affected by the conflict.
As part of the presentation, Jim Stormes from the US Jesuit Conference’s office for International and Social Ministries reported on how they were working closely with CINEP and the Colombian Jesuits while lobbying the institutions in Washington, D.C.
After the coffee break…
(Indian Jesuits catching up on news)
…Sister Denise Coughlan RSM presented the Campaigns to ban landmines and cluster bombs that Jesuit Refugee Service has been part of for many years in Cambodia. She explained how after an initial 6-week process of discernment on “what to do” they built a team of national and international, refugee and non-refugee, disabled and non-disabled, Buddhist and Christian staff members that symbolised reconciliation in a country that was profoundly divided at the time.
Their advocacy regarding the ban on landmines was successful, in part because they worked closely with NGOs who were already experts on the issue so JRS could avoid being “a bunch of do-gooders” with no expertise. Another reason was that survivors played a major role in the advocacy action, under the motto “Say nothing about us without us”. The campaign continues to work on a ban on cluster bombs.
The next session has already started (presentations by South Asian People’s Initiatives and CEFAS) and we will report on those later tonight.
* The last General Chapter of the Jesuits, January – March 2008.