By Irudhaya Jothi
New Delhi, September 27, 2019: Around 220 Jesuit rights activist and their collaborators from South Asia have spent two days to review their past 50 years of commitment in social justice and seek new ways to become relevant to the marginalized.
The Jesuits in Social Action (JESA) Convention 2019 was held September 26-27 at Navjivan Renewal Centre in Old Delhi.
The Jesuits all over the world have committed to focus on Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAP), which was the fruit of two years of reflection, discernment of Jesuits globally, says Father Xavier Jeyaraj, director of Rome-based Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat.
The preferences include: To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment; To walk with the poor, the outcast of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice; To accompany the young in the creation of a hope filled future; and To collaborate in the care of earth, “our Common Home.”
Many activists from different walks of life and groups shared their experiences at the convention.
One of them was Kavita Srivastava, a human rights and food rights activist who stressed the need to work out “a methodology of resistance in today’s context,”
Citing examples of human rights violations in India executed systematically based on a fascist ideology, she challenged the participants to become pro-active to make the voice of poor heard.
“The present government is ever vigilant and ready to criminalize and tag anyone a ‘Urban Naxalite’ if she/he questions the unjust system and policies influenced by the crone capitalist,” Srivastava said.
She bemoaned the central government policy of one language, one culture, one religion and “muscled nationalism.” The plurality of our country needs to be respected, protected and promoted, she added.
The national secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties also cautioned people not to mix-up Hinduism with Hindutva!
She warned that there is a clear attempt today to violate what India’s founding fathers had given to citizens. Protecting our fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution is our primary responsibility today, Srivastava asserted.
She cautioned of the risk of militarization of the country just as was happening in Kashmir.
The passing of various amendments unilaterally in the last session of the parliament, without following any established norms, is a frightening sign of what could be expected from those who play on their brute majority and muscle nationalism, she added.
Srivastava asked the participants end their silence and stand for justice. She asked the grassroots workers to become cyber trained.
She encouraged working on the methodologies and re-invent self to face the multi-faceted challenges creatively.
Annie Raja, secretary of National Federation of Indian Women and a politician, challenged the gathering to be honest on the practice of caste system in Christianity and she vehemently condemned the two cemetery system still prevalent in some places.
She called for conversion of hearts and put the house in order before moving ahead to network with other movements for witnessing for justice. “Come out of your comfort zones and be like the ordinary citizens who are marginalized or you will be forced to be one,” she warned the Jesuits and their collaborators.
Yogitaj Christopher, who has worked with Jesuits in Sri Lanka for more than 20 years, expressed satisfaction in being part of the convention.
“It is really an eye opening for me to see on how the Jesuits with collaborators in India are taking up very challenging works using multidimensional approaches,” she told Matters India.
JESA secretary Sannibhai expressed satisfaction on the outcome of the convention that has decided to network with as many justice-oriented groups as possible to help build a just society.
Jesuit Father P R John, the principal of Vidyajyoti College of Theology, one of the organizers, expressed the hope the convention would inspire some of his students to join social action.
Prabhakar Oddipalli, a Jesuit theology student from Jamshedpur province, said the convention taught him to conduct a national seminar. “It gave me an opportunity to learn from people of their struggle and Jesuit involvement,” he told Matters India.