Justice mission claimed 56 Jesuits in 50 years

By Jose Kavi

New Delhi, September 26, 2019: As many as 56 Jesuits have lost their lives since their congregation made a commitment to promote a “faith that does justice” and foster reconciliation in society 50 years ago, says an official of the Society of Jesus.

“If we want to stand justice, we have to pay the price. We have sacrificed many Jesuits and their collaborators as our forefathers worked hard to bring justice and reconciliation in the world,” said Father Xavier Jeyaraj, director of Jesuits’ Rome-based Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat.

Father Jeyaraj, a member of the Calcutta Jesuit province, was addressing around 220 conferrers and their associates in South Asia who have gathered in Delhi to celebrate the golden jubilee of their congregation’s commitment to justice.

“If we want to commit for future, be ready to pay the price,” he told the opening session of the September 26-27 program at Navjeevan Renewal Center in Old Delhi.

Father Jeyaraj, who went to Rome in 2017 after four years of service as the secretary of Jesuits in Social Action in South Asia, said similar celebrations have taken place in various continents and all of them were occasions to review their ways, re-strengthen themselves to recommit to justice.

The bald and mustachioed diminutive Jesuit, who took up social justice seriously after a shock experience of witnessing the demolition of shanties in Mumbai in 1985, pointed out that the golden jubilee celebration takes place at a time when several crises that grip the world hinder the mission of justice and reconciliation.

“There is a crisis of democracy and leadership, a crisis rising from the growth of religious fundamentalism that destroys unity and harmony and a crisis of environment,” he explained.

He said many people in India cutting across religious and ideologies have paid the price for standing for truth and justice.

According to him, the new challenge for the Jesuit is to give hope to the world, following the example of Pope Francis and Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who shook up the world leaders on September 23 at the UN Climate Action Summit held in New York City.

“Our jubilee celebration is the beginning of our new mission of giving hope and love to a suffering world,” Father Jeyaraj predicted.

Patna Jesuit provincial Father Donald Miranda, who addressed the opening session, noted that although the SJES was set up in 1969, the social justice apostolate came to South Asia as a direct outcome of the congregation’s 32nd General Congregation that called for “preferential option for the poor.”

According to him, the social action apostolate has been the “fire that kindles other fires” within the congregation.

He expressed the hope the celebration would revitalize and reinvigorate the apostolate to rekindle that fire further and bring back the “apostolic aggressivity” that marked the congregation’s early years.

Another speaker was Delhi Jesuit provincial Father Sebastian Jeerakassery, who noted that the challenge before the South Asian Jesuits is to “visibly and tangibly accompany the poor and all the victims of injustice.”

Father Jeerakassery wants the golden jubilee celebration to “disturb us so as to bring us closer to the people of the periphery.”

Among the participants is Uday Narayan Choudhary, former minister and speaker of the Bihar legislative assembly.

The Jesuits in Social Action and the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, joint organizers of the program, terms it as convention to “walk with the poor, the outcastes of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice.”

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