One might have thought they would be exhausted after two long days of immersion, talks and group work, but the third and final day of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) sustainability conference saw ideas coming fast and furious on how sustainability in Asia Pacific can be increased. A bright flame had been lit in the approximately 140 participants from across Asia Pacific.
The conference “A Call to Dialogue on the Sustainability of Life in the ASEAN Context” was the largest collaboration of JCAP sectors in recent years involving nine areas in which the Jesuits in Asia Pacific work – Dialogue with Buddhism, Dialogue with Islam, Indigenous Ministry, Social Apostolate, Migration, Reconciliation with Creation, Higher Education, Basic Education and Formation. It was held from August 8 to 10 at Sanata Dharma University, the Jesuit university in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, with participants from Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Macau, Korea, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Congo, Italy and India.
Through addresses by keynote speakers Fr Patxi Alvares SJ, Director of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus in Rome, and Dr Manickam Nadarajah, Director and Consultant of the Global Centre for Study of Sustainable Futures and Spirituality, along with input from other resource speakers, the participants were invited to reflect on the spiritual, social and environmental dimensions of sustainability. The first day devoted to an immersion experience helped them to anchor their learning in the ASEAN context, and begin thinking about actions that their Jesuit ministries, provinces and regions can do toward a future that is shared with the earth and the poor.
“These enriching lessons formed an understanding that enabled [us] to come up with guidelines on practices to stop, start, and sustain so that, guided by Pope Francis’ Laudato si’, we may all work together in actions and efforts that will lead us toward sustaining life,” shared Cecille Marie Villena, a student of Ateneo de Manila University and a member of the organising team.
The participants left the conference with renewed zeal and spirit for taking concrete actions that will contribute to the collaborative mission of sustainability. As Fr Mark Raper SJ, JCAP President, said in his closing remarks, “We have seen another way of being a conference. It is not always decisions from the top, from the major superiors, that result in the most action. The ideas we have heard during these three days of meeting have sparked a fire that will hopefully set our various provinces and regions on fire to work for justice in the area of sustainability.”
The task now is to find a home for the JCAP focus on sustainability of life in order to foster inter-institutional and inter-province collaboration, modelled on Laudato si’, to respond to the cries of the poor and mother earth. Also, to facilitate reflection on sustainability by the participants and people not able to attend the sustainability conference (many were turned away because of space constraints), the organiser plans to publish the papers in a book.
Here’s a video showing highlights of the sustainability conference: