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SJ 4.2 and the Planet Wide Environmental Challenges

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

This blog contribution turns out to be playful and serious at the same time. It aims at highlighting the responsibilities of institutions as the Society of Jesus, the Ignatian Family and the Roman Catholic Church – and not only these – in the midst of the planet wide environmental challenges. It attempts to offer a “network” frame to better understand these responsibilities. I am not sure it will work, but I surely do hope so, when I continue to hear the message heralded by the media that we should not really expect much from COP16.

There is fascination when one looks at the phenomenon of the World Wide Web – it represents a complex network in full evolution. That is the reason why expressions as Web 2.0 or even Web 3.0 are used. It struck me that I could do something similar with regard to the Society of Jesus, so as to sketch the complex network it represents. And while doing so, I was also struck how this network representation provides us with a powerful tool to discern how to serve the world and God’s people, precisely in the midst of the planet wide environmental crisis.

SJ 1.0 represents, so to say, the Jesuits as individuals. They are people who have made a particular choice in their lives and who have gone through a process of formation and spiritual growth, in which discernment takes an important place. Jesuits share the engagement with the Spiritual Exercises and they belong to an organisation ruled by Constitutions.

Jesuits are also organized in provinces. It is their primary network – their Provincial knows each one of them and assigns missions. We could call this network:SJ 2.0. In their missions, assigned to them by their provincials,Jesuits have always had collaborators and friends, but recently they have become more aware that these really share in their missions and take responsibilities in these, also at the level of discerning and deciding how these missions are best articulated. This is, so to say, SJ 2.1. Of course, this leads to reflections on SJ 1.1: how does the individual Jesuit relate to non-Jesuit collaborators and friends?

Recently, Jesuits have become more deeply aware of regional networking, precisely because they experience differences at that level: there are Indian Jesuits, European Jesuits, US Jesuits, Latin American Jesuits, African Jesuits, etc. There is a level of identity and mission that reflects these regions, and it is given shape in conferences of provincials. This level could be called SJ 3.0, and we have become aware of significant and interesting, challenging, differences in our perceptions of the world. Of course, at this level the relationships with collaborators arise in new ways, that are often culturally determined: meet SJ 3.1.

And then, there is one more level, and it is crucial: SJ 4.0, the universal, planet wide Society of Jesus. Jesuits have that sense that they have places to feel at home all over the world – they belong to and feel part of a really big organisation, truly transnational. Here we find a solidarity and a loyalty that areborn deep in the personal experiences at level SJ 1.0 and that find concrete expressions at levels SJ 2.0 and SJ 3.0. And again, Jesuits are learning how important it is to change the o in 1, also at level 4: SJ 4.1 is emerging as a solid reality.

In the perspective of Ignatius Loyola, SJ 4.0 receives great importance. He enshrines this level of network in the so-called fourth vow of obedience to the Pope concerning the missions. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Pope is the person in charge of the broadest perspective, of a universal view on the world. We could, therefore, – and even if Popes are human beings and may not always be capable of this broad view – explain the fourth vow and SJ 4.0 as follows: whatever concrete mission Jesuits are involved in, they are invited to heed the universal perspective, to become aware that in the very concreteness of their experiences and actions the larger vision of God over the universe is at work and at stake.

Networks SJ 4.0 and SJ 4.1 strike me as particularly important with regard to planet wide environmental challenges. The Society of Jesus and the Ignatian Family (indicating the Jesuits and their collaborators and friends … the expression may not be the best, but I use it for lack of better) are organized so as to have a universal and planet wide perspective and scope of action, even and precisely when they are committed locally and concretely. They enjoy the resources and possibilities of an organisation that can address worldwide challenges, such as climate change. Moreover, they can take into account the differences at levels 3, 2 and 1, in a spirit of creative collaboration in solidarity. Jesuits and collaborators in various parts of the world, in the rich countries, in the emerging countries, in the developping countries, in those countries and places that already suffer the consequences of climate change, belong to one body that exists in a profound solidarity at level 4.

One could even be tempted to introduce SJ 4.2: the universal Society of Jesus and the universal Ignatian Family are becoming aware of their relationship to the planet, to nature, to creatures of all kind, alive or not. SJ 4.2 means that Jesuits, collaborators and friends begin to act together with nature, accepting creatures as partners in the mission of creation. The fourth vow, the vow of universality, concerns not only human beings, but the whole spectrum of creatures. The challenge is to take into account, in concrete missions, the existence of these creatures, to act out of the awareness that our lives depend upon them and are lived in solidarity with them. The alliance that expresses our belonging to the same creation becomes the scope of the word “universal”. The existence of SJ 4.2, of course, invites us also to think of SJ 1.2, SJ 2.2 and SJ 3.2. We are learning to ask the question: what does our alliance with nature and with the planet mean at personal, provincial, regional and planet wide perspective. Our network is becoming richer and fuller, but also more demanding.

SJ 4.2 opens up a very interesting perspective on planet wide challenges and on the climate change crisis. It reveals a hitherto unsuspected mission and opportunity, an expression of what it means to belong to the Society of Jesus or to the Ignatian Family.

Is it necessary to say that I suspect the existence of RCC 4.2, where RCC stands for Roman Catholic Church? And why should we think that RCC is the last step? But, at least, I would suggest to take seriously both SJ 4.2 and RCC 4.2.

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COP16: Context and Hopes

November 28, 2010 2 comments

I would like to highlight some of the important elements of the context, in which COP16 takes place. I will, in a second move, formulate some of the hopes one can cherish at this moment. (1) The health bulletin of our planet and the threats to human and planetary life have worsened: we continue to deplete – and at an accelerated pace – the natural resources of our planet; CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere – the consequence of our lifestyles – are still increasing and heating up of the planet rapidly; biodiversity is suffering. (2) There is much less public interest with regard to the global environmental crisis than was the case at COP15 in Copenhagen. (3) From a political perspective, matters don’t seem to have improved. In my own country, rather than discussing the urgent matters at hand, the media focus on the quarrel between some of our ministers: who will take the pride to head the Belgian delegation at Cancún? Such discussions go on, while we now know that Belgium has one of the worst ecological footprints in the world. In the USA, the hope felt when Obama was elected, has now dissipated again. We cannot, therefore, expect serious moves from one of the main actors. Meanwhile, the so-called emerging countries (such as China, India, Russia and Brasil) are becoming more important, not only because they claim an ever growing share of the natural resources for their own development, but also because they begin to define their own environmental policies and because their voice at the international conference tables becomes more important. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily good news for the developping countries and the poor countries: they continue to be exploited for their resources and do not really acquire the necessary means and tools to adapt to global climate change. (4) There is growing awareness of the seriousness and urgency of the situation, as well as of the necessity of adaptation. This is exemplified by the viewpoint of a prestigious weekly as The Economist in its issue of Nov 27 to Dec 3, as well as in its The World in 2011. But it is painful to see that this growing awareness is often conceived of in the perspective of economic growth as we understand it today: those, who have the resources, will be able to adapt; adaptation will mainly result from private action, although public action will be necessary also; there may be some help for the poor, but, and I quote what I consider to be a highly cynical remark, “unfortunately, such adaptation has always meant large numbers of deaths”. There seems to be little understanding of the fact that the resources to adapt are limited. Analyses as the ecological footprint, show that these resources will, in the end, be available only to a very limited number of privileged people. I think, as I expressed it in another blog contribution, that there are serious shortcomings in this kind of approach, but it is still the way of thinking of many of us. (5) Scientific research on the complex reality of climate change as well as on historical precedents, is unfolding at a rapid pace, and it points to the seriousness of the situation. Moreover, the attacks on the integrity of climate scientists have been proven unfair, and one can only regret the time and energy that have been lost in these fights although the painful experiences have also made scientists more aware of the need to communicate clearly and efficiently their findings and insights. (6) There is a growing awareness of the role churches and religions can play, as is shown in the commitment of the World Council of Churches. Unfortunately, not very much has been done in fact and there is still a long way to go on the level of mobilizing people and energies. This is particularly true for the Roman Catholic Church.

In this context arise new hopes. (1) It is very well possible that the lesser political profile of COP16 (as compared to COP15) will provide a direct context, in which it is more easy to reach the international agreements that are more necessary than ever. Moreover, the more important role played by the emerging countries may open new and creative avenues towards international collaboration and good governance. A main concern remains the question who will be advocating the case for the poor countries and countries in development. (2) Scientists are more than before in a position to play a prophetic role: their science is improving rapidly, they have learned to communicate better, and they also increasingly advocate for a voice that is insufficiently present at the table of negotiations, the voice of nature – this is a point clearly made by Michel Serres in his Le temps des crises. Indeed, all too often the voice of nature is not heard and, therefore, natural limits and constraints are insufficiently taken into account when we design economic and political approaches to the crisis. (3) The voice of young people in a context in which they are globally connected through the wordwide web, is becoming more important. They are a force to change mentalities and interpretations of the world and realities of the planet. This is also true of the voice of the indigenous people: their approaches to nature offer perspectives that can enrich the ways in which we situate ourselves in our world. (4) There is a need to re-think our economic models. The articles in The Economist show, I think, that there is a growing awareness of the seriousness of the crisis, but also that new economic models have to be developed, in which  sustainability, ecological footprint and limits are taken into account, and in which also the poorest of the people on our planet have a voice. A continuing emphasis on mitigation is necessary, although some think that the time for mitigation has passed by. Indeed, a one-sided emphasis on adaptation may wel be at risk to forget what mitigation states clearly: there are lifestyles that are responsible for this crisis and that will continue to aggravate it. The accent on mitigation helps us to pay attention to lifestyles that are not without consequences on the lives of the poor and on nature and the life of the planet.  (5) There is opportunity for religions and churches to speak with clear voice and to become more aware of the constructive and creative role they can play, particularly when they find ways to collaborate. For Christians, and particularly for Roman Catholics who belong to a well organised international network, the task is not only an ethical one about social and international justice. It also entails a re-thinking of theologies and worldviews in the form of a creation theology that is capable of viewing the world and the universe as a connected whole in space and time, of which human beings form a special part, as they are capable, as a part of creation, to voice creation’s self-reflection and spiritual search. Moreover, structurally speaking, as a complex international organisation with a presence at levels of political advocacy, media, research, education and in the field, the Roman Catholic Church offers opportunities to efficiently address a crisis at an international level.

Homilia del Arzobispo de Canterbury

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment

El domingo 13 se celebró un servicio ecuménico en la catedral de Copenhague con motivo de la Conferencia del Cambio Climático, en este blog ya hemos dado cuenta de ello. Por su interés, hemos traducido la breve homilia del Arzobispo de Canterbury Rowan Williams. No se engañen por su apariencia suave, está cargada de densidad creyente.

Homilía Rowan Williams 13 diciembre 2009:  Williams Sermon Spanish 09.12.13

Homily Rowan Williams  December 13th: Williams Sermon English 09.12.13

COP15 – Religion, the Arctic, Climate Justice

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

COP15 has clearly moved into a new stage. On Saturday, authorities announced that they would limit the number of entries per NGO – new passes, of which only a limited number have been made available, are needed. The reason is, of course, security: ministers and heads of state have started arriving in Copenhagen. And there are a lot of people accredited to COP15 – parties, of course, but also an unprecedented number of press and members of NGO. But the measure is highly unusual in the context of UN organized meetings and some protest has already been voiced.

This morning, people were queuing up in large numbers at the entrance of the Bella Center, already accredited people and people looking for accreditation – many people have shown up for COP15’s second week, overwhelmingly many. Fortunately, accredited people as José Ignacio and myself, could enter quite easily. We went first to a side-event organized by Caritas Internationalis and the World Council of Churches (WCC): “To Renew the Face of the Earth: Climate Justice from a Faith Perspective”. There was first an encouraging talk by Joy Kennedy, a member of the WCC Working Group on Climate Change. Followed an intervention by Rev. Fr. Erny Gillen, President of Caritas Europa and Vice-President of Caritas Internationalis. Tofiga Falani, the President of the Congregational Christian Church in Tuvalu, spoke moving words about the situation of his fellow-citizens. This side event made it abundantly clear that religion has a role to play in the climate change crisis, and that this role complements the work of scientists, economists and politicians by emphasizing the spiritual-theological and moral aspects of people involved in the crisis. It became also clear that there still is a lot of work to do for theologians and specialists in spirituality. Archbishop Rowan William’s sermon yesterday gave an excellent example of how these issues can be addressed, empowering people and at the same time challenging leadership.

Al Gore and Nordic ministers offered a side event on “Greenland Ice Sheet – Melting Snow and Ice: Calls for Action”, which I very much wanted to attend, but the room was overfilled and I was not allowed in (a press conference illustrated the issues). Polar ice is melting much faster than has been expected, rendering North Pole summers ice free in about 10 years. This will result in powerful climate feedbacks affecting continents and people far beyond the Arctic itself. It will also result in the Arctic becoming one of the most strategic areas of the globe. The side events here at COP15 have made it clearer to me, that many of the complexities of worldwide climate change are still insufficiently explored. The effects on and of ocean warming and acidification as well as on and of polar ice melting are high on the scientific agenda.

In a conference later on the day, Seán McDonagh reminded me of the importance of climate restitution: rich countries may not having been aware of their actions on global climate, but these actions resulted in harm, that calls for restitution. It is as if unwillingly and unknowingly we would poison our neighbor’s house. Christians would have to recognize the damage their actions have done and they would feel called to do restitution, to repair the damage done. This climate justice and reparation is at stake in the COP15 talks: legally binding agreements would secure this justice both for mitigation and adaptation. African countries today made it very clear that they call for a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, so as to safeguard at least the existing legally binding agreements (see also John Vidal’s reporting on The Guardian website). Some of the developed countries and some of the richer developing countries seem to want to undo the KP, including it in one track with the Convention (UNFCCC), which, unfortunately, does not contain such legally binding features.

Renueva la faz de la tierra

December 14, 2009 1 comment

Acaba de terminar la presentación titulada “Renueva la faz de la tierra: una aproximación a la justicia climática desde la fe”. Ha sido un acto organizado por Caritas Internacional y el Consejo Mundial de las Iglesias. Ha sido el único acto explícitamente cristiano entre todos los actos paralelos que se han organizado en la Conferencia de Copenhague. En él han particiapado Joy Kennedy, del Grupo de Trabajo del Cambio Climático del Consejo Mundial de las Iglesias; Joy ha insistido en la necesidad de superar un debate meramente técnico para reconocer que estamos ante un asunto que toca aspectos fundamentales del ser humano, por eso cree que los creyentes tenemos mucho que aportar. Erny Gillen es el presidente de Caritas Europa, él ha identificado la relación naturaleza-cultura-historia como un sistema que se retroalimenta continuamente, nuestro reto está en que tenemos el “poder” de cambiar la situación de este mundo. Tenemos que mover nuestra voluntad, y las de los políticos, en esa dirección para hacer que la pobreza “sea historia”, algo del pasado. El último en intervenir ha sido Tofiga Falani de la Iglesia Congregacional Cristiana de Tuvalu . Tuvalu se está haciendo muy famosa en esta conferencia porque es una isla-estado del pacífico que está seriamente amenazada de desaparecer sumergida por efecto del crecimiento del nivel del mar, a causa del cambio climático. Su intervención ha sido el testimonio de un creyente comprometido con una realidad tan desconcertante como es la de una seria amenaza medioambiental para su pueblo, un canto de esperanza en medio de una situación tan difícil de afrontar.

Creo que la realización de este acto es muy de agradecer a Caritas y el Consejo Mundial de las Iglesias. Todos sentíamos que faltaba algo así. Es verdad que el Vaticano tiene su representación oficial pero era sorprendente que esta Conferencia no hubiera un propuesta explícitamente religiosa entre el cúmulo de organizaciones y actividades. Así que lo más importante es agradecer la iniciativa.

Los participantes, y esto nos pasa a menudo, éramos del “club”, es decir la mayoría de los asistentes eran creyentes, muchos participantes activos en grupos religiosos involucrados en cuestiones medioambientales. Una vez más la difícil cuestión de cómo llegar a los no habituales, cómo hacer que nuestro mensaje pueda traspasar los límites de nuestras parroquias, comunidades, grupos.

Otra cuestión importante tiene que ver por la “calidad” de nuestras propuestas. No las técnicas, eso sabemos que no son nuestra competencia. Afirmamos que las religiones, las Iglesias, tenemos influencia en el comportamiento de las personas, que tocamos dimensiones que afectan a su manera de entender la vida y de actuar consecuentemente. Pero, ¿de verdad nuestras comunidades, parroquias o grupos son significativos por sus compromisos medioambientales? ¿Nuestros estilos de vida están marcados por la preocupación por un mundo –también el físico- posible para todos? ¿Cuándo las personas quieren vivir de una manera más responsable y solidaria, también en términos ecológicos, acude a nuestras parroquias? Sin duda que hay iniciativas concretas, pero como Iglesias ¿estamos de verdad marcando un estilo de vida en estas cuestiones? Me temo que nos queda mucho por hacer, tal vez por eso no se nos escuche tanto.

Copenhagen – Dec 13, 2009 – Climate Rally and Ecumenical Climate Service

December 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Posted by Frances Orchard CJ

At 11.30 we assembled in City Hall Square Copenhagen for a Public Event organised by Christian Aid under their slogan:

Time for Climate Justice – COUNTDOWN TO CO2PENHAGEN

We listened to first hand accounts from around the world where the impact of Climate Change is already affecting lives -always those of the poor – and then we welcome Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His energetic speech was designed to encourage the 25,000 present to fight climate injustice. “Hello rich countries – wake up!’ he called, “It’s cheaper to finance climate debt. 150 billion dollars a year would do it!” A petition signed by over half a million people was then presented to Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC who promised to do what he could to get the Heads of States to make a good decision before the end of COP15. “I’ve just come from the Bella Centre”, he said, “and they’re always talking about the financial crisis. But this is a moral crisis, which could result in a global climate crisis.”

Events then moved on to the Lutheran Cathedral of Our Lady where an international ecumenical service to pray for a successful and just outcome to the negotiations for the benefit of the world was to be held. Present were Her Majesty Queen Margerethe II of Denmark, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury who preached. The service was mainly in English with choirs from Africa, Greenland, and Copenhagen. Three important symbols were carried in at the entry procession: glacier stones from Greenland reminding us that glacier retreat is one of the most worrying signs of climate change; dried up maize from Africa, a symbol of the hunger of that continent brought about by changing weather patterns; and bleached corals from the Pacific Ocean – signs of the dangerous acidification of the oceans. Rowan Williams’ deep commitment to the issue of climate change came across with passion and integrity as he called us to respond with love for creation and for humanity rather than with fear at the impending crisis. The congregation applauded.

As we sang the final hymn ‘Beautiful is the Earth’ the cathedral bell began to toll out 350 times in unison with church bells all over central Europe. This connected with the global chain of prayers and bell-ringing for creation and the climate that had started in Fiji in the South Pacific earlier in the day, sounding through all time-zones to Copenhagen, on to Greenland, right round the earth and back to the South Pacific for the end of the day. 350 refers to 350ppm (parts per million), the maximum acceptable level of CO2 emissions, according to the UN.

Eucaristía en la catedral

December 13, 2009 1 comment

El viernes 11 Caritas Internacional y CIDSE , que es la coordinadora de grandes ongs católicas, organizaron una Eucaristía en la Catedral de San Oscar, aquí en Copenhague. Los católicos en Dinamarca son el 0,6%, muy pocos, era una forma de que los católicos daneses sintiesen la cercanía de la Iglesia, especialmente de organizaciones como Caritas que ha estado más implicada en el seguimiento de las cuestiones del Cambio Climático. Además era la gran oportunidad para encontrarnos los católicos que estamos participando en la Conferencia: miembros de ongs, de congregaciones religiosas pero también funcionarios. Fue una ceremonia muy bonita, animada por un coro estupendo de chavales y chavalas daneses.

Con motivo de la Conferencia Caritas ha invitado a un grupo de obispos de todo el mundo para hacerse presentes, por eso presidió la Eucaristía el obispo de Kampala, Uganda, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga (ver homilía). Estaban también el obispo de Copenhague, Czeslaw Kozon, el obispo de Nuevo Laredo, Méjico, Gustavo Vega; el obispo de Padang, Indonesia, Martinus Situmorang; el obispo auxiliar de Dhaka, Bangladesh, Theotonius Gomes; y, el obispo de Chimoio, Mozambique, Francisco Joao Silota. Fue realmente una imagen muy universal de la Iglesia.

El evangelio del día me pareció muy oportuno para lo que está pasando aquí en Copenhague: (San Mateo 11,16-19). ¿Con quién puedo comparar a esta generación? Se parece a esos muchachos que, sentados en la plaza, gritan a los otros: ‘¡Les tocamos la flauta, y ustedes no bailaron! ¡Entonamos cantos fúnebres, y no lloraron!’. Porque llegó Juan, que no come ni bebe, y ustedes dicen: ‘¡Ha perdido la cabeza!’. Llegó el Hijo del hombre, que come y bebe, y dicen: ‘Es un glotón y un borracho, amigo de publicanos y pecadores’. Pero la Sabiduría ha quedado justificada por sus obras”. Nos han avisado, nos lo han dicho: los científicos, los habitantes de las islas del pacífico que ven como el agua va ganando terreno, los habitantes de zonas tropicales que padecen tifones cada vez más frecuentes y graves, los indígenas que ven sus bosques desaparecer, y con ellos su modo de vivir; los habitantes de alta montaña que asisten impotentes a la desaparición de glaciares y reservas de agua; los campesinos africanos que sufren sequías cada vez más prolongadas y recurrentes… nos han avisado, han entonado cantos fúnebres y no hemos llorado. Desde luego somos una generación difícil.

El problema del cambio climático es una señal, tal vez la más grave y urgente, de todo un sistema que falla. Un mundo social y económico instalado sobre supuestos de satisfacción de necesidades a corto plazo sin responder a criterios de solidaridad, presente y futura. Y siempre encontraremos escusas: Juan era demasiado austero, Jesús vivía demasiado bien. Siempre hay una buena excusa para no renunciar a lo nuestro y atrevernos a vivir desde el don y la gratuidad.