South Asian Jesuits push for inculturation

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South Asian Jesuits push for inculturation

October 15, 2019 Matters India

By Rita Joseph

New Delhi, October 14, 2019:
At a highly polarized time when the country’s secular ethos stands threatened as never before, the Society of Jesus are upping the ante on inter-faith dialogue.

The Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA) held a three-day Assistancy meeting of dialogue coordinators at Navjivan Renewal Centre, Delhi.

Assistancy is a particular geographical territory of the Jesuits.

The theme of the October 11-13 meeting was “The Mission Intercultural and Interreligious Relationships: Exploring Newer Paths”. It also marked 40 years of Islamic Studies Association.

Heads of institutions and the coordinators of dialogue from across the country and South Asia besides special invitees that included Maryknoll Father Bob McCahill attended the meet.

South Asia is the largest of seven regional assistancies. It covers countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Father Vincent Sekhar, secretary Dialogue, Jesuit Conference of South Asia (JCSA) in his inaugural speech said, “Dialogue with people of other faiths to be companions of Jesus and servants of his mission. Live harmoniously and work together for the common good. For salvation, in material sense, lies in the kind of relationships we cherish and promote.”

Explaining the Jesuit commitment that we all belong to the Earth as One Family – ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,’ he said it is especially important for Jesuits in Asia Pacific, which is home to several major religions and cultures – Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism among others.

Quoting the words stressed at the 35th General Congregation of the Jesuits and reiterated in the 36th GC, he said “three key features of governance in the society are discernment, collaboration and networking.”

In all forms of dialogue, including critical dialogue among scholars of religions, our attitude to our neighbours need to be free from prejudgements and stereotyping.

Stressing on the importance of pluralistic spirit, Father Sekhar said people with a pluralistic spirit are generally open minded, believing and trusting of each other.

In all forms of dialogue, including critical dialogue among scholars of religions, our attitude to our neighbours need to be free from prejudgements and stereotyping.

“One can achieve this interior freedom through inter-religious awareness, literacy and practice,” he said.

The Jesuit priest said it was apt that this meeting is being held on the occasion of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who gave importance to relationships beyond boundaries, and on the feast day of Pope John XXIII who ushered in many progressive changes in the Catholic Church through Vatican Council II.

He said 18 provinces and two regions of South Asia attended the meet. The region has 4,050 Jesuits.

During the inaugural session Frs Susai Sebastian, Vicar General of Delhi archdiocese, Jude Felix, Secretary, CBCI Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, Sebastian Jeerakassery, Delhi Jesuit Provincial and Kinley Tshering, Jesuit coordinator of dialogue Darjeeling province gave their felicitations.

In his short speech Father Sebastian praised the Jesuits for being pioneers in many fields and for their laudable contributions especially to Delhi Archdiocese.

Quoting philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, Father Sebastian said religion must be liberative which means it must be more humane, more loving and more compassionate.

Fr Felix said that he had met many interfaith leaders to find out their opinion on inter-faith dialogue. “As inter-faith coordinator I was looking for someone to show me the way forward and I found only Jesuits could help me with this. There were other scholars and academically highly-qualified but they lacked connect with grassroots reality.

To buttress his point he narrated a centuries old incident of racial reconciliation. Two Jesuit priests in 1838 in Georgetown Maryland – one the head of the congregation and the other the President of Georgetown – had authorised the sale of 272 enslaved men and women and children for a university and to secure future of the town. But in the recent past –September 2016- the Georgetown President issued an apology for the wrong done centuries ago.

They also renamed two buildings in the names of the 19th century Jesuits. One of them was named after the first slave who was sold and the second after a colored nun who started a school for black girls. Descendants of the slaves were given admission to the university. Later the group who was responsible for this racial reconciliation revealed their identity as Jesuit institutions.

“Their ability to take a decision and reverse history is what struck me. It gives hope to those minorities facing problems at home,” he said. He said the ‘marg darshan’ (route map) he was looking for was provided in the Jesuits Universal Apostolic Preferences like showing way to God, walking with the excluded, caring for common home and journeying with youth. He wished they would add promotion of inter-faith dialogue to it.

Father Jeerakassery lauded the role of Islamic Studies Association in its four-decade existence and all the office-bearers associated with it.

Father Tshering, a Bhutanese convert from Buddhism, spoke of the inculturation that swept in after GC 34 and how he was fondly called “Buddhist provincial.”

He said 84 percent of the people in the world believe in God. “We can do so much yet that segment of inter-faith dialogue has been largely ignored.

“A Jesuit is a man of dialogue. St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder had a desire to go to Jerusalem where there were all Muslims to be in dialogue with them. Since the inception of the Society of Jesus you will see Jesuits are men of dialogue.”

To be a Jesuit is to be person in dialogue. The key to dialogue is the sum and substance of finding God in all things and All things in God.

However, he wondered if the present general who comes from Latin America which is totally Christian would have the same zeal as his predecessors for inter-faith dialogue. “He has no idea of my country and its diversity. But in the last two years he has made visits to some provinces and his eyes are opening to the reality.”

Farida Khanam, chairperson for Peace Studies, said “We cannot live in isolation. We have to respect the faith and tradition of others and learn from them. We have to learn to bury our differences and live in peace with others.”

The teachings of the Bible and Quran have many similarities like intense love for God and return good for evil and the like. She said the Quran calls Virgin Mary as the most virtuous women in the world and devoted a full chapter to her.

She said Prophet Mohammed also believed in dialogue. Revelations from the Almighty to him he conveyed to all and was in constant dialogue with people.

Lakshmi Menon Bhatia, Director of Operations, Unity Earth (India) who gave a Hindu perspective, said she never looked upon herself as a Hindu alone. She narrated how she had travelled around the world and prayed at churches, mosques and temples.

She said that she learnt from her Jesuit priest mentor that the whole of Bible could be summarised into one word “connect” and this connect with fellow human beings through dialogue is what she has always strived to maintain.
Earlier the inaugural session began with a prayer dance.

The grand finale of the meet was the Ruby Jubilee celebrations of Islamic Studies Association (ISA) and the launching of its journal ‘Salaam’.

The highlight of the evening was the unveiling of the painting of the historical meeting of St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan Malik al-Kamil 800 years ago by Father AXJ Bosco. The artist Jesuit F Devadoss was also honored by Fr Bosco on the occasion.


Compare this abominable heretical sell-out of the conciliar Jesuits to the great Jesuit warriors prior to Vat. II council - and whose feastday we recently celebrated. Compare the Jesuit martyrs of North America and elsewhere to the 'Jesuit' Pope that now occupies the Chair of Peter - AND WEEP!
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