Dialogue and solidarity with indigenous peoples

Joel Thompson SJ
Joel Thompson SJ

Jesuit Missions welcomed Joel Thompson SJ to the UK for a Lenten speaker tour which took place last week. He has been travelling the country visiting Jesuit schools and parishes to speak about his work with the indigenous people in Guyana and the importance of ecology in Guyana.

He has visited Donhead Preparatory school, Wimbledon College, St John's Beaumont, St Ignatius College Enfield, Stonyhurst and St Aloysius Glasgow.

Joel is a Guyanese Jesuit scholastic currently living and working among the indigenous people in the Central Rupununi region of Guyana.

His work focuses on accompanying and forming young adult leaders within the 16 villages that the Jesuits serve in this region. He joined the Jesuits in 2011, completed his two-year novitiate in Birmingham then completed a BA in Philosophy and Theology at Heythrop College. Inspired by Laudato Si, he pursued an MSc in Environment and Development at the London School of Economics in 2017, before returning to Guyana.

His talks had two main areas of focus. First, he explored how dialogue with indigenous peoples is fruitful since their world vision can challenge prevailing conceptions of the good life while dispelling romantic notions about their lifestyles and initiatives. Second, he made references to the Synod for the Amazon as an opportunity to build bridges of solidarity and respectful dialogue with the people of Amazonia.

The Pan-Amazonian synod, which Pope Francis has called for October 2019, is entitled 'Amazonia: new paths for the church and for an integral ecology'.

Joel Thompson SJ at Donhead Prep School

Pope Francis states that: "The Amazon is a region with rich biodiversity; it is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. It is a mirror of all humanity which in defence of life, requires structural and personal changes by all human beings, by nations and by the church." The synod is an opportunity for the world to recognise the importance of the Amazon and how we can learn from the people of the Amazon the importance of being in communion with ecology.

Joel said: "There is a certain general unease in our societies that all is not well despite advances in technology and economic growth. The indigenous worldview is based on a communal sense of self; a sense of belonging to something greater than individual pursuits."

Bishop Francis Alleyne of Guyana will be attending the synod in Rome this year taking with him a report put together by parish communities of both the coastal and Amazonian regions of Guyana. Communications Officer, Stephanie Beech attended the coastal gathering in Guyana a few months ago.

Jesuit Missions is working with the Jesuits in the Amazonian region of Guyana to support the Quality Education Bilingual Programme which is encouraging the indigenous languages to be taught alongside English in the primary schools for the first time helping to preserve the indigenous culture.

This article first appeared on Jesuit Missions's website