Jesuits celebrate 50th anniversary of SJES

50th Anniversary of the SJES

The Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology (SJES), born in 1969 at the request of Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, commemorates fifty years of dedication to the mission of promoting social justice and reconciliation. The fiftieth anniversary will be a kairos, a historic moment for the Society of Jesus to renew its commitment to the mission of a faith that does justice and seeks reconciliation, and a great occasion to reinvigorate its social and ecological dimension. From Monday 4 to Friday 8 November, an international congress is taking place at the General Curia of the Society of Jesus in Rome, with the presence of more than 210 Jesuits, experts and activists from all continents, committed to what Pope Francis calls the "peripheries" of the world.

The challenges facing the world today are more complex than those 50 years ago. We are living a change of historical epoch in Humanity already visualized by the Second Vatican Council. That is why this meeting has three objectives: (1) to celebrate God's faithfulness on this journey, (2) to discern the roadmap for putting into practice the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) - the orientations that will guide the Society of Jesus in the next ten years in the social sector, and (3) to create opportunities for collaboration and networking with others.

It will be an opportunity to recall the past of the SJES: achievements, milestones achieved, lessons learned. It will also be an opportunity to work on how SJES can best contribute to fostering respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people with whom it works around the world: from the fight against environmental exploitation in Honduras to the rehabilitation of young gang members in the United States; from Dalits or untouchables and indigenous people displaced from their lands in India, to educational challenges with young people in Africa; from the work with migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, to the commitment against climate change.

The inaugural session took place this morning in the Aula Magna of the General Curia in the presence of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arturo Sosa SJ, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, Under-secretary for Migrants and Refugees, Cardinal Pedro Barreto S.J., Archbishop of Huancayo and Vice-President of the Peruvian Episcopal Conference, and Fr. Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology.

As Fr. Sosa pointed out: "Let us take advantage, then, of this very special moment in which God is once again speaking to us and inviting us to remember, thank, discern and take bold, daring and risky decisions to accompany Jesus and his people in the realities of the frontier, together with the most excluded, poor and vulnerable."

Today, the journey traveled since 1969 was recalled and a Eucharist was celebrated in memory of Fr. Pedro Arrupe and the 57 Jesuit "martyrs" who have given their lives for the cause of faith and justice in different parts of the world during these 50 years.

Over the next few days, Tuesday the 5th and Wednesday the 6th, the Congress will focus on the challenges of the present, on discerning the roadmap for implementing the Universal Apostolic Preferences, while the last two days, Thursday the 7th and Friday the 8th, will be an opportunity to renew the commitment to the mission of the Society of Jesus and to find new forms of collaboration and networking.

During the week there will be speeches by Fr. Ismael Moreno SJ, working on the front line in Honduras with the local population to combat the exploitation of multinationals; Fr. Gregory Boyle SJ, director of Homeboy Industries, an association that rescues children from Los Angeles gangs; Indian ecologist and political activist Sunita Narain, director of the Center for Science and the Environment (CSE), Cardinal Michael Czerny SJ, Undersecretary for Refugees and Migrants Section in Vatican, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, U.S. economist, UN advisor and director of the Earth Institute, a young South African activist Noluthando Honono, among others. On Thursday morning, November 7, the participants will have a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

"The celebration does not focus on what we have accomplished in the last 50 years, but on the poor and vulnerable," says Fr Xavier Jeyaraj, Secretary for Social Justice and Ecology. "Poverty is a scandal we cannot accept. Our goal, which brings together more than 200 people from around the world, is to renew our commitment and reaffirm that we are determined to walk with the poor and recognize that God who suffers in them.” For the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Secretariat, various events, meetings and retreats have already taken place throughout the year in Latin America, Asia and Africa, and other initiatives will take place in the coming months in Europe and North America.

The congress can be followed through the website or through the SJES Twitter social networks  and the hashtag #SJES50years.