(An excerpt from The Asahi Shimbun – July 25th, 2019)
The minimum hourly wage is expected to rise above 1,000 yen ($9.22) for the first time in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture this fiscal year under nationwide increases recommended by a labor ministry panel.
A Central Minimum Wages Council subcommittee concluded July 31 that the weighted average minimum wage across Japan should be increased to 901 yen, up 27 yen from the previous fiscal year, as a rough standard for fiscal 2019.
If the increase takes effect, it will be from as early as this autumn. Tokyo will have the highest minimum wage of 1,013 yen, followed by neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture at 1,011 yen.
The rate of increase, 3.09 percent, is almost the same as hikes implemented during the past three fiscal years.
At a meeting of the panel, labor and management representatives as well as academics discussed the minimum wage levels, grouping all 47 prefectures into regions A to D based on the cost of commodities, income and other factors.
The minimum wage will be increased by 28 yen in region A, consisting of Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture and other major urban areas, by 27 yen in region B, and by 26 yen in regions C and D, according to the proposed standards.
The increase for each prefecture will be determined using the proposed standards as the reference and be revised in autumn or later.
In response to calls from the ruling parties, the economic and financial policy guidelines said “consideration should be given to disparities (in minimum wages) among regions.”
Still, if minimum wages are raised according to the panel’s standards, the gap between Tokyo and Kagoshima Prefecture, whose minimum wage is the lowest in Japan, will become 226 yen, compared with 224 yen in fiscal 2018, widening the regional gap.
The use of multilingual translation tools is expanding in Japan, where foreign workers are expected to increase in the wake of April’s launch of new visa categories.
A growing number of local governments, labor unions and other entities have decided to introduce translation tools, which can help foreigners when going through administrative procedures as they allow local officials and other officers to talk to such applicants in their mother languages.
“Talking in the applicants’ own languages makes it easier to convey our cooperative stance,” said an official in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward.
The ward introduced VoiceBiz, an audio translation app developed by Toppan Printing Co. that covers 30 languages.
The app, which can be downloaded onto smartphones and tablet computers, will be used in eight municipalities, including Osaka and Ayase in Kanagawa Prefecture, company officials said.
Toppan Printing aims to introduce the app to 600 local governments by fiscal 2020.
Demand for the app is also high at schools.
As the number of foreign workers increases, the ability to communicate, particularly in schools where their children could face serious problems due to language barriers, is a task that urgently needs to be addressed.
Toppan Printing will pitch the app so that it will be used at 7,000 schools across the nation, according to the officials.
Multilingual translation tools are also being utilized to address labor issues.
Rengo Tokushima, a prefectural arm of the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, started using Pocketalk, a translation device developed by Sourcenext Corp.
Rengo is trying to cope with an increasing number of consultation requests from foreign technical interns seeking help with unpaid wages.
“The good point is that we can use highly specialized vocabulary, including legal terms,” a Rengo Tokushima official said.
The use of translation tools is also expected to spread among transportation service providers, including railway companies, as well as in sectors where the number of foreign workers is seen rising, such as in agriculture and elderly care.
TOKYO – The education ministry and the immigration bureau said Tuesday they will tighten rules around the enrollment of foreigners in response to a Tokyo university losing contact with more than 1,600 students from abroad.
The move comes as Japan prepares to accept 300,000 foreign students by 2020 under a program aiming to promote Japan through increased awareness about the country.
The ministry and the Immigration Bureau of Japan will disclose the names of universities they found have breached rules around the enrollment of foreign students and ban them from accepting any more.
The decision was prompted by the case of the Tokyo University of Social Welfare which was investigated by the government for losing touch with a huge number of its foreign students.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said it told the school Monday to stop accepting new foreign students in preliminary courses.
“The university bears a huge responsibility for the large number of missing students and illegal aliens,” said education minister Masahiko Shibayama at a press conference.
In three years since the 2016 academic year, the university lost contact with 1,610 foreign students, saw 700 cancel their enrollment and removed 178. A large proportion of the students were enrolled in Japanese language courses as part of a preliminary program to be completed before they advanced to degree programs.
The ministry and the immigration bureau inspected the university’s four campuses in Tokyo and other cities five times between March and May and found it had been accepting many students who did not have sufficient language skills or were unable to pay tuition fees.
They also discovered the university was short-staffed and failed to provide support to students who had missed classes over a prolonged period.
The ministry said it will consider reducing or withdrawing subsidies for the private university, while the bureau will reject visa applications of foreign students who seek to enroll there.
The Tokyo University of Social Welfare, founded in 2000, had been accepting relatively small numbers of foreign students for years but expanded the number to about 1,200 in the 2016 academic year, about 1,900 the following year and over 2,600 in the year ended this March.
Yuriko Sato, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who specializes in foreign student policy, called for more public support of foreign students, saying universities have been accepting students without sufficient language skills.
She said if poorly performing language schools can be brought up to a better standard and have their subsidies increased to help free students from their busy part time jobs, Japan can “create an environment in which foreign students can focus on studies without worries.”
Half of foreign nationals in Tokyo experience discrimination, survey shows
(Extract from KYODO – April 17th, 2019)
Nearly half of foreign nationals living in Tokyo have experienced racial discrimination, according to a survey released Tuesday by a civic group.
In the survey conducted by the Anti-Racism Information Center, a group organized by scholars, activists and university students, 167 of 340 respondents including students said that they have suffered discriminatory treatment such as being told not to talk in a language other than Japanese.
Some working as retail shop cashiers said customers asked for Japanese cashiers, according to the face-to-face questionnaire survey conducted in February and March in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Among them, a Nepalese man working at a drugstore said one customer told him that they did not like to see foreigners working as cashiers and asked to be served by someone else.
A Chinese respondent who works at a convenience store said that a colleague told the respondent not to speak Chinese when the respondent was asked for directions by a Chinese-speaking customer. There were also cases where foreign nationals had apartment rental applications rejected. Some said they were denied entry into stores, but none of the respondents took their cases to the public offices that deal with such issues.
Ryang Yong-song, a representative of the civic group, told a news conference that foreigners living in Japan tend to “end up letting (their discriminatory experiences) drop.”
“The government should conduct a survey to show what kind of discrimination foreigners face,” Ryang said, calling on schools and employers to deal more proactively with discrimination and establish mechanisms to involve public officials in addressing the problems.
(Extraction from Mainichi Shimbun – October 23rd, 2018)
A series of television programs that cover scenes that detect foreigners without a status of residence are being broadcasted one after another, and criticisms of “promoting discrimination against foreigners” are spreading.
A male from the Middle East detained in the East Japan Immigration Center watched Fuji Television’s “Adhesive 24 o’clock! Moment of forced withdrawal” (6th) says, “There may be no choice but to detain someone without a visa, but why do you convey it like a violent criminal? Japanese who watched the program would think “Are foreigners so bad? “”
Fuji TV is not the only one that took up the scene where foreigners are caught. TV TOKYO “Adhesion! Domiciled search ” (10th), TV TBS “bibit” (September 5th), and TV Asahi “Super G Men” (September 20th) also “tightly” took up the immigration work.
Mr. Miyasako of PRAJ (Provisional Release Association in Japan) considers the structure of the technical training system that does not allow freedom to change their places of work, as like Japanese can do, has problems. ”Employers think that anything can be done to foreigners. Can we blame anyone who, feeling the treatment given to him/her was unbearable, and different from what had been promised and escaped away?”
The treatment of foreigners in detention facilities is also not well known. “Moment of forced withdrawal” told the immigration side that “immigration was performing appropriate treatment”, but in fact, suicide / self-harm continues in detention, and also the medical care system which causes many sick deaths has been pointed out.
In Japan, when a non-detainee applies for temporary release, neither the person nor the lawyer know the examination process, and no specific reason is given even if it is not permitted. “In the UK, for instance, one can apply for a bail to the court by fax, from the detention center and there will be hearing in a public court within a few days. In this court, the government has to show the reasons why the detention has to be continued”
In “Adhesion! Domiciled search”, there was a scene in which an immigration officer received a warrant from the court to search a foreigner’s office or residence. However, there is no scene that asks the court for an arrest warrant for personal restraint. This is because foreigners with overstays can be bound if there is only a detention order issued by an immigration examiner, and immigration can judge the detention period. It has to be said that the human rights of foreigners whose visas have expired have been “lightly treated”.
Benny Hari Juliawan SJ, Coordinator of JCAP Migration Network
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 195 / June 15th, 2017
The word “discernment” has become all the rage within Jesuit circles following the 36th General Congregation. Fr General Arturo Sosa has even appointed a special counsellor to oversee the process of discernment and apostolic planning in the Society. So it was fitting that the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific’s (JCAP) migration network examined the journey so far and charted a new course at its fourth annual meeting held in Tokyo from March 23 to 26. A new plan for the future was called for.
Top of the agenda was to plan for the next five years, after first taking stock of the lights and shadows of the past three years. It was an unusually cold spring, but the 14 participants from eight institutions of migration warmed the Jesuit Social Centre with their energy and discussion. They were joined by three scholastics and a young intern at the Tokyo Migrants Desk.
Highlights and Lessons to Learn
The network had started in 2014 as five individual institutions in five different countries sharing little more than a Jesuit identity. Hence the first step was to forge closer collaboration by establishing communication and governance structures. The members learned quickly to use modern technologies such as Skype, Google Drive and group mails. Regular Skype conferences were held over the years and annual meetings became a given. Along the way two more institutions joined.
A key concern that remains is the fact that the member institutions are generally small with very limited capacity and resources. Not much has actually changed in terms of the commitments by the Society, especially with regard to manpower. Yiutsari in South Korea, however, is an exception. Recently it moved to a new two-storey facility in Gimpo, which was built following the decision of the province to focus on this work. A new Jesuit community has also been established nearby to accompany this mission.
Despite their differences, their shared concern for migrant workers became the centre piece of the collaboration. Accompaniment and direct service provision formed the core of their responses to the needs of migrant workers both in sending and receiving countries. They recognised the need to build capacity to do research, and so organised collaborative projects around the issues of left-behind children of migrants, resettlement and brokerage. These research projects, apart from teaching a new skill, have cultivated new enthusiasm in the member institutions and helped them reach out to scholars and policy makers in their countries.
In its four years of existence, the network has also tried to promote the concern for migrants beyond the social apostolate circle. One strategy that has been quite successful is by publishing stories in the JCAP monthly newsletter. Thanks to these articles, many people, including non-Jesuits, came to know the work of the Society with migrant workers. In addition, the scholastics and brothers circles meeting in 2016 took up the concern for migrants as the theme of their gathering in Seoul. The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities has also promised to pay more attention on the phenomenon of migration.
The Next Five Years
For the next few years, the network will focus on two areas: expansion and advocacy.
The network needs to collaborate with other migration-focussed institutions and networks in the region, several of which have already asked to connect with it. Bishops conferences and church migration institutions are particularly relevant. In countries like Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore where the Jesuits do not have migrant centres, the Bishops conferences and other religious congregations are at the forefront of the promotion of migrant rights and the fight against human trafficking.
A closer collaboration with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is also long overdue. Fr Bambang Sipayung SJ, JRS regional director for Asia Pacific, is keen to make JRS available to promote the same concern for migrants, which falls under the “de facto refugee” mandate as stipulated by the social teachings of the Church. The term refers to victims of armed conflicts, natural disasters and failed economic policies who are not normally classified as refugees by the International Convention.
In this regard, JCAP can perhaps look somewhere else for inspiration. The Jesuit Network for Migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean (RJM-LAC) is an umbrella group of around 83 institutions across the region. It started in 2002 as a loose collection of several institutions and after various iterations morphed into RJM-LAC in 2011. It brings together JRS, social centres, parishes, Jesuit universities and schools from 18 countries. Their main focus is to work with migrants and refugees who are mostly on their way to North America from various parts of Central and South America. This collaboration acknowledges the reality of mixed migration flows where a rigid distinction between various categories of migrants does not always help.
In terms of programme, special attention also needs to be given to advocacy. It is obvious that migrant workers are perceived as disposable labour, only hired when needed with little regard for their rights and dignity and the Tokyo Olympics 2020 is a case in point. The Japanese government has relaxed the laws to allow more foreign construction workers to come, but it seems unprepared or unwilling to deal with the social consequences. This is in addition to the scheme for internship (Gino-Jisshu) that has been criticised by rights groups as akin to slavery.
Turning to Southeast Asia, the introduction of ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 does not even bother to pretend to acknowledge the millions of migrant workers in the domestic, plantation and construction sectors. Member states have been unable to agree on an instrument of protection for migrant workers and their families despite repeated calls from many corners following an ASEAN declaration in 2007. The regional group has instead produce regulations about the so-called white collar professionals in eight sectors. The network is a good place to start campaigning for the rights of migrants across the region, promoting their dignity instead of focusing only on their economic value.
On the other hand, the UN sponsored Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that was launched in 2015 offers a platform to advocate for policy changes. As a multilateral initiative, it provides an internationally recognisable language to dialogue with governments. Many of the 17 goals listed in the initiative are relevant for migrant workers and other vulnerable migrants as they guarantee the right to social protection including basic services irrespective of country of origin or immigration status. Amidst the obsession with economic growth, civil society groups including the JCAP migration network should emphasise people-centred development, not just economic development.
This plan will need a serious commitment by the Jesuits in Asia Pacific. JCAP has been generous in providing the resources for the network’s foundation, but there is much to do to realise this plan and more resources will be needed. The annual meeting in Tokyo, for example, would not have been possible without the support of the Japan Jesuit Province. Such generosity is not uncommon in the Society and will be even more appreciated when the task at hand now is greater.
The meeting in Tokyo ended with a symposium to launch the first ever joint publication by the network. The book Left Behind Children and the Idea of the Family is the result of research conducted in five different countries on the fate of children of migrant workers.
It was then followed by a discussion on the challenges of doing this ministry in Asia Pacific. The main challenge is really how to respond to a phenomenon that cuts across national boundaries while much of our work is local or at best national in character. Building a network is a strategy to overcome this limitation, but it will still need improved capacity and deeper commitments. The discernment and planning in Tokyo has surely helped show a new direction for the next few years.
Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center staff, Tokyo)
August is a symbolic month dedicated to peace movements in Japan. Seventy-one years have passed since the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, but the dropping of the first two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) are still vividly remembered.
A group of 34 Jesuits, half of them from Korea and the rest from Japan gathered in Shimonoseki, in the west of Japan from August 23 to 26 to heal wounds occasioned by the worst historical relationship between both countries and to search for closer cooperation.
The four-day workshop was intense with inputs on the historical realities of Koreans in Shimonoseki, the much-protested new Henoko American military base in Okinawa, and pastoral care of migrant workers on Kyushu Island.
A full day was dedicated to fieldwork in Shimonoseki, the gate port of Japan after it annexed Korea in 1910. The participants visited various sites that commemorate the landing of forced Korean workers into Japan before and during World War II and heard about the life of one such worker.
They met a man Fr Ando Isamu SJ, a staff member of the Jesuit Social Centre in Tokyo, Japan, calls “a living historical symbol of former Korean workers”. To maintain his privacy, we call him Mr Kim.
The group met Mr Kim at a school for Korean students. He is 95 years old but spoke with clarity about his life experiences in Japan. “I was young and spoke a little Japanese. I was attracted to leave my village to find a job in Japan,” he told them smilingly in both Japanese and Hangul. In 1942, at the age of 22, he boarded a Japanese ship that transported thousands of Korean workers from Pusan to Shimonoseki, a mere five-hour journey.
“We were over 300 workers, packed in the bottom of the ship. They gave us the same shirts with a different number on the back and from that time, they only called us by that number.
“As soon as we arrived at the piers of Shimonoseki, they put us in crowded warehouses where we waited for the trains to come. Inside the freight train we were blindfolded; we did not know where we were headed. I arrived at Tochigi Prefecture without knowing the place and job I was supposed to do. All I had was a ‘furoshiki’ with my belongings. Together with my companions I was assigned to work in a dam to dig a hole for water pipes. They placed us in a packed bunkhouse. The work was very hard from early morning ‘till late evening. We were only given a rice ball at night. The sanitary conditions were very bad and although there was a river nearby, the water was frozen so we couldn’t bathe.
“Every day we were indoctrinated to work for ‘the country’. So I did it and was considered a model worker. One morning, while leaving for work, we saw a fellow countryman who had tried to escape hung upside down and whipped in front of our eyes. One Sunday, I got permission to go out with another worker of good standing. Together, we went to a hot spring and made our escape from there. I ended up in Kobe. My knowledge of the Japanese language offered me opportunities to work as a teacher and remain unknown in Japanese towns.”
Although he looked tired, Mr Kim’s smiling face did not show any hate for his Japanese oppressors. He is one of more than 600,000 Koreans living in Japan, many of whom were workers brought forcefully to Japan, or like Mr Kim came looking for a job and had to remain in the country.
Hearing these realities first hand has inspired the Jesuits from Korea and Japan to work closely within the framework of the migrants’ network of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific.
Main photo: A monument remembering Korean workers brought to Shimonoseki who died during World War II
How do our Jesuits universities tackle the important issue of migrant workers? How much are we Jesuits involved in improving the human dignity of migrant workers? Fr Ando Isamu SJ found himself reflecting on these questions after participating in an international conference focussed on migration issues earlier this month.
Fr Ando, who heads the Migrant Desk at the Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo, had been at the 2014 International Conference on Asia-Pacific Studies at the National Sun Yat-sen University (NSYSU) in Taiwan, where he had presented on the subject of “Migrants – foreign workers – in Japan”.
The conference had attracted university professors and scholars from 15 countries, mostly in East Asia, enabling rich discussion among Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and religiously indifferent people, all of whom Fr Ando says were united in their interest in migration and socio-political changes in the Asia region. The three main topics of discussion were regional cooperation, China and its neighbours, and migrant workers’ issues in various countries, in line with the conference theme, “Migration and Transformation in the Asia-Pacific”.
To set the context, the conference began with the screening of the 2013 film “Ilo Ilo”, which presents the hard life of a Filipina domestic worker in Singapore. Fr Ando found the psychological changes of the little boy she took care of, from despising her to loving her more than his mother, after a car accident, very moving.
“Reflecting on our role as Jesuits with regard to the issue [of migrant worker rights], I clearly found that our network in JCAP is trying to become an actor – not just an observer – in defending workers from foreign countries who are living and working in our midst; to try positively to change hostile attitudes and even structures harming the human dignity of foreign workers,” said Fr Ando.
The conference was organized by the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies, NSYSU and the University of the Philippines’ Department of Political Science. It was held from November 12 to 16, and followed by a free academic forum on migration and change transformation in East Asia.
A group of representatives, Jesuits and their collaborators working for migrant workers, from 6 countries and regions of East Asia and the Pacific (JCAP Assistancy) met in Jakarta (Indonesia) during the first week of June. Fr. Benny Juliawan, SJ, the appointed coordinator for migration in the JCAP region, convoked the meeting. The aim was to expand this group to include new jesuit institutions as they come along in the future. Vietnam and Malaysia in particular were considered.
A 3-year (2015-2017) action plan was decided. The plan focuses on migrant workers and undocumented migrants. JRS activities, which include victims of trafficking, are also to be addressed. One major common concern is the need to pay attention to the present brokerage system badly affecting most migrant workers in our JCAP region.
Since the JCAP Assistancy includes sending and receiving countries of hundreds of thousands migrants yearly on the move, the participants agreed to a close collaboration of vital information for migrants from receiving countries to the sending ones and viceversa.
The new Jesuit network of collaborators decided on research grants to be assigned to each country represented for the next 3 years. The topics will be a) welfare of migrants’ children (2015) b) repatriation and reintegration of migrants (2016) c) brokerage (2017).
More detailed information on the subject will be provided in the next issue of the Bulletin.
Last May 2013, I posted an article in this blog related to increasing strange public activities of rightist Japanese groups that were clearly racist and were addressed against Koreans in Japan. Those explicit insults were used in Tokyo as well as in Kyoto.
On October 7, the Kyoto District Court finally banned anti-Korean activists from staging further rallies where they used hate speech, and ordered them to pay damages occasioned near Kyoto Chosen Daiichi Elementary School. The actions of Zaitokukai members and other activists included hate-speech slogans near the school and posted video footage of the demonstrations on-line.
The operator of the school had filed the lawsuit against the activists in June 2010, but the decision of the District Court took more than 3 years to be given. In the meantime such public rallies have escalated this year in Tokyo and other cities with major Korean communities. Hundreds of group members and supporters had publicly insulted and threatened Koreans under the disguise of freedom of expression.
The District Court ordered the activists to pay 12million Yen for the damages done to the School and the psychological pain the little children had to suffer.
The hate speech used by the Zaitokukai members and other activists were determined by the Court to constitute racial discrimination as it is defined by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, already ratified by Japan.
[More details in the Asahi Newspaper (2013/10/08) and The Japan Times (October 8, 2013) The Jesuit Social and Pastoral Bulletin n.173, Oct.15, 2013 has a special article on this subject]
[Edited by Ando Isamu, SJ from Tokyo Jesuit Social Center]
by Kojima Yu and Hara Yuriko / Godo Books 2010 / ￥1.300 + Tax
Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo) Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 158 / March 15th, 2011
A few days ago I read an article telling the story of a girl from a minority group in North Vietnam who was forced into prostitution and later sold in China by a criminal organization. Since our Center has some assistance programs with Vietnamese NGOs there, I was greatly shocked at this news.
According to enquiries made by the Vietnamese government during a period of 5 years, from 2004 to 2008, about 4008 persons fell victim to human trafficking. And this figure is just a loose estimate. As a result of the one-child Chinese policy, the male population in rural areas has increased and traffickers target girls of tribal groups who want to escape poverty by inciting them to marry in rural China. There are also many cases of girls in Vietnamese cities who are cheated into prostitution as a ruse to get profitable jobs.
Such human trafficking is taking place all over the world. This book offers information on citizens’ movements to protect the victims, explains the historical and economic background of the problem, and, based on the testimonies of victims from all over the world, denounces the realities of human trafficking.
Needless to say, old-style slavery is not accepted in today’s world. Nevertheless, all types of human trafficking, like economic exploitation and traditional social customs which include strong racial and sex discrimination, still remain alive in our societies. For instance, the sex industry, housemaid services, begging, plantation and fishery work, mine work, child soldiers, organ transplantation and so on often end up in human trafficking. However, there is very little reliable data available in this field.
The fact that there are increasing numbers of migrant workers is one reason for active human trafficking. The causes are various, like escape from poverty, the desire for city life, flight from political oppression, and domestic violence or sex discrimination. According to the 2008 ILO Yearly Report, about 200 million workers left their countries to work in foreign lands. This number refers to legal workers. It is believed that illegal ones are more numerous.
Among these, many have been recruited as victims of human trafficking. Persons using illegal means to work abroad are compelled to borrow large quantities of money and thus become victims of forced labor. Even legal migrant workers have their passports and visas taken away and many end up in forced labor. In reality, it becomes difficult to procure accurate figures of human trafficking victims due to the fact that many migrant workers switch from legal to illegal status.
Asia is the region of the world that sends many migrant workers abroad and suffers from human trafficking. During the 1970s and 80s, many left Asian countries to work in Europe and the Middle East, Japan and Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore. Against the background of the continuing development of Asian economies during the 1990s, movement of workers among Asian countries, as well as human trafficking, increased. The case of Vietnamese girls brought to China mentioned at the beginning is just one example.
Japan is also one of the receiving countries for human trafficking. Before the Second World War, Japanese women were sent to Asian countries to work there in many instances as prostitutes, and during the Second World War many Koreans and Taiwanese were forcibly brought to Japan as such workers. Again, many women from Korea and the Philippines were forced by the Japanese military to work as “comfort women” around Asian countries. These days many foreign workers, amid bad working conditions and low salaries, are employed as students and technical trainees.
Several international organizations and NGOs, along with various kinds of legislation, are working actively to suppress all human trafficking. Nevertheless, since international movement of workers is on the increase, there is no way to decrease human trafficking. This was also true in former days. However, nowadays it is not rare to have foreigners living near us, and so it should be easier not only for officials but also for each one of us to provoke action on this issue. This book, easy to understand, could be a suitable first step. Schools could use it as teaching material. It is well worth reading!
Ando Isamu S.J. (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo) Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 150 / July 15th, 2009
This is the 150th issue of this Bulletin. The first issue was published 25 years ago as a bimonthly newsletter, A-4 size, 8 to 10 pages in length. Since the essence of the social center’s 28-year history can be found there, we want to present here a general overview of the Center’s present activities.
Social and Pastoral Bulletin number 150
The Jesuit Social Center was inaugurated in April 1981 at Kawadacho (Shinjuku-ku). In July 2006 we celebrated the 25th anniversary with a special celebration in the St Joseph Hall of St Ignatius Church in Yotsuya (Tokyo). The following year, on June 15, 2007, we published a Booklet to commemorate the Center’s 25 years of existence from 1981 to 2006. Here I would like to reflect on what we have done and are now doing.
Social Apostolic Letter (SAL)
One of the main tasks of the newly founded Center was to establish a system of direct communication with all members of the Japan Province of the Society of Jesus. Thus, upon the initiative of Fr. Weghaus, on December 6, 1980, the Social Apostolic Letter (SAL) began publication in order to keep members of the Province informed about the activities of the Center. Father Provincial formed a special committee of 7 Jesuits (Frs. Weghaus, Ando, H. Hayashi, Kuga, Linthorst, Susukida and Yamada). The committee discussed matters regarding the social apostolate and the content of the new SAL, assisting Fr. Weghaus to solicit advice on how to conduct the social apostolate in the Province.
SAL aimed at including the following content: (1) An editorial on some contemporary social problem. (2) Fr Provincial’s answers to questions submitted by Jesuits of the Province. (3) Short reports on “What we are doing.” (4) Opinions regarding “What we should and could do.” (5) Opinions on “What we are doing but should discontinue.” (6) New problems, vital statistics of Japan, activities of the Center. SAL was discontinued with the 29th issue in March 1983. A year later, May 1984, the publication of the Social and Pastoral Bulletin began (see Booklet p. 11).
Fr Weghaus returned to Germany before the Bulletin was published. Fr. Ando became the new director of the Center, and when Mr Shibata Yukinori started working at the center, he became part of the editorial staff of the Bulletin. Let me quote from the above Booklet.
The Social and Pastoral Bulletin (May 1984) replaced SAL and beginning in September 1992 was issued bimonthly and bilingually (Japanese-English) in A-4 format with 8 to 12 pages. While SAL had concentrated on Catholic social teaching and theological reflection, the new Bulletin, especially after the 1990s, stressed information from the field concerning social movements from inside and outside the Catholic communities (Booklet, p.16).
The Bulletin has continued publication uninterruptedly for the past 25 years. As a general rule, the Bulletin is sent gratis to each Jesuit of the Japan Province, as well as to Jesuits abroad working in the social apostolate and those cooperating with the Center. There are also subscribers who pay the yearly subscription (\1200 for the six numbers a year). The number of readers of the Bulletin as of June 2009 was 475 (338 for the Japanese edition and 137 for the English). About 98 of these are ordinary subscribers.
The Bulletin has accomplished the role of an “information operations room” to transmit to our readers in Japan and in other parts of the world not only the activities of the Center and the way of thinking that inspires them, but also the social problems Japan and the world are presently facing. The Center’s web page has a file of all back numbers of the Bulletin since 1998.
Objectives of the Center and Networking
The Center tries to show the many facets of our Jesuit social apostolate in Japan. We are selective in our activities kin order to maintain a Jesuit identity. The social apostolate is deeply involved in the building of healthy human structures, where people can enjoy respect as images of God and the freedom to live together in harmony and without discrimination, to develop themselves as human beings and to contribute to healthy changes so as to improve our societies. For its part, the Society of Jesus has taken as its priority the specific mission of working for the promotion of faith and justice. It stresses a preference for the poor in this world.
In general, one the main focuses of this Center is NETWORKING. We stress cooperation with the Jesuit Social Secretariat in Rome and the Jesuit Networking in East Asia. The Tokyo Center played an important role in the Jesuit social apostolate in Asia while the SELA organization was in existence, as well as with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Asia. It is always open to other networks of NGOs in Japan and other Asian countries working for refugees and migrant workers, against poverty and violations of human rights, against capital punishment, against landmines, etc.
In cooperation with Jesuit companions and other groups we watch and analyze the situations confronting us and look for ways to act accordingly, aware of our limitations.
Adachi International Academy (AIA)
Let me offer here the example of a concrete program, a small school for migrant workers in the suburbs of Tokyo, which was the result of a long process of continuous contact with the situation of foreign workers living in Japan. The support of the Center was one of the key elements in making a successful start for AIA a year ago. The Jesuit Social Center had from its very beginning a priority involvement with refugees from the Indochina region (Vietnam-Laos-Cambodia) in former camps of Thailand as well as with those that reached Japan looking for asylum. During these last years foreign workers in Japan have attracted our attention. Japanese NGOs and church groups have gradually come forward to take care of refugees and foreign workers in a variety of fields from pastoral and legal issues to offering shelter and advice on health issues and family problems.
Meanwhile, it became clear that a lack of communication due to the difficulties of mastering the Japanese language was like a “chronic disease” that needed special attention. Most people thought that this was a basic issue common to all foreign workers, no matter what their nationalities, but the volunteer programs for learning Japanese that are available in quite a few churches as well as in public places are by no means adequate to provide a suitable solution. In the past I personally had been offering volunteer services on Sundays after helping out in the Umeda parish (Adachi-ku) and participated in programs of all kinds of assistance, going so far as to rent an apartment that functioned as a secretariat for such volunteer activities.
One Sunday two young Filipino workers came looking for advice. Their Japanese employer had told them to stop coming to work the next Monday. They had been fired, but they could not understand the reasons behind their dismissal. I asked them whether they had been given anything in writing. They showed me a piece of paper with their signatures. They could not read what was written in Japanese. The employer had written: “I, the undersigned, will stop working here next Monday.” They had signed the paper trusting their employer, but they had been clearly cheated in an underhanded way.
This is just one instance proving the need for full involvement in the language education of tens of thousands of foreign people working in Japan. Most cannot afford the expense of Japanese language schools and the casual volunteer services offered in many churches and public halls are of limited value.
On July 6, 2008, the Adachi International Academy (AIA) opened officially with a special ceremony of blessing and started operations in an old rented Japanese-style house in Umeda. The location was selected with regard for the big number of foreign workers living and working in Adachi Ward.
Four Catholic religious congregations agreed to share responsibility for this new pilot educational project in cooperation with lay people. In fact, the small school, rather like a Christian “Terakoya,” started functioning with the registering of 13 children in September. AIA is always open for anyone to come, from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. It offers private lessons in the Japanese language to children up to the high school level, and to foreign adults, as well as lessons in English conversation, mathematics and computer. The educational method is a person-to-person approach. The needs of the student concerning time and subject matter are given special priority. Thus, a large number of teachers is often needed. Financial limitations make it compulsory to depend on volunteers. On the other hand, the organizations cooperating together have agreed to look for educators and young volunteers to come to AIA to offer free services. One of the main jobs of the AIA office is to check daily on each student and volunteer so that the education proceeds smoothly. We ask for a low monthly fee to help pay the transportation expense of the volunteers.
The number of AIA users during the past 11 months was over 2,203. Some 50 volunteers have registered: half of these are university students, 14 religious and 10 lay. But, in fact, the actual number of volunteers comes to 35 persons, of whom 17 are university students, 10 religious and 8 lay people.
JAPA VIETNAM (The Japanese Group of Private Assistance to Vietnam)
JAPA VIETNAM was established in 1990 as a citizens’ group. The representative is Fr. Ando, from the Jesuit Social Center, where JAPA VIETNAM’s desk is located. The Secretary General is Mr. Shibata and a 6-member volunteer staff normally participates in the running of the group. There are 300 members helping financially to fund projects operated by Vietnamese groups in Vietnam. In rural areas the programs consist of building small bridges and vital roads, digging wells, as well as forming cow banks and sow raising farms, building classrooms for literacy education and clinics. In urban areas, assistance is provided to programs for street children and slum dwellers and programs for HIV/AIDS patients and their rehabilitation toward become independent. The total amount of funds each year is about 250 million yen, or an average of US$3000 per project.
A JAPA VIETNAM team visits Vietnam once a year. Every 6 months an informative Newsletter is published and once a year a general assembly is held with live reports from the visits to Vietnam. A charity concert and two bazaars are organized every year. During the first two weeks of August this year Fr Ando and Mr Shibata will be part of the team visiting Vietnam. There are plans to hold the general assembly together with a charity concert and a report on the August Vietnam tour around October of this year.
Stop the Death Penalty: Network of Religions
Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists and Shintoists, together with other non-affiliated groups and individuals, have established the “Stop the Death Penalty” Network. The establishment of the Network was the result of a seminar against capital punishment organized in Tokyo in the year 2003 under the initiative of an Italian Catholic organization, the St. Egidio Community. At the time, the secretariat of the Network was located at the office of Amnesty International, but in 2008 it was transferred to the Jesuit Social Center under the care of Mr Shibata.
Actually, 6 years ago, in 1997, the Jesuit Social Center conducted a national campaign against landmines in collaboration with citizens’ groups, Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist organizations. After that, in 2001, the center organized a “Life Painting Exhibition” of paintings from prisoners on death row. These experiences have helped us cooperate as the secretariat for the “Stop the Death Penalty” Network.
The Network consists of 5 or 6 religious bodies: Catholics, Protestants (NCC), Shinshu Otani, Tendaishu, Seimeizan Schweitzer Temple, Oomoto, etc. and organizes seminars twice a year. An important event is a common prayer meeting once a year of these religious bodies to demand the abolition of all executions, along with public appeals and a signature campaign demanding the abolition of executions.
Based on the experiences and personalities of those participating in this religious Network, Mr Shibata has been actively involved in the recent formation of a task force of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission for the abolition of capital punishment and in a campaign of citizens’ groups protesting executions.
Task Team on “Mental Illnesses”
Back in October 2004 the Province Committee on Social-Pastoral Ministry conducted an enquiry among all the Jesuits in the Province with regard to the main social issues in Japan. In the order of priority given them the results were as follows: First were the problems of foreign workers, then globalization and marginalization, and finally inner mental disorders. In order to address these issues various task forces were established.
The task team on mental illnesses was composed of 3 Jesuits, Frs. Hanafusa and Matsui and Br. Yoshiba, 3 lay people and a Sister issued a complementary enquiry to Jesuits on the matter and gathered several times to analyze the data and decide on the basic directions to follow.
Theory and reflection are not enough. There is need for field work and private commitment.
Besides pointing out the issues involved there is a need to present successful live instances.
The main causes of psychological problems cannot be reduced to personal temperament. There is need to clarify the social distortions which surround and disturb people’s lives.
The team members divided up their tasks and published a booklet, Taking a Positive Stand on Psychological Problems. The booklet was issued 3 times with a circulation of 1,700 copies. Since it takes a Christian stand on psychological situations, the booklet was well accepted by Catholic readers.
The task team remained inactive for a while after publication of the booklet, but last May three of the members, Fr. Hanafusa, Br. Yoshiba and Mr. Shibata resumed activities. The team plans to continue preparations for an initiation seminar on psychological issues with practical activities in view.
Association for Solidarity with Friends in Cambodia (Cambo-Ren)
Cambo-Ren was born from the wishes of all members that attended the Cambodia Study Tour of 2003. Fr. Bonet is the representative of the group, which is comprised of some 300 members. Cambo-Ren’s main office is located in the Jesuit Social Center. The local counterpart is the Jesuit Service Cambodia, particularly in Sisophon, near the Thai border.
The group gives importance to the following:
Giving assistance to programs orientated to “human development,” like rural development, education and health
By reducing consumption the members of the group produce some income that is used to support programs
By sharing their free time every year the members organize study tours to Cambodia.
Thanks to the assistance provided by members of the group, offering some of their savings and occasional free time, a number of projects in Cambodia have been implemented. Here is a list of them: houses built for victims of landmines, water reservoirs for villages, mobile libraries in 15 different locations, building of schools and study centers, benches and tables for schools, school toilets, wheelchairs, cow banks, wells, teaching materials and assistance to teachers’ salaries. The group visits the sites, discusses the projects directly with the persons involved and the JSC staff and then decides on possibilities of assistance. A year later, a Cambo-Ren group pays a new visit to the site of the project and reports to all Cambo-Ren members. A Newsletter is sent twice a year to all members.
Study tours of 9 days are organized every February during the dry season when the roads leading to the project sites are in good condition. The tour schedule is tightly planned to observe not only the educational programs of JSC for disabled people and children’s home receiving assistance, but also the torture facilities of Pol Pot’s times in Phnom Pen and visits to refugees’ homes. In Siem Reap the visits include a number of projects run by JSC and informative talks of NGO people clearing landmines. The last day is left for a visit to Angkor Wat. The groups are composed of 10 members and we hire a van to move around Cambodia.
Seminar: Let’s Discuss Development with Fr. Anzorena
Back in 1994 we began this seminar of monthly lectures from April to July each year. We used Kibe Hall this year and the theme of the seminar was “30 Years of a Housing Movement with the Cooperation of the Poor and their Supporters.” The lectures introduced the history of the housing movement and its development with future prospects in the Philippines, Africa, the Indochina region and Pakistan.
Fr. Anzorena has long been visiting third world countries, building a network of skilled personnel. He makes efforts to help the poor to become fully independent and deals with government officials to assist NGOs and squatters’ organizations working for the improvement of housing conditions. Fr. Anzorena usually spends half a year visiting countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thanks to his rich experience the reports on the situation of the countries offer always fresh insights.
Seminar “The voice of the Church for Modern Society: Catholic Social Teaching”
This is a series of seminars that started in 2007. Beginning last year the seminars have been held in one of the meeting halls of Kojimachi Church under the auspices of the Social Center and St. Ignatius Church. The coordinator, Fr. Bonet, and the speakers are Jesuits. The seminars deal with actual social issues concerning people.
First of all, there is a presentation of concrete situations, so that the following session explains the thinking of the Catholic Church and its public declarations. The main themes this year are: 1- Poverty and War. Japan’s actual poverty gap. The Catholic Church denounces modern realities and makes appeals for solutions. 2- History of Human Rights: Lights and Shadows. Human Rights and the Catholic Church; Catholic social teaching and Peace. 3- The Labor situation in Japan; Society seen from the eyes of foreign workers and temporal workers; John Paul II’s encyclical letter on Work and a Christian vision of human work. 4- Three kinds of assassinations: Criminals, War and Executions; Voice of the Church: Culture of death and Culture of life.
The participants are not only Catholics and as much as possible all share their questions and comments.
Ando Isamu, SJ(Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo) Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 132 / June 1st, 2006
The Social Center of Tokyo came into existence 32 years after Fr. Janssens, the Jesuit General at the time, published his Instruction on the Social Apostolate (1949) appealing to set up “Centers of Information and Social Action” all over the world where Jesuits are working. In 2005 there were 324 Jesuit Social Centers spread over five continents.
Several Jesuits in Japan had been involved in promoting social-welfare activities long before the Tokyo Social Center came into existence and the Japanese Province had established a special Committee to reflect on social issues in Japan in order to implement the Society of Jesus’ commitment to a more just society.
Many factors and people contributed to the establishment of this Center. Some were planned before hand, like the Socio-Economic Institute with its Asian Relations Center at Sophia University, but some were providential like the donation of a house and property by the deceased Ms. Elizabeth Catherine Pedro. The Jesuit 32nd General Congregation (1974-75) and the impulse given to the social justice ministry in East Asia by the “Socio-Economic Life in Asia” (SELA), Jesuit organization very active at that time, had certainly a definite influence in building some permanent structures for Jesuit social apostolate in Japan.
The Tokyo Jesuit Center started in 1981 with some definite orientations. Japanese society was pursuing euphoric economic industrial development while many Asian countries were suffering from poverty and oppression. The end of the war in Vietnam originated hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese Boat people and other refugees from Cambodia and Laos, a situation that provoked many people and organizations from all over the world to act on their behalf. In Japan individuals and citizens’ groups joined hands together to protect the refugees. There were also some Jesuits among them and through the leadership of Fr. Arrupe, Jesuit General at that time a new organization, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) with temporal headquarters in Bangkok (Thailand) was established. The new Tokyo center started operations in close coordination with JRS and worked, from its very beginning, for the acceptance of refugees and displaced persons in Japan and for the advocacy of their human rights. The difficulties involved and the refusal of the Japanese system to accept refugees created the need to work in collaboration with other organizations in network systems. Since then, networking has been one of the characteristics of the Tokyo Center.
Refugees opened more our eyes to the issues of poverty in many Asian countries where Japan had become an economic influential country. We thought we were in a position to make some contribution to alleviate situations of poverty in several Asian countries where we were able to establish direct connections with people.
Catholic social teaching inspired us and we searched for Jesuit and other catholic networks that could orientate our thinking. We worked along with a number of NGOs and groups that yearn for a better human society where human rights are respected, in particular with Catholic Justice and Peace, but we also decided to make symbolic efforts by committing ourselves to small-scale development projects that try to solve problems of poverty around Asian countries. Thus, we concentrated in Vietnam and Cambodia, following at the same time the initiatives of other citizens with whom we collaborate.
Japanese society, as well as other Asian countries, has changed much during all these years, and no matter our limitations we have tried to adapt to the new situations. When the Tokyo center was established the ideological conflict ? communism versus capitalism ? was effervescent while globalization issues are now much in the open; poverty and oppression were outstanding issues in many Asian countries and in spite of all the economic growth in East Asian countries now, the poverty gap is leaving millions of people in very un-human situations. Even in affluent Japan this is much felt nowadays, with thousands of homeless people and the “winners and losers” coexisting together. Since several years ago Japanese society is facing a new phenomenon, the affluence of foreign workers coming to work in Japan, first from several Asian countries, and at present even from far away Latin American countries. Although in limited ways this center is also committed to this issue.
New situations and challenges make us to look for new creative ways to continue the work of promoting greater awareness and commitment to more human dignity and social justice. Team work, networking and further commitments to the weak sectors in society with open minds to all sources of information are essential to break new ground in the future. On the other hand, we want to continue emphasizing the Jesuit character of this Tokyo social center and, thus, we have started a new system of an apostolic team of Jesuits and lay colleagues that take corporate responsibility in the running of the center. The past 25 years are a valuable asset for future developments.
Fr. Ando Isamu, SJ (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo) Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 129 / December 15th, 2005.
On 21 October 2005, JRS held a press conference to mark 25 years of service to forcibly displaced persons, in the Institute Maria S.S. Bambina, Rome.
Fr Lluis Magrina SJ, JRS International Director, provided an overview of forced displacement and JRS activities worldwide. He presented two new books on spirituality and education, which reflect on the way JRS has accompanied, served and advocated for the rights of refugees through life, death, hope and difficulties for 25 years.
The two books by ex-JRS staff were presented at the conference with a short explanation.God In Exile: towards a shared spirituality with Refugees was presented by Fr Pablo Alonso SJ. He described how the book seeks to give meaning to the rich spirituality that underlines the journey in exile and the specific JRS response. It is a practical book, echoing the structure of JRS, and always reflecting on people’s experience. “We must deepen our spirituality in order to find God in camps, detention centers and closed borders. A shared desire for a better world brings hope, a gift that refugees can offer”, said Fr Alonso SJ.
Horizons of learning: 25 years of JRS education was presented by Sr Lolin Menendez RSCJ. “Education can give displaced people hope, and in this sense it is as important as food, shelter and water. A time of exile can be used to provide skills and a sense of future in a terrible situation. Education is not just about schools, books and academic learning. Programs such as education about conflict resolution are very useful, and can mobilize leadership, monitor human rights abuses and even improve health. The book is a celebration of efforts made by refugees to educate their children or themselves. It also celebrates JRS workers worldwide who believe in the power of education,” said Sr Menendez RSCJ. On 14 November 1980 when Fr General Pedro Arrupe SJ called on Jesuits to establish a service to accompany, serve and advocate for refugee rights, there were 16 million refugees in the world. Jesuits accompanied Vietnamese boat people and provided humanitarian assistance and education services. Today, with 50 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, the context in which JRS works has changed dramatically and the number and scope of services provided has increased radically.
While I am writing this article a letter from Jesuit General, Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, addressed to all Jesuits on the 25th anniversary of JRS has just arrived.
On 21 October 2005, a Thanksgiving Mass was celebrated at the Church of Gesu (Rome). In the homily Cardinal Stephen Fumio Hamao said (excerpts): “People still follow Jesus the Messiah. They believe in the value of non-violence, instead of killing children. They accept sacrifices instead of giving in and watering down values of truth and love. They are convinced that Yahweh God will realize a full life for people, through his power, becoming visible in people and their attitudes; through our hands and the hands of those who will follow. And his word comes to us: Today, I call you, my daughter, my son, from Egypt.
We all are here because we responded to that call, in one way or another. We remember with gratitude the twenty-five years of service of JRS. In perseverance and with faithfulness they remained in difficult situations. An organization that is alive and present with so many displaced people. The Jesuit Refugee Service is a blessing for them and enrichment for those who share in their experiences.
JRS directly engages with people at grass roots, being at their side, looking into their eyes and listening to their stories. In camps where food security is threatened, with youngsters in educational projects, in protective places where women at risk are counseled, in detention centers visiting innocent people, with Christian communities coming together to celebrate the hopes and sorrows of daily life. A future has to be realized. That same attitude brings the Jesuit Refugee Service also in the corridors of the United Nations and the European Union. To tackle the causes of the problems, to lobby, to be involved in advocacy and to persuade politicians or civil servants so that signs of hope are realized for those who do not have a voice. Indeed, that is the Jesuit Refugee Service at work. They are an example of faith-centered action which is an inspiring example for many to follow.
Bringing individuals together, in dedicated service, seemingly powerless, but prepared to go his way, following Jesus the Messiah. Believing that together with others it is possible to realize signs of that Kingdom. I hope and pray that we remain such people. After all ‘the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way oppressed, these are the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties, of the followers of Jesus Christ.'”
Bangkok, the origin of the Regional office of JRS fully involved in its beginning with Vietnamese Boat People, Cambodian and Laotian refugees celebrated quietly the 25th anniversary of JRS. A Jesuit of the JRS team there reflecting on his experiences says: “One thing is clear: refugees are dangerous people. All governments instinctively realize this fact. Why else do nations and their media treat refugees as unwanted criminals, the source of all evils in the countries they enter?
Once they enter your life, as they did mine, they change a person, as they did me. They challenge deeply held, albeit probably largely unexamined, assumptions and presumptions. Just by being who they are, refugees will discover for you that many of these assumptions and presumptions are empty of true value, and even full of unseen violence. Let a refugee enter your life and touch it, a person will no longer be able, without terrible violence to the self, to view the world and its mechanisms from the comfortable viewpoint of before.
Refugees rewrite the history of the world, from the point of view of the dispossessed and powerless. Refugees enable people, like me, to begin to re-configure our own lives, again from the point of view of the disadvantaged, unwanted and marginalized.
Refugees are dangerous because they mediate conversion, change. And personal change implies change in all and every aspect of life. For many, this is a most disturbing reality.
This is, of course, a highly charged spiritual process of conversion and of subsequent adjustment to the call of that Divine Reality Christians call ‘The Father.’ Other faith traditions and other people of good will have their own ways of referring to this personal experience. The call is to see every human being as a sister or brother, children of the same ‘Father’, to remove violence far from ourselves.
Refugees reveal the sin of the world, and what the violence of sin does to human beings, ourselves included. Refugees reveal the structural sin embedded in the world’s contemporary systems, be they political, economic, military, educational, social, medical, etc. Despite the good efforts of so many good, intelligent, well-qualified and well-motivated people using their talents and their efforts to improve society, refugees reveal the rottenness at the heart of all systems. Above all refugees reveal, to those who dare to be touched by them, the complicity, again often not noticed, of all people, myself included, in this sin of the world. Refugees reveal a task still to be accomplished.
So, my refugee friends, whom I deeply admire for your incredible courage, resilience, creativity and humanity, a huge ‘Thank you.’ Your retention of your own humanity despite your often appalling treatment and experiences, is, for me, a mystery of the power of God’s tremendous loving compassion in your lives, and is a challenge to a world so clearly in need of loving compassion. I thank my Jesuit superiors and JRS for allowing me the opportunity to meet you, to know you, and to be touched by you. Above all, thank you, my refugee friends, for befriending me.”
On 15 October, a gathering of ninety present and past JRS workers came together at River View College in Sydney to celebrate 25 years of accompanying, serving and defending the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced people. It was an evening for sharing reflections and reconnecting with old friends.
But the night was also tinged with sadness. Currently, 50 million people worldwide are forced to move from their homes either within their own country or across national borders. The goal of Fr Pedro Arrupe was to establish an organization that would provide practical, unobtrusive assistance to people displaced by the Indochinese war. When JRS was founded there were 16 million refugees worldwide: as that population has expanded year by year, so has the work of JRS. Fr Mark Raper SJ, International Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service from 1990 to 2000, spoke at the JRS dinner. In his talk, Mark recalled refugees and volunteers who had helped shape the spirit of JRS.
He reiterated the philosophy that drives the organization, a style that begins in accompanying refugees, and shapes its service and advocacy from that accompaniment. It also sets out to work where there are few resources and where the greatest need is.
“Discussion and the search for solutions on migration issues must start by recognizing its human aspects,” said Fr Michael Schoepf SJ, Assistant Director, JRS Europe, addressing a conference on ‘Migration in Europe: Political Vision for Change in European Societies on 21 October at Institute Maria SS Bambina in Rome. The Conference was organized to mark the 25th anniversary of JRS.
Ms Angela Martini, European Commission Directorate for Justice, Liberty and Security, a main speaker at the Conference stressed the three European priorities of the Hague Program, as it is known: a clear consolidation of legal immigration, which would involve securing legal status for all regular migrants; a fight against irregular immigration involving the strengthening of European Union borders and more cooperation between migrants’ countries of origin and the EU member states; and a safe and generous asylum policy.
After congratulating JRS on 25 years of service to refugees, her contribution concentrated on what she called the ´asylum-migration-development nexus´, meaning the difficulty of distinguishing between migrants and asylum seekers, and the importance of working together with refugee producing countries on development policies to combat the reasons why people flee. She also saw integration of asylum seekers and refugees as important. To this end, she supported policies that allow asylum seekers to work.
The origin of JRS is closely linked to the issue of Vietnamese Boat People and although Japan was never willing to accept refugees as many other industrial countries did, she has been very generous in providing financial assistance especially to UNHCR and other international organizations caring for refugees. As regards our Japanese Jesuit Province it is worthy to note that around the time JRS was starting to get organized, first the Asian Relations Center of Sophia University (Tokyo) and later on the University itself became actively involved in the issue of Khmer and Vietnamese refugees sheltered in the temporary camps of Thailand. Under the leadership of the University at the time, many students had the opportunity to work as volunteers in those refugee camps for short periods of time. Although this program had a short life many young people were able to experience how miserable the life of refugees was. The camps degraded people humanly and spiritually. Thousands of displaced persons were refused the status of refugees, treated as illegal occupants and even evicted from a few feet of beach to sit or lay their heads. Refugees are political beggars and they are deprived of the most elementary human right. Two publications of the Asian Relations Center: “Documentary: BOAT PEOPLE, Today’s Untouchables” (1978) and “REFUGEES, the Cry of the Indochinese” (1980) recall in vivid images the tragic situations that provoked the establishment of JRS by the Jesuits. At present the Institute for the Study of Social Justice of Sophia University keeps contacts with JRS in Africa where sponsors some programs for refugees there. The Institute also sporadically has held some international symposia on world refugee issues.
The Jesuit Social Center of Tokyo, the liaison office for JRS in Japan, has been deeply involved with various JRS programs in East Asia mainly through the Regional office in Bangkok (Thailand) and has promoted national campaigns in Japan against anti-personal landmines in collaboration with JRS Cambodia. The center promotes independent development programs in Vietnam and Cambodia together with other Japanese groups. In Japan, as well, has been involved with advocacy activities for refugees and displaced persons from the Indochina region living in Japan. At present because of the serious situation of hundreds of thousands of foreign workers that are now working in Japan one of the main focuses of our work is their pastoral care and advocacy tasks.
(Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo) Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 114 / June 15th, 2003
Jesuit Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach sent on January 15, 2003 a message to all Jesuit Major Superiors introducing the document “Guidelines on Jesuit Networking in the Social Area”. The Guidelines analyze the actual Jesuit networks and show various ways to promote Jesuit networking, considering the modern phenomenon of globalization. The full Japanese text has already been sent to all Jesuit Superiors in the Province. We mainly introduce here the Japanese version of a “Data-Base of Jesuit Networks in the Social Area”.
“The peace of Christ!
The phenomenon of globalization has brought to the fore issues transcending national boundaries, requiring a multi-disciplinary approach, and demanding rapid and well-informed responses. Networks and networking are important means of providing this type of response to issues like the burden of external debt on the poor, and ensuring the sustainability of development. The recent experience of Jesuits at the Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, and the practical knowledge acquired in the past by the Jesuit Refugee Service attest to the efforts already made by the Society of Jesus to respond in a more integrated manner to these new global challenges.
In 1995, the 34th General Congregation expressed several closely-related insights: first, that the Society of Jesus was already established or structured in such a way as to foment, even to require, networking in the carrying out of our mission (GC34, d.20, n.13). Secondly, that the Society’s very nature as an international (or “universal”) body represented an enormous untapped potential in this regard (GC34, d.20, n.5). Thirdly, that the development of networking in the Society could not easily be foreseen and would inevitably proceed by trial and error, although there was already some accumulated experience to reflect on (GC34, d.20, n. 14).
The topic of networking was introduced at the Loyola meeting of Provincials, 2000, and the Social Justice Secretary was entrusted with the task of studying the reality of networking and suggesting some ways of proceeding. A draft was presented to the Moderators of Conferences of Major Superiors in 2001, and a second amended version at their meeting in September 2002. Today I am happy to send you the present Guidelines on Jesuit Networking in the Social Area, to share with whomever you think best in your Province.”
(From a letter of Jesuit Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Rome 15 January 2003)
What do we mean by “network”?
Let us agree, in the Society of Jesus, on a kind of working definition, a meaning by common agreement. By “network” we mean:
i) a number of independent individuals and/or institutions
ii) at a distance
iii) associating and co-operating in a rich interlacing of relationships
iv) with a purpose (ad intra or ad extra), and
v) with an identifiable co-ordination.
Taking the five points of the above definition together, networking in the Society of Jesus may be summed up as a mode of proceeding, a style of working apostolically, a way of enhancing or carrying out our apostolate across many of the lines which, until now, have delimited our Jesuit activities and jurisdictions.
While networks are fluid and variable, there are nevertheless many analogies between networks and other works typical of the Society. Thus, networking may really be less novel than at first sight appears. What is important is to gather the relevant data, when considering their relevance, or setting priorities, or allocating resources, or whatever step is under consideration. These guidelines often demonstrate exactly this exercise, namely, applying rather well known criteria to realities that present significantly novel features.
The questions one asks when some networking is in its infancy – “Is it worth giving the proposed network a try?” – are very different from those asked after several years of activity, investment of time and resources, and feed-back, such as, “Does the network fulfil its apostolic purpose as fully as it might and if not how might it be changed?”
Sometimes a network looks more like a light structure for communication, exchange and sharing; at other times it looks more like a work which over-spills spatial and jurisdictional boundaries. From a distance, one might have the impression that networks are spontaneously burgeoning up all over and need to be controlled or restrained. But a closer view shows that networks take a lot of energy, creativity, work, good will and prayer to get and keep going. They also take personnel, financial and infrastructure resources.
Networks are thus like other works of the Society: here too the creativity of Jesuits seems incessantly to invent new works which also require “energy, creativity, work, good will and prayer to get and keep going, as well as personnel, financial and infrastructure resources.” The decisions guiding this “investment” depend on examen in on-going evaluation and discernment in planning.
A PROVISIONAL DATA-BASE OF JESUIT NETWORKS IN THE SOCIAL AREA
AJAN (African Jesuit AIDS Network)
Focus: AJAN is a new effort to respond to HIV/AIDS in Africa and Madagascar by developing an appropriate social ministry that is deeply-rooted amongst those who suffer, that accompanies those who care for them, that educates to responsibility and prevention, that is sensitive to the local culture, faith and spirituality, and that collaborates widely with others.
Born: in 1997, by decision of the African Conference (JESAM), and constituted an Assistancy work in 2002.
Membership: those Jesuits who are interested, on a voluntary basis.
Co-ordination: Michael Czerny SJ (CSU-AOR), full-time, based in Nairobi.
EUROJESS (European Jesuits in Social Sciences)
Focus: a professional association whose goals are twofold (cf. Statutes, art. 2):
– to ensure contact and periodic exchange of views and to foster co-operation among Jesuits (residing habitually in Europe) and institutions of the Society in Europe specialised in reflecting on social problems within the framework of the social apostolate;
– to foster relationships with other organisations of a similar nature in the Society of Jesus and with Jesuits dealing with the same problems in other parts of the world.
Born: in 1949 as a network amongst German, Dutch and French social philosophers; re-founded on new bases and named EUROJESS in the 1960’s; now admitting any Jesuit (usually residing in Europe) competent in reflecting on social problems.
Membership: 70 members (September 2001) all of them Jesuits and half of them active participants and contributors.
Co-ordination: Antoine Kerhuel SJ (GAL), part-time; OCIPE provides the Secretariat.
GEC (Global Economy and Cultures)
Focus: impact of the current neoliberal form of economic globalisation on various cultures and especially on the poor.
Born: conceived at GC34 (1995), a four-year project launched in 1999.
Membership: 40 SJ centres for research / action / popular education, nearly all represented by Jesuits; Africa: 8; Middle East: 1; South Asia: 5; East Asia: 8; Latin America & Caribbean: 9; Canada: 1; USA: 1 (representing 6 others); Central and Western Europe: 7.
Co-ordination: Gasper Lo Biondo SJ (MAR).
IJND (International Jesuit Network for Development)
Focus: on development-related global issues such as debt, trade, governance and alternative development. Three levels of action: technical studies, with accent on ethical and theological dimension; lobbying and advocacy, liaison with other campaigns; education for development. To promote a Christian vision on global issues and challenges by a contribution from the whole body of the Society.
Born: first proposed at the Naples Social Apostolate Congress in 1997, Jesuits for Debt Relief and Development (JDRAD) was born in 1998 and, in 2001, was transformed into the International Jesuit Network for Development (IJND).
Membership: some 30 active participants.
Co-ordination: Bernard Lestienne SJ (BRC), president.
IPC (International Population Concerns)
Focus: an informal think-tank that can provide professional advice, IPC monitors international population issues and policies in relation to poverty and in the light of Church concerns.
Born: at a 1994 meeting in Ludwigshafen convened by the Social Justice Secretariat.
Membership: some 30 Jesuits as well as associates expert in demography and related social sciences and moral theology.
Co-ordination: Stan D’Souza SJ (CCU). Jesuit ecology networking
Focus: ecology from every imaginable disciplinary point of view
Born: at the Rio Conference (1992) and in the course of work on We live in a broken world (1995-2000); several regional networks are more or less active, but the world-wide network is still in gestation.
Membership: in Latin America, the members are not individuals but one Jesuit high-school and nine Jesuit universities; there are activities but little networking in South Asia; in USA a university-based list was developed.
– in India, K.M. Matthew SJ (MDU) organised a congress of Jesuits in ecology in March 2001, but a South Asian Jesuit ecology network or environmental ministry is still a ways off.
– in Latin America, Jose Alejandro Aguilar SJ (COL) is the co-ordinator, with the institutional support of the Colombian Universidad Javeriana’s Faculty of Environmental and Rural Studies via its Instituto de Estudios Ambientales para el Desarrollo (Ideade) in Bogota.
– in USA, the mailing-list of university Jesuits and colleagues interested in ecology awaits re-activation. Contact Prof Loretta Jancoski
Jesuits in ministry to indigenous peoples
Focus: ministry to indigenous or Native peoples, in several regional sections.
Born: the 1993 world-wide meeting at Anishinabe (Canada) gave birth to the regional sections. The Latin American one was launched at GC 34 (1995).
Pastoral y solidaridad indigena in Latin America
Membership: over a 100 Jesuits working in indigenous ministry, including some indigenous Jesuits, with about 40 active participants.
Co-ordination: Xavier Albo SJ (BOL)
JCIM (Jesuit Companions in Indigenous Ministries) in East Asia
Membership: Jesuits working in indigenous ministry, including some indigenous Jesuits.
Co-ordination: Jojo Fung SJ (MAS)
JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service)
Focus: to serve and accompany refugees and displaced people and advocate their cause.
Born: in 1980, by decision of Father General Pedro Arrupe, and recently established as a foundation by Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.
Membership: around 500 persons (SJ and non SJ), 62 Jesuits full time and 45 part time or less, 100 sisters, 300 lay people, plus many local collaborators, most of whom are refugees, involved in some 46 countries around the world.
Co-ordination: Lluis Magrina SJ (TAR), full-time; International Office at the Curia provides administration, co-ordination, recruiting, information, advocacy, expertise on projects. MOSJ (Workers’ Mission)
Focus: a guild (gremio) linking Jesuits traditionally involved in the Workers’ Mission in Europe and now Jesuits and other religious in ministry among the marginalized especially in the great urban centres.
Born: in 1960’s; first European meeting in 1983.
Membership: 100 Jesuits and 25 other religious involved in the monde populaire, a few still doing manual or salaried work, many retired workers, with 70 active participants at the last European meeting.
Co-ordination: Hugo Carmeliet (BSE).
RED (Red de las Acciones de Desarrollo de Base de los Jesuitas en America Latina y el Caribe – Jesuit Network for Development Projects in Latin America & the Caribbean)
Focus: to enrich the work of each member, to create a shared culture (among projects until now unconnected with one other), to develop a common capacity to communicate, to act, and to make proposals together, to develop common plans and projects to present to the international aid agencies, and to participate in concerted fashion in the Latin American social apostolate.
Born: since 1994, several meetings leading to the decision of the Latin American Provincials at Loyola (2000). RED began functioning in 2002.
Membership: potentially all Jesuit projects, large and small, often called NGO’s, involved in social research and grass-roots development; in 2002, fifteen Jesuit organisations from nine different Provinces agreed to participate actively in the RED.
Co-ordination: Klaus Vathroder SJ (VEN).
Focus: mailing lists among Jesuits and colleagues in the social apostolate throughout the world (sjsocial) and in Latin America (alsocial), which, from time to time, become very active “urgent action” lists.
Born: the Jesuit Social Economic Development list around 1995, to which the Naples Congress list (1997) was added, to form in English and in Spanish.
Membership: around 80 Jesuits, principally in the English list.
Co-ordination or rather contact-person: Luis del Valle SJ (MEX).
Social Apostolate Co-ordinators
Focus: electronic newsletter POINTS for Jesuit Social Apostolate Co-ordinators throughout the world.
Born: in 2000 on the occasion of Father General’s Letter.
Membership: Province/Region Social Apostolate Co-ordinators, network co-ordinators, JRS Regional Directors.
Co-ordination: Social Justice Secretariat,
For purposes of reference, here are the regional groupings of the social apostolate, each with its co-ordinator:
* Africa and Madagascar Co-ordinators began meeting in 1994. Muhigirwa Ferdinand SJ (ACE)
* Apostolado Social en America Latina meeting annually since 1991, now dependent on CPAL. Ricardo Antoncich SJ (PER)
* CIAS (Comision Interprovincial de Accion Social, formerly CONAS) in Spain co-ordinating since 1994. Some participation from Portugal and Italy.
Co-ordinator: Dario Molla Llacer SJ (ARA), Secretary: Daniel Izuzquiza SJ (TOL)
* JCSIM (Jesuit Commission for Social and International Ministries) in USA and Canada, meeting twice a year. Richard Ryscavage SJ (MAR)
* JESA (Jesuits in Social Action) in South Asia, meeting annually or so; Joe Xavier SJ (MDU)
* Social Apostolate in Central and Eastern Europe meeting annually since 1996; Robin Schweiger SJ (SVN)
This is a summary of a document that is primarily for Jesuits. Those desiring detailed information, please, contact us.
Ando Isamu S.J. (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo) Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 100 / February 15th, 2001
The new century started with many celebrations. We, at the Tokyo social center, celebrate this year the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the center. This is our 100th issue of the Social and Pastoral Bulletin. We keep good remembrances of so many people and groups we have met during all these years, and are grateful to all those who cooperated graciously to produce each one of the Bulletins.
There are many ways of looking at the past years, but to me this was a necessary period of time to lay the foundations for the years to come. I am fully aware that our lay staff and the young Jesuits will develop, from now on, much of the work already started.
In the center we have tried to be, as much as possible, professional and, at the same time, faithful to social Catholic thinking. The Jesuit mandate of the last General Congregations, together with later documents, like the “Characteristics for Social Apostolate” in combination with the Jesuit Social Apostolate World Congress at Napoli (1997) and the recent Letter of Fr. General have constantly provided orientations to our work.
Various past events and movements in Japan and through East Asian countries strongly influenced the direction of our center. The most prominent ones were: the flow of hundreds of thousands of boat people in the late 70s and early 80s and the hard situations they met in Japan and elsewhere; the presence of foreign workers in Japan and the cold reception they still receive; the spread of citizen groups and the networks of NGOs; the political and business corruption and shortsighted Japanese power politics; the terrible shock of the Hanshin earthquake and the generous response of Japanese youth and tens of thousands of volunteers; the increasing numbers of homeless people and the unemployed; the possibilities offered by the use of the internet, etc.
But, talking about issues, one can mention: human rights violations and politics in Asia, globalization and multinational business, consumption patterns, re-structuring and networking trends.
Rethinking our Christian roles in Japan
(By normal standards, I have already entered the stage of ‘senior’ Jesuits and feel that, people like myself, should openly be frank in manifesting our opinions and try to open forums of free exchanges of views.)
My first remark is that changes are needed. They are healthy and dynamic when the aim is to be prompt in answering the needs of people, of offering different new alternatives, and not only to re-structure our organizations and institutions. Too often we hear that a change must come because of lack of personnel and/or funds. In Japan ‘re-structure’ has become a famous expression that usually means cutting jobs, closing places, and merging with others. The real purpose is more profitable business. Priority is given to bigger groups, also within religious institutions.
The motivation for change in our organizations and institutions must be to offer a better qualitative service to people. No matter the different field of work we are involved in, our principal interest must be the persons with whom we work and those whom we serve, and not the institution, no matter how important we consider it.
Again, re-thinking on our roles in Japan, we need a clear vision. We do not have to invent it. The vision is in front of us, if we look at the modern world with the eyes of the Gospel. This was, after all, the stand of Vatican II Council, especially in the Constitution on “The Modern World”. Jesuits and other religious groups elaborated that stand further. For us Jesuits, the promotion of Faith and Justice is a key expression that embraces our modern Jesuit identity.
As Fr. General P.H. Kolvenbach often reminds us: “From GC32 to GC34, our option for the poor has been a clear priority. No Jesuit can deny it”. Thinking 10 or 20 years ahead concretely, our mission in Japan, in the social field, must embrace the following important elements:
A Church-Vision, local as well as international or Catholic. Such vision should focus on lay people. Our Japanese Church, including the religious, is too clerical. While lay people fulfil their civil responsibilities as professionals in society, when it comes to participation in the work of the church they are seldom given important tasks and opportunities.
They are considered employees, not co-workers. Many are not aware of the rich Catholic teaching regarding social or political involvement in Japanese society, because religious leaders are unable to present publicly such a Christian message or maybe they are not confident about the whole matter.
In dealing with the local Japanese Church there is a need of a radical change in our mentality also. Our Churches are filled with foreigners. This is nothing new any more and this situation will certainly remain for the next 10 years and further on. These foreign workers, young and full of dynamism, are a blessing for our Churches, but they often live in fear in our midst. Most face many material needs and discrimination. The churches are, to many of them, a refuge and a spiritual and psychological oasis. They can meet there their countrymen and pray to God as they were accustomed to do back home. Nevertheless, many local Christian communities or churches still refuse to accept them, they are not friendly to them, as they consider them visitors or like second rank Christians. Such foreigners do not count in parish councils and are not given responsibilities as Christians. No matter their legal status, many have been with us already for 8 or 10 years.
A different issue is inter-congregational cooperation among the various religious. This becomes obvious in the field of education. New needs in society ask for new initiatives and alternative plans of cooperation that could enrich the works of Christian education and make positive contributions to the work of the Church and to Japanese society. An example would be the recognition by the schools of fieldwork outside the school, and the building of volunteer programs for teachers and students. Christian universities and colleges could make valuable contributions to Japanese society, offering in open forums outside their institutions humanistic and Christian values. This could be done by getting involved and taking stands on modern problems of economics and politics, of legal rights of the weakest sectors in our society, of environmental issues, and so forth. We had a small experience for the last 5 years in approaching “mission schools”, through organizing workshops for educators on the promotion of volunteer spirit, of becoming “persons for others”. For the time being this could not proceed further, for lack of official support from the schools.
A Christian Ecumencial Vision
A Christian Ecumenical Vision. At the social action level, we often meet people of other faiths and work together with them, sometimes we also hold prayer meetings with them. It becomes natural to work together for the promotion of the human person, for peace, against discrimination and poverty, etc. People that belong to other religions are receptive to such cooperation. This is the same experience other groups and organizations also have. Nevertheless, the image we, Christians, project towards Japanese society is that we are totally divided. A lot of efforts are still needed to make a reality that unity Jesus wanted from us Christians. After all, we believe and love the same Jesus Christ and draw power and inspiration from the same Word of God. Why so much division?
A Modern Secular Vision
A Modern Secular Vision. When we look inwardly within the walls of our institutions, no matter their size, we might feel satisfaction in the efforts and the work done.
But in reality, people do not know us, our impact in Japanese society is practically null, we are just a drop of water in the Japanese Sea. I think that one of the most basic attitudes we Christians need is an awareness of our smallness and powerlessness. Our real strength to continue with joyful optimism the spreading of the Gospel is Christ himself. The symbols Jesus himself chose of seed and leaven, salt and light help shape our attitudes in front of Japanese society. The energy and dynamism built in the Word of God produces marvelous changes.
I think we need to stop being “spectators” of society, and become deeply rooted in people to understand their lives, problems and suffering. Those who are in the weakest side of society look for people they can trust and communicate with. One of our roles is to search for the roots of the problems, and grasp as objectively as possible the Japanese situation. Christian values are often in collision with the mentality of the common Japanese person for success, competitiveness, consumption and material comfort. Are we really providing alternatives and know how to say no to values that contradict the Gospel?
Do we offer something of real value to official economic policies, to educational official plans, to moral business and economic corruption, so that the common Japanese could agree with? Inside the Church the moral values we hold could look very valuable, but how are those values transferred to Japanese society? Is there any dynamic leadership from the side of Japanese Christian communities? There is nothing wrong with trying to address leaders and influential people, but since we have made an ‘option for the poor’ this dimension must clearly appear.
Internationalization and Church
The internationalization of Japanese society is my last remark. This is extremely important in this new century. Here, again, our contributions are most gratifying and there is a wide field for cooperation.Nevertheless, since our efforts are on one hand limited and at the same time very valuable, the emphasis must be, more and more, on the contributions we could make towards third world countries.For many years to come, our priorities should stay with poverty elimination. Japan is a very influential country in Asia and in the world, and our lay people must have a deeper understanding of how much our Catholic faith can inspire them to make better contributions to less industrially developed Asian peoples.This requires big changes within the churches and educational institutions. I am not referring to some sporadic volunteer activities but to full systematic planning.
Many citizens groups and NGOs continue flourishing in Japan during the past 20 years that this Center has been in existence. Such groups, without having any religious connotation, often identify themselves with the weakest sectors in society. Many of them active in third world countries of Asia, are fighting against poverty and violations of human rights. There are quite a few individual Christians working with them, but the future is still full of possibilities for wider cooperation. NGOs in Japan might be practically the only sector that creates optimism and hope in our actual gloomy society.
By being in constant contact with such healthy citizens groups we might discover to become prophets, and thus accomplish better our duties as Christians inside modern Japanese society.
JESUIT REFUGEE SERVICE ASIA PASIFIC Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 99 / December 20th, 2000
The history of JRS Asia Pacific begins in the lives and work of Jesuits already involved with refugees in the region in the 1970’s. By 1979 the plight of vast numbers of refugees in Africa and Asia had reached a critical point and was arousing ever greater worldwide sympathy. Fr Pedro Arrupe, as Superior General, was clear that the Society of Jesus had to respond to this emergency. His letter of November 1980 to all Major Superiors of the Society of Jesus became the foundation document of the Jesuit Refugee Service. In the late 70’s and early 80’s some ten Jesuits around Asia were already working directly with refugees in camps. In September 1982 Mark Raper was appointed to coordinate JRS in Asia and the Pacific. This included all of South Asia, which was later to become a separate JRS Region.
Prior to Fr Arrupe’s letter of 1980 some Jesuits had been working with displaced persons in their own country. Thus after the Indonesian invasion of December 1975, Joao Felgueras, Jose Martins and Daniel Coelho served the people of East Timor.
Others had found new demands placed on their already generous commitments by the arrival of Indochinese refugees. In Macao, for example, Luis Ruiz, whose generosity to Chinese refugees was already almost legendary, extended his work to welcome the Vietnamese as well. Other Jesuits worked with refugees in Hong Kong on a part time basis.
After refugees began to arrive in greater numbers in the countries neighboring Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia, some Jesuits offered themselves for pastoral work among them. The heaviest concentration of Jesuits working with refugees was in Thailand. Some Jesuits had gone there during the crisis of the 1979, while others had answered the call for the short-term volunteers in 1980. The number of Jesuits involved and the variety in their vision made them particularly important in the subsequent shaping of JRS.
In South Asia around this time large numbers of-Afghan refugees had settled inside the borders of Pakistan and Iran. In Sri Lanka many people were forced from their homes in 1983, when the ethnic Singalese reacted violently to armed campaigns by the ‘Jaffna’ Tamils. In other countries less affected by the immediate influx of refugees. Jesuits had been drawn into the lives of refugees by their research or advocacy. Ando Isamu in Japan was involved in community education, and through a social institute focussed Japanese concern upon the plight of refugees. In Indonesia, Fr. Hardaputranta, who carried the responsibility for coordinating the care for East Timorese refugees on behalf of the Indonesian Catholic Church, was involved with Indochinese refugees from the beginning through the Bishops Institute for Social Research and Development. The interest of Australian Jesuits in refugees was awakened and encouraged by Asian Bureau Australia (ABA) under the direction of Mark Raper.
A meeting was held in Bangkok on August 6, 1981 between Fr. Arrupe and all the Jesuits in Thailand – both those of the region and those who had come to work with refugees. It came at an opportune time, for out of it came a broad framework within which Jesuits would work with refugees in Thailand. It also left open many of the larger questions. At the meeting Fr. Arrupe commended the work already undertaken, and supported strongly the desire of the participants that the work should continue in some form. He recognized the delicacy of the work in a volatile political climate, and also the demands that the commitment to refugees would make on an already thinly stretched Thai Jesuit community. He insisted that Jesuits working with refugees should cooperate with others and particularly with non-Christian groups. He was aware that charges of ideological bias might be made against Jesuits, but accepted the risk as part of the cost of any worthwhile enterprise. After this meeting, the Jesuit commitment to refugees in Thailand took shape and began to expand.
The plight of the boat people only worsened during the 1980s. The number of refugees fleeing from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia grew enormously. At the same time, commitments through the JRS expanded in the camps in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines. Most projects were concerned with education, technical training, pastoral formation and health.
The period that followed the establishment of the Office of JRS Asia Pacific in Bangkok was one of consolidation. It concluded late in 1989 with the appointment of Tom Steinbugler to replace Mark Raper as the Regional Director of JRS Asia Pacific. Mark had been chosen to replace Dieter Scholz in Rome. JRS Asia Pacific still supported the Jesuit work with refugees in Sri Lanka and India. Elsewhere, lrie Duane and [Lizzie Finnerty] undertook a small commitment to Afghanistan refugees in Pakistan at the end of 1989. The meeting at Chachoengsao in Thailand in November 1989 perhaps pointed to the future directions of JRS. The meeting sent Mark Raper to Rome to replace Dieter Scholz and welcomed Tom Steinbugler as director of JRS-AP.
As the 1990’s began the work of JRS included very large programs and large numbers of personnel. JRS was perhaps the only NGO represented in every one of the many camps that had grown up around the region. By this time the governments involved in giving shelter and resettlement to Vietnamese refugees had decided to bring the crisis to an end by naming a cut-off date for new arrivals, and instituting a screening process to distinguish between refugees and non-refugees (the Comprehensive Plan of Action). ‘Screened-out’ asylum seekers were to be repatriated. This was a time for JRS to discern how it could best accompany the many groups of refugees who were destined for repatriation. The anxiety and needs created by the Comprehensive Plan of Action created a need for counseling and for competent legal advice. Accordingly, from 1990, JRS established programs of legal and social counseling. Many young lawyers volunteered their time and expertise to help refugees.
At the same time a program to monitor the condition of people returning to Vietnam was begun in Ho Chi Minh City. Even before the Cambodian refugees returned home in 1993, JRS programs were begun in Cambodia. They built on many years experience gained in the camps, particularly in work with the handicapped, including mine victims. The work in Cambodia was conceived as a service to much-needed national reconciliation.
As the screening process concluded and the Vietnamese asylum seekers were either repatriated or resettled, Tom Steinbugler handed over to Quentin Dignam as Regional Director early in 1994. Quentin presided over the downscaling of JRS programs with Indochinese and the withdrawal of JRS workers as these camps were closed. As the JRS work in Cambodia was clearly a work of development rather than a commitment specifically to refugees, responsibility was transferred from the JRS to the Jesuit Service Cambodia and to the Jesuit Provinces of Asia in 1995. In June 1993 Fr Vincent Mooken was appointed as the first Director for the new JRS Region of South Asia, although JRS Asia Pacific maintained responsibility for JRS programs with Bhutanese refugees in Nepal until the end of 1997.
Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s refugees from Burma fled the risk of imprisonment, torture and death. In 1988 some 7,000 students had left Burma to seek refuge in Thailand or to set up camps in territory effectively controlled by minority tribes. In the year 2000 there are over 120,000 refugees from Burma living in refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border. There are hundreds of thousands more victims of the Burmese junta displaced inside Burma or living precarious lives as illegal migrant workers in neighboring countries.
Steve Curtin took over from Quentin Dignam as Regional Director in January l997. Steve continued the work that Quentin had been doing to strengthen JRS programs with refugees from Burma taking refuge in Thailand. Around our region in the year 2000 we see countries in various stages of growth away from totalitarianism towards greater liberalization and democracy but the cost is high and in some places the progress is painfully slow. In 2000 with new and massive forced displacements having occurred in Indonesia and East Timor, JRS Asia Pacific is continuing new programs in both those countries. Andre Sugijopranoto from the Indonesian Province will take over as Regional Director from 1 Jan 2001 with responsibility for projecting the concern of the Society of Jesus for displaced people into the Asia Pacific region which includes China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia and other Pacific island states.
JRS is very grateful to be able to harness the skills and resources of many workers, Jesuits, friends and benefactors in touching the lives of displaced people in the Asia Pacific region. Regional Directors have come and gone but the refugees and their long term friends in the Regional Office and at Suan Phlu, Phnom Penh and other places near and far are the heroes of JRS Asia Pacific.
Perhaps the end of this short history of JRS Asia Pacific is the place to remember some of our workers who have died whilst serving with JRS. In November 1985 shortly after the office moved to Bangkok, Neil Callahan died. He had been unwell at Phanat Nikhom, was diagnosed as terminally ill when he returned to the United States, and eventually died after a prolonged and painful illness.
At the beginning of 1988, Surimart Chalemsook (Look Nut) died. She had given herself tirelessly in giving life to JRS workers during the time she worked in the office. She had then begun herself to find a rich life in the border camps. She was killed in a road accident on the Chonburi road. At the beginning of the next year Bill Yeomens also died after a short illness.
Ma Yee Yee Htun was not a JRS worker but a refugee who grew very close to the hearts of the JRS Bangkok team in 1989. Yee Yee fell ill at the Burmese border and was nursed at the JRS Office in Bangkok until her death aged 29 in January l990. In 1992 Sr Carmelita Hannan RSJ fell ill soon after arriving to work with JRS in Thailand. She died from cancer in Melbourne soon afterwards.
In 1996 Richie Fernando SJ, aged 26 years, was killed by a hand grenade released by a student in the Jesuit Service technical school for the handicapped near Phnom Penh. On 11 September 1999 the JRS East Timor Director, Fr Karl Albrecht was killed in Dili, Fr Dewanto a newly ordained priest was killed on September 6th in the massacre in Suai where he had been sent to help the Parish Priest to minister to thousands of people seeking refuge in the church.
These deaths were all tragedies. But they also brought home sharply what is involved in refugee life. They were experienced as a call to share the life of refugees. They recalled the prolonged agony of life and the way in which so many refugees experience life as a slow process of dying. They recalled the precariousness of refugee life, where sickness, violence and war always threaten. They recalled finally the extraordinary courage by which many refugees contrive a generous life out of wholly inadequate materials.