Category Archives: Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo

Is the Official Catholic Church a Newcomer to Ecological Issues?

―Pepe Francis’s New Encyclical Laudato Si’―
Ando Isamu, SJ, staff member(Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 184 / August 15th, 2015

Since 1993 thousands of scientists and representatives of all countries of the world have constantly been meeting to discuss global warming. Again, this year they will gather for the 21st time to negotiate common international measures concerning how to fight climate changes. The majority of scientists believe that natural disasters are mainly provoked and occasioned by human activities.

Thus, it is not so remarkable that Pope Francis has recently published, on June 18, an encyclical letter Laudato Si’ on environmental issues.

In fact, Pope John Paul II in his 1990 message for the World Day of Peace already stressed “the ecological crisis as a common responsibility.” Concern for Creation is “ an essential part of Christian Faith.”

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A visible turning point for ecological conversion at the Vatican started in 2001, when 4,800 solar panels were set up on the buildings of the Vatican and the “Vatican climate forest” was created in Hungary (2008). Both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI issued strong statements on the environmental crisis and stressed the need for humans not to act as despots over nature, but to be concerned for creation. Not only has ecology became a major trend within the Catholic Church, but it has become one of the most potent social and political issues of the 21st century.

Nevertheless, Pope Francis has brought about a substantial change. Up to the present, environmental degradation was mainly a side issue in Vatican official statements, but with the publication of the encyclical letter Laudato Si’ Pope Francis became the first Pope to place care for creation at the center of the life of the Church. The document takes its inspiration from the writings of the 13th-century saint, Francis of Assisi – widely quoted in the encyclical. The Pope also refers to the eco-theology of the Orthodox Church and to public statements from 18 Catholic bishops’ conferences around the world, including several from Asian countries, including Japan. John Paul II and Benedict XVI are also often quoted in the new encyclical. This is proof of the continuity of the official doctrine of the Church on the matter.

The encyclical is addressed not only to Catholics but to all people of good will, including governments and businesses which can make decisions that will limit global warming. The Pope’s words are grounded in an analysis of how human activities are creating acute environmental problems, including climate change, deforestation, air pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Our planet is the work of the Creator, the God of Love.It is the common home for all, not only for the rich or those with power. It is to be treasured.

And since the poor are especially susceptible to natural disasters, results of environmental irresponsibility, Pope Francis stresses the need for a priority option for the lives of the poor, as he already had done in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

The Catholic Church as an Actor in Looking for Solution to the Ecological Crisis
Though recognizing that the Church has no definite opinion on global warming, she must enter into dialogue about climate change because our common home, the earth, is falling into serious disrepair. Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems. Still, we can see signs that things are now reaching a breaking point. The facts and the conclusions of experts tell us of the rapid pace of change and degradation. The present world system is certainly unsustainable from numerous points of view, for we have stopped thinking about the goals of human activity. “Humanity has disappointed God’s expectations.”

What is needed is political action which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral, and inter-disciplinary approach to handling the various aspects of the crisis. A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety. Healthy politics need to become able to take up this challenge. Politics and the economy tend to blame each other when it comes to poverty and environmental degradation. It is to be hoped that they can acknowledge their own mistakes and find forms of interaction directed to the common good.

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Environmental education
“Ecological citizenship” requires educators capable of developing an ethics of ecology so as to help people grow in solidarity, responsibility, and compassionate care. The existence of laws and regulations is insufficient in the long run to curb bad conduct. Only by cultivating sound virtues will people be able to make selfless ecological commitments regarding consumption of goods and changes in lifestyle.

On Creation and the Creator
We should rectify the relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. We are not God. The earth was here before us and has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged man’s unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the no¬tion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.

Technology versus Human Progress
People no longer seem to believe in a happy future. Scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing need to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral. We need to slow down and look at reality in a different way.

For new models of progress to arise there is a need to change “models of global development” and this will entail a responsible reflection on “the meaning” of the economy and its goals. Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. It is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. Technological and economic development which does not leave a better world cannot be considered progress.

Reflection on our present lifestyles
A change in lifestyle could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic, and social power. This is what consumer movements accomplish by boycotting certain products. They prove successful in changing the way businesses operate, forcing them to consider their environmental footprint and their patterns of production. When social pressure affects their earnings, businesses clearly have to find ways to produce differently. This shows us the great need for a sense of social responsibility on the part of consumers.
Human intervention often in the service of business interests and consumerism is making our earth less rich and beautiful, a more limited gray.

Natural and Human Degradation
Causes of human degradation. The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together. These affect the most vulnerable people. Inequality affects not only individuals but entire countries. The ethics of international relations must be taken into account. A true “ecological debt” exists between the global north and south, related to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time. The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned. In different ways, developing countries, where the most important reserves of the biosphere are found, continue to fuel the development of richer countries at the cost of their own present and future.

Ecological conversion
The ecological crisis calls for a deep interior conversion. Under the excuse of pragmatism, some fervent Christians tend to ridicule concern for the environment. Others are passive. They choose not to change their habits. An “ecological conversion” is needed. In calling to mind St Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors and failures and leads to heartfelt repentance and the desire to change.

A Universal Common Plan
Interdependence obliges us to think of one world with a common plan. Yet the same ingenuity which has brought about enormous technological progress has so far proved incapable of finding effective ways of dealing with grave worldwide environmental and social problems. A global consensus is essential for confronting the deeper problems, which cannot be resolved by unilateral action on the part of individual countries. Such a consensus could lead, for example, to planning for a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water.

We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Politics and business have been slow to react in a way commensurate with the urgency of the challenges facing our world. Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the 21st century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities. Worldwide, the ecological movement has made significant advances, thanks also to the efforts of many organizations of civil society.

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Conclusion: Any Lessons for us in Japan?
This is also a message for Japan that challenges the central political and economic policies which place priority on close cooperation between government and big companies. Technology becomes increasingly orientated to warfare and to building large- scale systems of military defense. An addiction to the use of nuclear energy to secure the industrialization of the country remains in force. Thus the safety of the environment and the poor sectors of the population are deeply affected.

Consumption is hailed as the key to economic recovery, money is spread widely to be used lavishly. The forces of the market economy are considered the best model on hand to solve all social evils. Thus, the current development model is based almost entirely on considerations of economic profit.

Pope Francis has announced his views on the critical issue of the environment, stressing that we are not GOD. We, as well as Nature, have been created by God, who provided us with the gift of Nature, to care for it and not to exploit it as we wish. Natural resources are for all and not only for the richer ones or those holding special technological power. The earth is our common home, where millions of poor people live in desperation. The common good and not profit must be the aim of all human economic activities. But all such moral and ethical values are absent in the official political and economic planning of our country.

Nevertheless, the messages of Laudato Si’ to be seriously concerned about the universal crisis of the environment with an urgent need to save our planet, as well as global hunger and poverty and to care for the poor sectors of the population—these are important issues most Japanese ordinary people will easily agree with. People often enjoy Japanese technological products. Are they happier because of that?

The Pope is asking from us Christians an ecological conversion to be able to produce a real revolution concerning our lifestyles in order to be able to “Say No” to consumption. There is need for effective awareness that requires accurate understanding and sound analyses based also on the moral values that our Christian faith provides us with.

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FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN – Rohingya and JRS Involvement

At the end of April 2015, countries in South East Asia faced a crisis of boat people where about 8,000 Rohingya were stranded in the boats and were not allowed to disembark. In May 20, 2015, Indonesia and Malaysian government decided to allow the Rohingya and migrant Bangladeshis to disembark and to set up shelters for them. JRS Indonesia immediately sent an assessment and response team to the site in Aceh for immediate emergency assistance and finding gaps of needs for the Rohingya.

Rohingya fundraisingJRS Overall Position
Rohingya people previously residing in Rakhine State, who have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh or undertaken risky maritime movement to reach relative safety in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia (among other countries) still face refoulement and gross human rights abuses in these transitory countries where they have no legal status. Even those recognized as refugees by UNHCR are facing an indefinite wait for resettlement, due to unclear policy on their eligibility for the limited resettlement places dedicated to refugees in the region. The Governments of the Asia Pacific Region should extend their hospitality, create welcoming spaces and guarantee the protection of Rohingya in their territory. They should also work together with UNHCR to coordinate a system of regional protection for the Rohingya, until such time as durable solutions can be found.  In the meantime, Rohingya people should remain eligible for resettlement.

JRS Timeline Response

• JRS Indonesia & Thailand has been involved to provide assistance for Rohingya and continue to monitor what happened with them with other NGO in the region.

• Responses to the crisis are material assistance to improve detention conditions and their daily basic needs of food, hygiene supplies, clothes, mats and medicines.

• Collaboration with local Caritas through health provision.


JRS has started a FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN to respond to the Rohingya crisis

For donations, please see the following JRS link page:   https://jrsap.org/

We greatly appreciate your support and regardless of the amount, your contribution is very important and deeply appreciated. Thank you.

Migrant Workers in Japan (Part 1 of 2)

Ando Isamu SJ (Jesuit Social Center staff)

As long as there are nations there will be migrants.

Beginnings of the Movement of Foreign Workers to Japan
Migration in Japan cannot be described apart from the military annexation of Korea by Japan. Beginning in 1910, the dominant presence of Japan on the Korean Peninsula greatly increased. There were fewer than 1,000 Koreans in Japan in 1910 but their numbers increased to about 400,000 by the year 1930, and at the end of the Pacific War (1945) reached 2 million. Their hard life and work conditions, educational opportunities, and social treatment provide insights into the situation of today’s foreign workers in Japan.

As a result of the outbreak of the Korean War in 1951, many Koreans in Japan, unable to move to Korea, had to remain unwillingly in Japan. They lost their Japanese nationality and were left in situations of hardship. Taiwanese living in Japan at that time also faced similar problems.

The arrival of foreign workers to Japan after 1950
Workers from several Asian countries entered Japan in big numbers from the 1960s. They were young people with dreams of getting new and better lives. Most of them wanted to bring their families out of poverty and pay for the education of their brothers and sisters, to provide a better future at home, and to help their parents build better human households. Those young workers came to Japan with high hopes and content to be able to assist their dear ones. They could not do so in their own countries because there were no jobs available. Foreign workers had the courage to start an unknown difficult life in a country where they did not know the language, a country quite different from their own. It was a risky adventure, but Japan was rich with many possibilities of good remunerative jobs. They were happy and lucky because they were able to make it to Japan.

Many of those Asian workers coming to Japan in the 60s and 70s were young women from Taiwan, Thailand, and the Philippines. They were entertainers, or employed in the service field, etc. The way Japan’s gangster groups worked to attract young Asian girls to Japan created many social problems at the time.

Much as some might wish it otherwise, migration is a fact of life. So it is not a question of stopping migration but of managing it better and with more cooperation and understanding on all sides. Far from being a zero-sum game, migration can be made to yield benefits for all.

In Japan, Kyodo News reports that, according to a survey made by the Tokyo Council of Social Welfare, 30% of Tokyo’s 316 elderly care facilities, in which the majority (90%) of workers are women, employed a total of 196 foreign workers. Filipinas account for more than half of these foreign caregivers, followed by Chinese, Taiwanese, and South Koreans.

Speaking from experience, refugees and migrant workers often tell me that they cannot go back to their country of origin because of official repression and persecution. Their lives are in danger, as well as their families. Most migrant workers invoke the lack of jobs back home and the poverty awaiting them there without no possible income to survive decently. Public authorities in Japan turn deaf ears to such pleas. In fact, although we use the expression “migrants” in Japan, there is no concept here of an “immigrant.” Officially, there is no immigration policy like those in many other countries but rather only a control policy for dealing with “aliens.”

The Shaping of Japan’s Immigration Policy
Nevertheless, times have changed, maybe drastically, for Japan. The country is a forerunner in globalization. Up to now, Japan has opted for rigid restriction of foreign workers coming into the country. But business and Japanese multinationals experience the need to open doors to workers from outside in order to be able to compete and expand their activities. I believe that Japan’s official stance on the issue of migrant workers is different from the policies of Japanese businesses. That became clear around the year 2007, when the country officially opened the door to “Nikkeijin” with former roots in Japan from Latin American countries. Business pushed strongly for changes in immigration policies.

In fact, there are two main new phenomena obliging Japanese authorities to make some substantial changes in their perceptions with regard to the acceptance of foreign workers.

The first is the preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In the past, exactly 50 years ago on the occasion of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the country observed a substantial economic-industrial recovery. The building of high-speed highways and the beginning of the Shinkansen Railways became symbols of strong economic development. Now, with the coming of the new 2020 Tokyo Olympics, people recall those “good old days” and expect a new strong economic recovery. Nevertheless, Japan does not have the workers needed to produce an economic “miracle” again. So even Prime Minister Abe has officially stated that Japan will accept 200,000 foreign workers annually.

The second phenomenon is even more realistic and urgent. Japan’s population is increasingly shrinking and the country is in need of a young labor force, which is impossible to find nowadays. Japan has decided to retain and augment its industrial powers and needs workers from outside to do that.
The projected decrease in Japan’s population has forced the country to think more positively about accepting foreign labor and improving the whole immigration system.

New Immigration Law (2012)
The Japan Immigration Law has been revised several times. In 1989, during the economic bubble period, as a result of the revision of the law, Nikkeijin mainly from Latin America were easily permitted to come to Japan to work. Around 400,000 Nikkeijin from Brazil and Peru were living and working in Japan by 2007. The new revision of the law in 2009 gave the Home Ministry absolute control over foreigners in the country. The alien registration card all foreigners had to have in the past was changed into a “residence card” with an IC chip, where all personal data, including residence address, visa status, etc. was included. Foreigners are obliged always to have it with them, with a penalty up to 200,000 yen if a person is found without it. Employers are also obliged to report in detail about the workers they employ, their domiciles, visa status, employment conditions, etc.

City halls (numbering 1,787) spread all over the country were formerly the offices in charge of officially handling many formalities in areas where foreigners were living, but they are not allowed to do so any more. Instead, immigration offices limited in number (76) do everything regarding foreigners. Those not reporting immediately on changes of address, marriage issues like divorce, changes of jobs, etc. are subject to penalties. In other words, Immigration enjoys total control now.

Immigration authorities estimate that in 2011 there were between 90,000 and 100,000 undocumented migrants in Japan, including 78,488 over-stayers. The number of over-stayers has been halved in the last five years. Most came from Asian countries: South Korea (19,271), China (10,337), Philippines (9,329), Taiwan (4,774), and Thailand (4,264).
Undocumented foreigners, if caught by police or by immigration officers, are taken into detention centers that are real jails.

Japan has three main immigration detention centers, in Ushiku (Ibaraki prefecture), Ibaraki (Osaka prefecture), and Omura (Nagasaki prefecture), plus other big temporary centers like the one in Shinagawa (Tokyo), where hundreds of foreigners are detained. Immigration has 8 regional bureaus, 7 district immigration offices, and 61 branch offices.

As of 2012, all regional bureaus, district immigration offices, and 1 branch office had detention facilities.
Lengthy detentions are also a major problem, as the book Kabe no Namida (Wall of Tears) points out, because even after deportation orders are issued for Immigration Law violators, these violators can continue to be held for an indefinite time.
According to an investigation by Kyodo News, 23 detainees at the centers attempted suicide between 2000 and 2004.

Present Foreign Population in Japan
Japan currently has about 2,220,000 registered foreigners. Of these, 660,000 (30%) are Chinese and 590,000 (27%) are resident Koreans.
Overseas residents in Japan (2013) http://blog.ofjapan.jp/skilled-gaijin/ (June 21, 2014)

Oversea residents in Japan2013

FOREIGN WORKING POPULATION IN JAPAN
Foreign working population in Japan 2013

Migrants’ Desk in the Jesuit Social Center

Jessie Tayama, Migrant Desk (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 178 / August 15th, 2014

Warm greetings to all our esteemed readers and thanks for your subscription to our Bulletin.
Jessie Tayama
I am Jessie Tayama from Singapore, married to a Japanese and, with God’s blessing, we have a beautiful 17-year-old daughter. I moved to Tokyo 18 years ago, in September 1996. Since I had worked in several Japanese companies in Singapore and knew some of their customs and understood some Japanese, at the beginning I thought everything would be all right. But when I got here, even though my husband was very supportive, the culture shock and language barrier landed me into a totally different situation from what I had expected.

In October 2010 I joined the Jesuit Social Center’s Migrant Desk staff, one of our Center’s latest new development projects, which is almost 4 years old now. This is the most challenging and rewarding volunteer work I have done in Japan so far. Before this I did various volunteer work in Japan, including studying Japanese sign language for 3 years to be able to communicate with the deaf, and working as a volunteer at SANYA (Mother Teresa Home) homeless town for 3 years. But none of that volunteer work reached as deep an understanding or touched people’s lives and hearts as much as what I’m doing now.

At the Migrant Desk we provide free legal consultation for foreigners, including visa, official status, international marriage, family matters, divorce, domestic violence, employment, labor accidents, traffic accidents, court and other legal issues concerning foreigners. The applicants are given a 30-minute free consultation and our Center pays the lawyer’s fees.

Before the applicant gets to meet our lawyer, I first conduct an interview with each applicant together with Fr Ando (Head of the Migrant Desk). The reason for conducting the interview is to summarize and focus the case. After the interview we will know whether the applicant needs to seek legal consultation or not, or if maybe it’s more suitable to refer the applicant to another source. If the applicant needs to consult the lawyer, a copy of the statement taken down during the interview will be given to the lawyer. Our lawyer comes to the Center every 4th Monday of the month and is here between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm. For the interview the applicant is required to bring along an alien card or resident card, passport and other relevant private documents, as we need to check them and to confirm the applicant’s status.

In July 2012 we started a collaboration with the Franciscan Chapel Church (FCC) for free legal consultation to be held on their church premises every 1st Sunday of the month between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. Fr Russell Becker OFM (Pastor of FCC) is an open-minded priest who always thinks about what is best for the parishioners. He welcomes us as part of their Pastoral Care service. We have gotten feedback from parishioners and outsiders asserting that it’s wonderful to have a church to provide such service for people on Sundays.

Our Jesuit Social Center is located right next to St Ignatius Church. It is also open for free legal consultation on the 3rd Sunday of every month between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.

Officially, I work on Mondays and Fridays, and when there is some need I come to the office or run outside errands on other week days and weekends. I visit the Shinagawa detention center, accompany migrants to immigration, courts, city halls etc. Sometimes I visit migrants’ homes or have meals with them outside on a case-by-case basis.

I remember Fr Gerard Barry’s last words to me in October 2013: “Keep up the good work” at the Migrant Desk. We worked together for several years in St Ignatius Church until he passed away on December 27 last year. Even though he was terminally ill at that stage, he still showed great concern for migrants and tried all kinds of ways to assist them. Fr Barry was a Chaplain at Fuchu Prison for 13 years. He said Masses there in English for foreign male prisoners and held consultations there, too. He was a very kind-hearted man, doing all he could for people who approached him.

From my own personal experience as a migrant living in Japan, it is a hard life for one who is not familiar with the Japanese language. Especially, due to language barriers, one doesn’t know whom to turn to when needing legal help or advice or maybe just needing to share opinions. I am happy that our Migrant Desk was opened and that I can give even a little helping hand, even though at times the situations are quite beyond our competency.

Jesuit Network for Migrant Workers in East Asia and the Pacific

Ando Isamu SJ (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)

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.

pic06[1]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.

My experience of culture shock in Australia

Kogure Yasuhisa, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 175 / February 25th, 2014

It has been 10 months since I arrived at Melbourne (Australia) for study of Ignatian spirituality after ordination and finishing theology at Sophia University. During my formation time I had some experience of other cultures, e.g. other Asian countries, such as India, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, and in addition to these, some countries in Europe and Latin America. All of these had brought some insights and expansions to my horizon, but I have experienced a specific culture shock here, in Australia, in terms of the following aspects.

First of all, the most impressive thing I have experienced here is about the Australians work ethic. It is also connected to how to take a rest. For example, it is now the holiday season in Australia and most Australians take a holiday, at least for three weeks or more from before Christmas to the end of January. For Australians it is important to spend these weeks with family and friends. The holiday, for Australians, has definitely important meaning and special value; “holiday” is a first priority. It seems that the word of “holiday” is sacred like a small pillbox of “Mito-komon”.

Taking a holiday is completely different from the Japanese workers’ situation. For Australians the culture of holiday demonstrates their work ethic. I have often heard the expression “quality of life”. Although we, Japanese, can also use this same expression, but while for us it remains and ideal, it works differently because of our severe working conditions; such as working long hours in “a black company”. But here, in Australia, this value of “quality of life” really has penetrated not only the individual idea and style but also the social systems as a common value. They always show a concern for the appropriate balance between work and rest. “Working too hard” is not an admirable thing among them because it means making a sacrifice of more important things, like spending time with family. I have been really moved to see how many dads play with their children in every small park on the weekend.

Furthermore, there are also other things that show the Australian work ethic. For instance, I was absolutely shocked to discover that the minimum wage in Australia is $16 (¥1600) per hour. I found it difficult to believe at first, given that in Japan the minimum wage is currently ¥750 per hour, roughly half of what it is in Australia, and still there are arguments for its further reduction in Japan.

Actually, I understand that the labor conditions in Australia are relatively better than in other developed countries such as Japan, USA, and UK etc.., although there may be some exceptions to this, most notably in the food‐service industry . Therefore many international students, including some of my friends, come here every year because of these better labor conditions. Some people with professional skills and jobs in their own country, for example nurses, try to get the same job here because of the differences in labor conditions. They know that the quality of life might consist not only of more money but also the balance between work and rest. This shows that the work ethic is an accepted value in Australian society.

Although each country displays different and quite specific conditions, and that it is not appropriate to compare them at face level, nevertheless the value of “quality of life” might make people happy, in every country.

The social office of Vietnam Jesuit Province

Alberto Hurtado Center for Social and Pastoral Services
[Michael Tam, SJ (Director of AHC, Vietnam) ]

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 174 / December 20th, 2013

How can we start the story of social apostolate of the Vietnamese Jesuits? I would like to begin with a Spanish Jesuit, Fr. Fernando Larranaga, SJ (1917 – 2013) from the year 1975.

On April 30, 1975, one tank of the Vietnamese communist troops hit and crashed a heavy gate of the palace of the president of South Vietnam. That was the end of the Vietnam War that lasted more than 30 years. North and South of Vietnam unified into one country. Since then, the whole Vietnam country has been living under the new communist regime.

What happened in Vietnam is similar to that what had happened in the former Soviet Union and in China when the communist parties held the reins of government there. Many people in the South were sent to jails and to remote areas to forced labor. They were officers of the former government as well as military officers. Many among them were Catholic priests. The new communist regime saw that they needed to be re-educated by hard labor.

The new regime has also been suspecting any charity work implemented by the Church and NGOs and they did not want the latter to participate into social charity.

In the post-Vietnam War times, Vietnam became poorer and poorer. It had to pay for what they had received in the past from its communist allies. At that time, one Vietnamese bishop asked Fr. Larranaga to support Vietnam. As a result, in 1984, Fr. Larranaga founded an office called “Aid to Vietnam” (ATV) in Hong Kong and became its first director. In 1994, he transferred his office to Manila and renamed it “Vietnam Service Office” (VS) under the umbrella of JCEAO (Jesuit Conference in East Asia and Oceania). Its old name was JCAP, (Jesuit Conference in Asia and the Pacific), at the Sonolux building in the compound of the Ateneo de Manila University. The goal of VS is to help Vietnam by supporting projects in 3 main fields: evangelization, education, and social development as well as to become a bridge between the isolated Vietnam Region and Jesuit Fr. General. Fr. Larranaga could continue doing social activities through his networking with many local parish priests and Catholic sisters in Vietnam.

The work of VS was continued by another Spanish Jesuit, Fr. Felipe Gómez, (1996 – 2008). The silent and long term work of Frs. Larranaga and Gomez were very effective. Many projects were implemented all over Vietnam. Many poor people were supported by them and their lives were changed. In 2007, VS was transferred to Vietnam with a new name “Alberto Hurtado Center for Social and Pastoral Service” (AHC). Michael Tam, a Vietnamese Jesuit, is at present the successor of Fr. Gomez.

Different from many other people in South Vietnam, the late archbishop of Ho Chi Minh Archdiocese, Msgr. Paul Nguyen Van Binh, looked at the events of April 1975 as a phenomenon that purified the Vietnam Church from her former richness of many schools, hospitals and many social institutes. When the Church in South of Vietnam lost practically all her property, the Vietnam Church became more spiritual and relied on God much more than on anything and anyone else. Moreover, once South Vietnam was liberated by the communists (as they are always claiming), Vietnamese Catholics have found opportunities of dialogue with communists and their atheism. In special ways, the social charity works of the Vietnam Church continued to do effectively.

After 1980, the young Jesuit Vietnam Region started to experience the “agony” of Christ: all foreign Jesuits were expelled out of Vietnam, most young Jesuit priests were put in jails, all Jesuit houses were confiscated, and the young scholastics lost their formation houses and trainer educators. Vietnam Jesuit region became underground until 2005 and, finally in 2007, it was considered to be the youngest Province of the Jesuit Society. Nowadays, God grants our Vietnam Province many vocations. At present, the number of Vietnamese Jesuit is 197 and about four fifths of them are in their formation period.

Even after the transferring of VS from Manila to Saigon in 2007, the actual AHC has now, more or less, the same social activities as those during Fr. Gomez’s time. Due to the fact of having so many young Jesuits, the priority of the Jesuit Vietnam Province is formation. Nevertheless, the number of Jesuits working in AHC is usually only two: a priest and one regent. In such a situation of lacking human power, AHC has, realistically, to accept becoming a bridge between donors and Vietnamese priests and sisters who are implementing social development projects. Working together with others in many projects of social development is one advantage for AHC now.

One new activity that AHC has started is the organization of workshop seminars on social work, social development and awareness of social justice. AHC cooperates with the network of Caritas Vietnam and other religious and priests. Such cooperation is not only because of the lack of human power but, it is also an answer to the directives of recent Jesuit General Congregations, like “Cooperation with the laity” of GC 34 and “Collaboration at the heart of mission” of GC 35.

The former works of Frs. Larranaga and Gomez should be continued in Vietnam. The story about the social apostolate of the Jesuit Vietnam Province needs to be told by other Vietnamese Jesuits also. AHC has to be patient until there are more young Vietnamese Jesuits that finish their basic formation. On the other hand, cooperation with other Jesuits of other Provinces and other people is “ipso factum” (a matter of fact reality) to AHC.

Please, do not hesitate to contact me any time. Thank you for your interest in the work of AHC. Email: mitasj@yahoo.com

THE CLOCK HAS STOPPED IN FUKUSHIMA

Katayanagi Hirofumi SJ,
Jesuit Pastoral Apostolate Collaboration Team member

Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 172 / August 15th, 2013

“Volunteers are limited to those over 40 years-old.” This notice was publicly displayed for a long period of time. This used to be one of the main requirements in the recruitment of volunteers to work in Fukushima. In other words, because of the danger of radioactive contamination, young people were not accepted. But if we consider the fact that there are tens of thousands of people from babies to the elderly, living in Fukushima, it somehow doesn’t seem reasonable to place such a limitation on young volunteers.

It may have been this consideration that motivated the authorities to replace the old notice with the following: “There is no ground to assert that low amounts of radiation have significant effect on one’s health, nor can it be guarantied that it will have no effect whatsoever. In short, there are no absolute standards here that can be applied to everyone. Volunteers should act responsibly, using their own judgment. Please note that the NGO “International Cooperation Center” will supply each volunteer with a list of dos and don’ts that will help him or her do this.

Thus, one has to make a personal decision to accept the risk involved and enter contaminated Fukushima. Last May our Jesuit pastoral team (JPACT) decided to take that risk and led a group of volunteers made up of young people from Jesuit schools and parishes on a tour of Fukushima.We reasoned that many young people following the various media’s reports of the great earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear plant accidents, desired to draw nearer to the suffering of the victims of this great catastrophe. No matter the risk, they wanted to observe for themselves how babies, children, young people, parents, and the elderly, were living in the radioactive polluted areas of Fukushima, and learn how they felt. So the aim of this report is to pass on to the reader the observations of both the young people and the organizers of the tour.

Let’s begin with a poem by Ms. Yamamoto Kikuyo, a member of our JPACT staff:

Forests of new green, flowers like cherry blossoms, chirping birds, hazy skies
The normal landscape of a peaceful spring

Except that there is no one to be seen in the rice fields
A closer look reveals that many cars lie on the soil, deposited there by the tsunami
Even some fishing boats remain there, where they were washed up on that fatal day

In a school six kilometers from nuclear plant 1 children once shouted and laughed
But the ceiling of the school collapsed and fell down to the next floor
The school’s only occupant now is the strong wind blowing in from the sea
Where are the radioactive particles riding on the wind going to land?

Along the road leading to the nuclear plants
A large number of policemen stand on guard
Who are they watching out for?
Who are they afraid of?

I had thought that ghost towns were only to be found on a vast continent
Railroad stations abandoned, stores no longer doing business
Signboards at the stations asking
“Where is the town where people can live peacefully?”

In what direction is this country moving?
Is there anything I can do?
My heart full of impatience and anxiety I left Fukushima

Our group of volunteers proceeded to the Caritas Japan base in the town of Hara, where we were put to work cleaning up homes, and trimming and scrubbing trees near the socio-welfare center. Under the guidance of the Caritas staff we were able to look around a zone of the town of Namie about ten kilometers away from the nuclear plant.

According to the regulations for visiting this area, visitors were to be allowed to enter only during the noon hour. Going through the destroyed area, I think we all felt the sentiments Ms. Yamamoto expresses in her poem above. We all felt that it was as if time had stopped in Fukushima on March 11, 2011.

Now I would like to present some of the impressions reported by Kenta Sugino, a student of medicine and the youngest participant in our tour:

“The reason I decided to take part in this tour was the desire to observe for myself the actual situation in Fukushima. Last year I went to Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture for three weeks, and last March to Minami Sanriku and Kesennuma, but this is my first time to Fukushima.

Because of the high radiation level in Fukushima reconstruction is still impossible. The place remains exactly as it was when the tsunami hit it. The sight was so terrible that it overwhelmed me. Although reconstruction is taking place in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, why, I asked myself, why does this region still remain in such a state? Now I was able to grasp the real Fukushima.

The number of volunteers coming here has recently decreased. I think that many people refrain from coming here because of their fear of radiation. But while just one X-ray picture contains 6.9mSv of radioactive particles, at Iidate village, which is thought to emit a high amount of radioactive particles, the figure is 0.55uSv/h or 2uSv per day. Thus, the radiation intake of one day of volunteer work is 1/600 of one X-ray picture radiation exposure. Opinions among scholars with regard to bodily damage from radiation differ, so that it is hard to understand the matter.

From another point of view, there are many former inhabitants of Fukushima who now have to do with cramped temporary shelters. Having observed their suffering I wish I could be of some little help. I pray that many people all over Japan share this enthusiasm and join together to help. I believe that one of the tasks of volunteers is to help to build up hope and a will to live in those who are suffering from the death of their loved ones. There are many kinds of volunteers. Working as an individual, very little can be done. Even working in small groups action is slow. But if hundreds and thousands of volunteers were to work together over a long span of time, Fukushima would surely come to show signs of reconstruction.

Many people visit Fukushima without knowing the real facts, as I did. I think that young people like me are needed there, and so I hope that many will come to know the real situation in Fukushima and desire to offer themselves with good will and zeal as volunteers in the reconstruction of Fukushima. I think that even tourist and/or shopping tours to Fukushima can be of help. I’ll be happy if my reflections provoke those who read this to think of Fukushima a little.

The reflections of young Kenta Sugino reveal his deep dedication to his medical profession. It gave me great joy to hear such profound observations from our youngest participant.The observations that follow are those of Mr. Yoshimura, a primary school teacher and a parishioner of Rokko Catholic Church in Kobe.

“One day I suddenly realized that I had totally forgotten Fukushima. Of course I knew something about it from news broadcasts. But I must confess that I had little interest in the lives of the people living there, and was indifferent to their opinions. The town I live in remains as calm as it was before the earthquake, and my life style remains the same as without change. It was as if I had completely forgotten about the disaster in Fukushima.

Then one day—I don’t know why– Fukushima came back to mind. I realized that the situation of Fukushima is different from that of other places in the Tohoku region. I asked myself, “How do the people make a living?” They can’t do so just by clearing away the debris from the earthquake and the tsunami. The invisible radiating dust still remains. Fewer volunteers are going there to work, and there are all kinds of rumors about the damage to health caused by the radiation. But what could I do?

One thing I could do I realized was to tell others about the situation. I am now the home-room teacher of the sixth grade of Nigawa Primary School, and after golden week I told the children about my change of thought with regard to Fukushima and also wrote about it in the school paper.

I also had the opportunity to talk to the children’s parents, after which one of them came to me and said, “I also realize that I have forgotten Fukushima. I want to give some help.” Another parent took the trouble to call me by phone and said, “I’ve decided to visit Fukushima with my husband. There’s nothing much I can do, but I thought that doing some shopping there will somehow be a way to help the people there.” I was very happy to hear that”

I was impressed by the positive attitude of Mr. Yoshimura, who had tried to work in solidarity with the residents of Fukushima by sharing his experiences and observations with others. Next I would like to present the impressions of Nobuhito Kubo, a young leader of educational activities for children at Rokko Church.

“Before starting our volunteer activities, the president of the social welfare organization greeted us warmly, saying, ”This area has long been famous for its culture, but all that changed from the day of the disaster. Thanks to you volunteers, little by little progress is being made. I want to see this town revitalized again. All of you are here to save this Kodaka region.” The work started from the houses that had asked for help, and we cleaned them and their gardens as well. The first day we worked only in the morning, and when we had finished there, we went to the town of Namie and the ocean shore the Fukushima nuclear plant. Since the zone was officially “off limits,” we had to go through an imposing array of police guards. When we entered a primary school near the Fukushima nuclear plant, on the blackboard of a classroom that had been totally destroyed we saw a message left by children who had graduated from this school. The message read, “Surely rising again.” This made me feel strongly that everybody—the graduates of this primary school, the residents of the village who had had to evacuate it after the disaster, but were now ready to return home again, as well as the staff of the social welfare organization who were taking care of us all had a great love for the town.”

Looking at the writing on the blackboard, I could not help saying a prayer for the children.

When one gets involved with the issues regarding Fukushima, one is compelled to take a stand and choose one out of several possible options.

Option 1: Fukushima is a radioactive contaminated place, unfit for human life. If one takes this view, true assistance to Fukushima consists of promoting the evacuation of the residents and demanding government help to implement this. For Fukushima then, reconstruction will take place more than 100 years from now.

Option 2: The radioactive contamination resulting from the nuclear plant accident is not of a level to significantly affect the health of the residents. If one takes this option, then the inhabitants must be encouraged to return home and the reconstruction of the region positively promoted,

Option 3: It’s difficult to assess the effects of the radiation, but, since people are in fact living in Fukushima, another option is to join them. Visit them, keep in contact with them, accompany them in their joys and sorrows…and together with them grope for a solution.

I myself am now considering which option I should choose. What about you, who are reading this article? If this article is of any help to you in deciding, I shall be very happy.

New Center Staff Member: Yamamoto Keisuke

Yamamoto Keisuke, Jesuit Social Center staff member
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 168 / December 21st, 2012

Greetings to all. I have been working in the Social Center since August of this year. My name is Yamamoto Keisuke. I graduated from the philosophy department of Sophia University in 1998. I’m not a Christian but I had the opportunity of being introduced to this Jesuit institution and became a staff member. At present, I’m once again learning about Christianity (the Catholic Church and the Jesuits), the viewpoint and mission of the Jesuit social apostolate and, by observing the work of my colleagues and the Director of the Center, I am spending my work time trying to understand what is going on here.

In my efforts to know more about Catholics I have been reading the memoirs of Mother Teresa. I would like to quote some words that especially impressed me, despite their challenging content. “Real love hurts. In order to provide good service to others without offending them, it is a fact that I must joyfully serve them even if I deprive myself of what I am granting.” Japan, where we are actually living, can be considered a country where people try excessively not to hurt others’ feelings. People seem extremely afraid to open themselves to others. That is a precaution against being hurt. In other words, that can be called fear. And this holds true everywhere, whether one is a believer or not.

Nevertheless, as Mother Teresa states, true love, or serving others, means allowing oneself to be hurt. In consequence, loving or serving others might involve the risk of receiving insults from the persons we encounter. In spite of that, however, we should take the risk of disclosing ourselves. If love means serving and opening our hearts to others, it makes no difference whether we are believers or not. Of course, although it is not advisable to take rash risks, we certainly run some risk when we do good for others. I imagine that this requires a lot of courage. But on the other hand, in the first place, no human can either survive or obtain happiness in isolation from others. Taking this into account, it has become very difficult to continue living in Japan, a society where human relationships remain remarkably based on fear of others. I feel that only “faith” can move one to open up to other people. It is not a faith about this or that, but a faith in the One Truth. I believe that only the gift of faith can wake us up to true love and grant us the power to face and serve others.

Words like “confidence” and “conviction” are becoming meaningless nowadays. I pray from the bottom of my heart that, in the encounters achieved through little works by unknown persons, human relationships will be enriched. It is my belief that our great potential for human relationships will never disappear, whatever difficult situations we might encounter.

Report: Action Oriented toward Building a Society Free of Lonely People

Hiroaki Yoshiba, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 167 / October 15th, 2012

This year the welfare system made news. It seems that the mother of a TV personality was found to be receiving welfare assistance, despite her son’s large earnings. The case was exposed in the media and brought before the National Diet. The fact that the privacy of a particular person receiving welfare was discussed openly by politicians is something unheard of. Isn’t this a violation of human rights?

“The poor are lazy people” is not a new concept. It has always existed. In modern times England legally jailed poor people and punished them with forced labor in horribly equipped institutions. Only those unable to work were exempted. Even nowadays, private philanthropic organizations examine the poor to see if their poverty results from lack of morality and if they judge that it does, they deem them unworthy of assistance. Thus, since even historically speaking poor people have a negative image, they lose confidence in themselves. In reality there is great variety and pluralism among the poor. Nevertheless, they all meet with the same difficulties in striving for the assurance of sound social participation. Their relationships with people and institutions are weak and there is a tendency towards loneliness.

Some time ago I had the opportunity of attending a conference given by the director of the welfare office in Kushiro City. Kushiro treats persons receiving welfare assistance with special consideration and doesn’t take a disciplinary attitude toward them. The director openly said: “Kushiro has a bad reputation among residents because of its terrible fog. It is difficult to dry one’s laundry. On the other hand, tourists enjoy our foggy city. Fog is not bad and can actually be an asset. In a similar way, receivers of welfare are an asset to us.”

The national policy now is to “assist families receiving welfare to find jobs.” Nevertheless, this type of assistance is merely empty words, without any plan. Here and there we can observe useless vocational training and, precisely because of the weakness of the labor market, welfare receivers experience continual failure and, as a result, they often lose confidence. Some people believe that the job-seeking assistance system only helps the needy to find insecure jobs or to be totally ousted from society. From the beginning, Kushiro has rejected any rigid job-seeking assistance and takes volunteerism as an important middle-way approach to jobs. The approach is not to “make people without a job do patriotic service.” For instance, when 3rd-year middle-school youngsters of welfare families gather, usually to prepare for high school entrance examinations, they are invited to do volunteer work, along with which they are guided in their studies and in sharing experiences. Hopefully, this is quite a valuable experience for middle-school youth. It is also an occasion for parents who have lost their confidence to recover it. Kushiro residents, welfare receivers included, work together planning how to start new businesses. Thanks to such attempts, Kushiro was able to think about how to approach urban renewal. Official activities for welfare receivers do not stop there. For lack of space, I cannot explain here the City’s official concept, which has attracted much attention: “Let’s bring together every citizen to rebuild our society.”

I have formerly contributed two articles to this Bulletin entitled “Walking along with people in distress visiting our churches” and “The Bettle House: Learning from mental distress.” The content of these articles can be found in the booklet Kokoro no Nayami ni Yorisou tame ni, which deals with mental distress. My articles are just common sense and a bit emotional. I referred there to the Church as a place of relief and to the need of building a church community where everybody is accepted, including expert advisers in mental distress. Basically, I have not changed my mind. However, I am inclined to believe that, besides targeting people with mental trouble, there is probably something else we must discover. What is really at stake for people suffering from mental distress is not so much disease and symptoms, but the difficulties arising from their social position. Since they do not receive social recognition, they tend to experience difficult lives and become isolated from others. This phenomenon is not merely typical of the poor people I mentioned above. It also affects lonely elderly persons, the sick, and the disabled. I have come to believe that people suffering from mental distress can also understand those on the fringes of society. We need to establish places where everybody, in dire need or not, can participate together.

The author during a home visit

At St Ignatius Church, where I work, a “Wednesday Tea Salon” is held three times a month. Usually the people who come are those who have attended the early Mass. A variety of people, persons struggling in society and people leading simple normal lives, gather freely and enjoy tea and sweets. For the faithful of St Ignatius parish who are unable to come to church because of old age, a phone conversation service has already begun and home visits are also planned. Even without everyone gathering in the same place, various possibilities can be found.

I have opened a consultation room at St Ignatius Church, which has some facilities for eating and having tea parties. We continue paying visits to people at home or in institutions.

http://www1.kiwi-us.com/~selasj/jsc/japanese/booklets/japanese_file/kokoro_no_nayami.pdf

Report: In The Face of the Need for Reconstruction Volunteers in the Tōhoku Disaster Areas

Murayama Hyoe, SJ (Jesuit Scholastic)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 165 / June 15th, 2012

Has the Great eastern East Japan Earthquake already finished? Nobody will answer “Yes” to this question. However, it is not easy for those who live in distant places to be continually concerned about recovery from the Great Tōhoku Earthquake. Great amounts of disaster debris remained piled up several meters high along the seacoast. An estimated 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris have been carried by currents across the Pacific Ocean and have begun to show up on the West Coast of the United States and Canada. Struggles for industrial reconstructions, the anxious life of people living in temporary housing, and many people who lost family members are still suffering their painful memories—we must not ignore this on-going damage even though mass media reports have decreased. The urgent need for volunteers seems to be gradually decreasing, but actually there is much need for manpower in the disaster areas.

During the Golden Week this May, I participated as an organizing member of a volunteer-and-prayer program for the Tōhoku disaster victims planned by Jesuit Fr. Nakai Jun and Fr. Sali Augustine. About twenty young people were brought together from the Catholic parishes of the Chūgoku and Kantō areas and from Sophia University. They divided into five groups with six Jesuit staff members and scattered to five volunteer bases in the Tōhoku disaster area maintained by Caritas Japan and some Catholic dioceses. Each group did different volunteer work for 2 to 10 days according to the need of the places where they stayed. I went to the Yonekawa Volunteer Base in Miyagi Prefecture and shared volunteer activity and prayer with five members. These experiences involved many significant discoveries. On May 5th we gathered together at a Dominican retreat house in Sendai, and the next morning we shared our volunteer experiences together and offered our prayers and hopes to God in the Eucharist to end our program.

In spite of all our efforts, we still have to face unceasing demands for reconstructions, and volunteers soon become aware of their powerlessness. With many other volunteers in Minami-sanriku town I removed a great amount of “debris” and separated them according to each category as required. This town was almost entirely washed away or severely damaged by the tsunami. The damage caused by this natural disaster was deeply shocking. One day I saw a family offering flowers at the site of a house where only the foundations were left. While we were returning to the piles of debris after a short break, I saw this mother and daughter bow their heads towards us. I had mixed feelings because I had not completed even a little of the work of removing debris and felt undeserving of thanks. Nevertheless, they seemed to sense my embarrassment, and began talking with me. Even though I wanted to get back to work quickly, they suddenly began to share their experiences. This mother had lost her husband and her daughter’s husband in the tsunami. She said, “It takes a lot of nerve and is painful to come back to ‘our home’ with only its foundations after the disaster.”

At no time did I feel the powerlessness of volunteers more than when I myself saw people who had survived such a disaster and are now repairing the local infrastructure. A number of people are still suffering from wounds caused by the disaster and are waiting to be healed. The family whom I met told me that young volunteers coming from far away like us are strengthening the local people by working with cheerful smiles and sweaty foreheads. When we look at the debris, we see not only garbage but oyster shells which the fishermen in Minami-sanriku had farmed, along with their fishing nets. The clothes and shoes found among the debris show that their owners ended their lives there. Photos and certificates found in the debris are the very precious memories for bereaved families.

I am not the only one who had experiences like this. The significant presence of volunteers cannot be measured from the aspect of efficiency or tangible results. In fact, many young people who shared the same work and prayer in our program carried their various emotional thoughts back home. We must not forget the compassionate support and charity needed amid this competitive society facing job shortages. Many young people have increased their caring concern for the Tōhoku people who continue to work at recovery and reconstruction, and return to Tōhoku to do volunteer work again. Thus, the Tōhoku disaster areas still need our volunteer recovery support “through our feeble hands and humble hearts.”

BOOK REVIEW “Visiting Refugees” Yamamura Junpei, Gendai Kikaku Shitsu (2000)

Koyama Hideyuki, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 165 / June 15th, 2012

Mr. Yamamura, a medical doctor that treats refugees free of charge in a clinic of Yokohama is the author of this book. He has been attending refugees and victims of natural disasters in various countries and as a member of a team for refugees of Amnesty International participates in seminars and symposia concerning refugee issues. He also actively assists refugees jailed in Ushiku’s immigration prison in Ibaraki prefecture. (Those interested please check the web of Amnesty International)

One of his edited books, “Kabe no Namida” also published by Gendai Kikaku Shitsu (2007), is a live report of the situation of foreigners jailed in Ushiku.

When the volcano Pinatsubo (Philippines) erupted in 1991 killing thousands of residents, doctor Yamamura was sent to a shelter camp to assist medically hundreds of victims there. It was his first medical mission abroad. He says “Whenever a social accident happens the ones to suffer most are the socially weak people, like minority groups, women and children. I really experienced that when I met with an extremely thin girl. They are treated as people that cannot be seen, outcasts and persons alienated from the system. As a result, they become easily sick but since they are not able to receive treatment their bodies are eaten away due to a continuous cycle of diseases. The main causes are poverty or rather the mal-distributed wealth and discrimination. I became aware that social structures play a strong role in all such situations”.

 Mr. Yamamura brings to light a series of basic questioning regarding development assistance out of his rich experiences in the Philippines, Burma, Rwanda, Zaire and Afghanistan. Can people be saved by medical care? How can we rescue people? In the first place, what is assistance about? In case of natural disasters what is that that really occasions damage? What is race about? Why is it that people become refugees? What is national violence about?

Mr. Yamamura came back to Japan and started to examine foreigners as well as those in immigration jail. His book crystallizes his experiences attending refugees and other foreigners, like persons from Afghanistan, Iran, Burmese and Kurds. The book portraits Japanese social structures, and refugees created by modern society. Those interested in racial issues and realities of refugees should read the book.

God created this world And then he said “It was very good.”

Kim Hyung-wook, SJ (Korea Jesuit Scholastic)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 165 / June 15th, 2012

On March 9 a Korean Jesuit, Fr. Kim Chong-uk, was arrested by the police and jailed for a month. His crime was destruction of government property on Jeju Island. He had openly disturbed government plans to construct a naval base there. He broke through a fence around the naval base construction work and entered into the compound illegally. He was released on April 10 and is now protesting again against the government’s destruction of the environment on Jeju Island.

Jeju Island is located at the south of the Korean Peninsula. It is one of the world’s most beautiful islands, known for its pristine nature and for its being a volcanic island. There are about 280,000 inhabitants there, and they are fighting to protect their village from illegal development projects by government authorities. It sounds like a modern-day David and Goliath story.

The proposed naval base is being built at a site where volcanic lava flows enter the sea, a mile-long area known as Gureombi Rocks. This beautiful rocky coast is sacred to local villagers and has been declared a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Natural freshwater springs bubble up through the surface and soft coral reefs lie off the shore. It is also the only home for the endangered Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin.

In 2007, the Korean government announced it would construct a naval base at this village, but the project was full of problems and didn’t follow legal procedures. Actually, about 94% of the Gangeong village people opposed the plan for this new naval base. Many environment enthusiasts also opposed the construction of the base because it would destroy the natural environment. Located in the southern most area of Korea, Jeju Island needs no military base for “peace safety plans.” The Government openly said that the new naval base was needed in order to maintain peace in the Asia-Pacific region. Environmentalists, however, insist that if a naval base is constructed on Jeju Island, it will give rise to tensions with China. Actually, China has strongly protested this plan on the grounds that it is creating tensions in the Northeast Asian area. Frankly speaking, this naval base aims at fulfilling needs of the U.S.A. more than those of Korea. That is the real reason why a naval base is said to be needed there.

According to Jesuit Social Activist Fr. John Dear, “As far as the United States is concerned, the sole purpose of the base is its strategic location near China, Japan, and Taiwan. The United States has asked South Korea to build a major naval base there for its Aegis destroyers — U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers that carry cruise missiles. These missiles, to be kept on U.S. destroyers and submarines at the proposed Jeju Island naval base, could be used someday to destroy Chinese ICBMs.

Fr. Dear continues, “The Korean government’s intention is to build a huge naval base at Gangjeong Village to harbor U.S. Aegis destroyers and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. It is thus obvious that South Korea’s new base would give the United States the immediate capacity to take military action, with nuclear weapons if necessary, against China. Korea would continue to serve as a pawn for the United States and its imperial strategy to surround China. In exchange, the U.S. would continue to protect Korea.”

Five years ago, the Ordinary of the Jeju Island Diocese, Bishop Kang Woo-il, President of the Korean Bishops’ Conference, issued a call urging all priests and sisters to stand by the people of Gangjeong Village. Thousands of priests and sisters have been involved. One day, 20 sisters were arrested. At another protest, 3400 of the nation’s 4000 priests joined in. Some priests have slept on the rocks of the island’s construction site for months at a time. Others have been arrested for obstructing construction equipment. Others have celebrated Mass on the coast as an act of resistance and a way to continue the centuries-long reverence for the rocky coast as a sacred site. Every day they join the villagers in speaking out, sitting in, fasting, praying and taking nonviolent risks to stop the destruction of this sacred seascape.

Finally, I would like to say something about the Jesuits of the Korea Province. In fact, the Society is one of the strongest of all protesting groups. Some Jesuits are already living in the village on Jeju Island. Some priests and brothers have been arrested several times by the police. Until recently, one priest remained in jail for a month, and one priest was judged guilty and given a 2-year sentence. A brother is waiting for a sentence to be passed by the court at the end of this month. Moreover, Jesuits of the Korea Province, included Fr. Provincial himself, have given them their support. For example, the Jesuit Center holds a weekly Mass for peace in Gangjeong, and many Korean Jesuit scholars have produced reports on these activities and have done research on the issue. Some Jesuits have personally visited Jeju Island. Quoting Fr. John Dear, “We have never before been so united as now and have never seen such widespread, steadfast, organized and determined nonviolent resistance. The involvement of so many priests and sisters in the cause of peace and disarmament is impressive. Never in my life have I witnessed the level of commitment and dedication to a cause that I have seen in Gangjeong Village.”

The Korean Provincial, Fr. Sin Won-sik, said at a homily during Mass, “When we live together with the poor, the suffering and the persecuted, we will be like Jesus Christ. That will fulfill our Jesuit mission in this land.” He encouraged all Jesuits in Korea to participate in this activity.

Recently, Fr. General Nicolás also sent a moving letter to the Korea Province encouraging Jesuit activities with regard to the environment, peace, justice, solidarity and so on. Jesuits have traditionally carried a flame with the passion to kindle it in other hearts. This is an important reason why such activities must also spread beyond Korea. All these activities point to our Jesuit identity, since our purpose is to “find God in all things.” That is why Fr. General supports from afar the activities of Korean Jesuits on Jeju Island.

The Homeless Of Shibuya

Shimokawa Masatsugu, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 164 / April 15th, 2012

Fourteen years ago, when I was a student, I used to get the train at Shibuya station (Tokyo), a place where homeless people set up their shelters. Gradually, I got interested in their problems. On my way to work these days I pass through the same station, where I can still see many homeless people. In fact, I have always had great interest in the slum communities of Asian countries, but ever since the homeless of Shibuya caught my eye, I have felt the need to become involved in the issues of the poor here at home also.

Some 16 years ago, an organization called “Nojiren,” specializing in the situation of homeless people living in Shibuya, was established and I took part in their activities. From the start its most important task was to secure sleeping area at the entrance of a public Children’s Center in Tokyo. As the result of often violent negotiations with the administration of this Center, any homeless unable to find a shelter was allowed to sleep with the others under the broad roof at the entrance of the Children’s Center after office hours, from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Of course, the conditions were inconvenient, the roof was outside the building and they had to set up their area every evening and clear up the site early the next morning. But at least they would not get wet on rainy days and in some respect could sleep peacefully without being harassed by youngsters and other passersby (mainly guard men and police). In this way they were able to establish new community relationships with the others. Thus, it was quite important for them to maintain access to that site.

Nevertheless, the place was firmly closed off on November 1 last year and nobody can sleep there anymore. People were told that the outer walls of the Children’s Center needed earthquake-proof repair, but there was not any outer wall that needed repair at the entrance of the Center. In fact, 5 months have already passed and no work has been done at the entrance of the building, which shows that the main purpose had been to expel the homeless people so that they could not use that place during the night.

Quite differently from 14 years ago, many citizens’ groups and churches now show interest in the issues of homeless people. Nevertheless, the main focus of interest seems to be immediate assistance, like distribution of food, requests for social-welfare aid and assistance for self-support. Of course, applying for social welfare could be a way to rectify unjust handlings by administrative authorities and helping to support the self-help of homeless people is very important. But actually Japanese society is creating more and more new homeless and not many of them are able to become independent merely by following the orientations given by the administration and aid organizations. Reflecting on the present situation, would it not be very important to organize places for all homeless people to stay, places for them to sleep and at the same time to help to build living communities where the homeless themselves could assist one another? (It would also be important to promote social reforms so that the number of homeless people will not increase.)

The “gratuity of God’s love” is a basic Christian characteristic. God loves people as they are and unconditionally, no matter who they are, and not because they have done well. In other words, even people who are weak and have many defects are loved by God and accepted by Him as they are. I believe that this truth is directly connected with our social realities. In today’s world any homeless person should be able to remain in any place and find a place to sleep.

Nevertheless, lately, the waves of urban development under the initiative of the market mechanism promoted by big companies, especially in macro-urban centers, engulf them. The market system disposes of all useless things and becomes a strong mechanism for efficiency, so much so that products considered without market value are clearly dispensed with. The urban renewal of Shibuya Station, fed by private capital, led to the removal of people who had been able to sleep in front of the Children’s Center, as mentioned above. And again it was linked to the removal of tens of homeless people from Miyashita Park a year ago, when the Niki Corporation bought the rights to rename Miyashita Park.

Since the end of March there has been a movement of strong protest against the forceful eviction of homeless people by the Department of Communication and Transport and the Kōtō Ward Office on the occasion of the May 22 opening of the “sky tree” in Sumida Ward (Tokyo) and the urban renewal of its surroundings. The eviction sites are the riverside at Tatekawa Park in Kōtō Ward and the Arakawa Horikiribashi in Sumida Ward. In Shibuya the tide of renewal is also intensifying with the opening of the commercial station building, Hikarie, and the plans to link the underground center and the Tōyoko railroad lines this year. It is expected that the fight to secure a place for the homeless in Shibuya so that they can sleep in the open will intensify.

Urban renewal might be a social need, but is it good to give the green light to such development, when in the process homeless and poor people are evicted and deprived of the places where they are presently living? Society tends to reduce waste and pursue greater efficiency. Destroying places where people, for instance homeless people, can find shelter seems like depriving Jesus of a place to live and of a time to pray in the name of greater efficiency.

Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo [Bulletin No:150]

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

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.

My participation in the World Social Forum 2009

KOGURE Yasuhisa(Jesuit regent at Jesuit Social Center Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 148 / March 15th, 2009

<Towards Belem (Brazil), Site of the Forum >
Last summer, the Jesuit Social Justice Secretariat (Rome) sent an invitation to attend the World Social Forum (WSF-9) to all Jesuit provinces. This time I was sent there by the Jesuit Social Center (Tokyo). The WSF took place from January 27 to February 1. A few days before (January 24-27) a Jesuit Pre-forum “Fe’ namazonia” was organized by the Amazonian Jesuits and I attended both, together with fellow Jesuits and other colleagues, from all over the world working in social justice ministry.

This time I was the only participant from the Japanese Province and it was a real blessing for me to be able to meet with Jesuits involved in the social apostolate, from all over the world, as well as with lay colleagues working at JRS and other Jesuit social institutions. I felt especially happy to encounter other Jesuit scholastics working in social justice ministry during their regency.

The journey to the site of the WSF took me 28 hours. From Narita I travelled to Atlanta (USA). There I changed planes to Managua (Brazil) and finally to Belem. In Atlanta I had the experience of being fingerprinted with my 10 fingers and having my face scanned, as a US visitor. I can still remember the calmly faces of military personnel (many women among them) coming back from Iraq(?) in the next rows, while I was waiting for the immigration procedures.

I arrived to Manaus (Brazil) in the night and I asked the staff of the airport for my next plane to Belem but nobody could understand English. That was my first shocking experience on Brazilian soil. I had been told before that only Portuguese is spoken in this part of the world and I realized it at that moment. While waiting I went out of the airport and found outside a small garden with a “Torii” (shrine gate) and a statue of a crane in a pond. It was written there that the site was a remembrance of 70th anniversary of the first Japanese emigrants to Brazil. The Torii and the crane became a symbol of their hometowns for the Japanese emigrants. That was an emotional moment of the historical link of Japan and Brazil.

A street of Belem

Belem do Para where the WSF took place is the Capital of a Brazilian northern region 2.3 times bigger than Japan. Belem’s population is about 2 million. The city is located at the mouth of the Amazon River 6,500 km long. The second big city near the center of the Amazon River is Manaus. Many Japanese emigrants arrived in Manaus for the first time to settle in the Amazon region 80 years ago (1929). The history of Belem, on the other hand, goes back to 1616 when the Portuguese built a fortress there. During the 19th century natural rubber was found along the Amazon River and due to the development of the auto industry at the time the Portuguese exploited it obtaining huge wealth. Belem and Manaus flourished unprecedentedly at the time. Even now, many old European style buildings stand out along the streets of Belem. The Church of Nazareth in the center of the city is a symbol of the economic boom of Belem City at the time.

< The Two Pre-Forums >

(1) World Forum on Theology and Liberation

I attended the two Pre-forums ahead of the WSF. The 3rd World Forum on Theology and Liberation (January 22-25) dealt with the themes: “Water, Ecology and Theology to build another different world.” Besides Christian theology the Forum concentrated on spirituality, the natural environment and the relationships with our life styles. The stress was on contributions to be taken to build a different world that is more in harmony with the natural environment.

Famous liberation theologian, Leonardo Boff gave the keynote address on January 22. He is now removed from the religious, but many people in the Church respect and support him. Recently, he has published various books on ecological issues from the point of view of “Liberation.” His speech dealt, mainly, with the critical issue of “Water.” Quoting M. Gandhi he made his presentation: “If humanity continues living and doing economic activities, as it is doing now, on the basis of greediness and consumption, our planet and human beings will not be maintained. Our basic living course is questioned.”

The English speaking workshop, including Africans, Native Americans, Europeans, Americans and Japanese shared their relationships with the environment and the expression of their faith according to different cultural contexts. The free atmosphere that characterized the discussions was quite impressive.

(2) Pre-forum Fe’namazonia

The Pre-forum Fe’namazonia (January 24-27) was mainly oriented to the Ignatian family. The Brazil’s Jesuit Amazonian region took the initiative, with the cooperation of Rome’s Jesuit Social Justice Secretariat (SJS) and CPAL (The Social Sector of the Jesuit Provincial Conference). About 230 participants attended the Pre-forum. About 100 were diocesan priests and other religious, as well as lay people and the rest 125 belonged to the Ignatian Family – Jesuits and lay collaborators – gathered from all over the world.

The majority of the participants came from Brazil’s North East, Central and Amazon regions and Jesuits from other Latin American countries. Indians followed and then African and Europeans. We were just 2 Jesuits from East Asia, Fr. Kim San Wong of Korea and I from Japan. The presence of few American Jesuits looked strange to me. As a digression, just the night before the pre-forum a simple exchange event was held to introduce ourselves and our cultural backgrounds. Latin Americans, Indians and Africans that participated in great numbers showed their skills dancing and singing. The two of us from East Asia could not dance together.

Instead Fr. Kim and I introduced our common culture and customs by presenting the planting of rice and how rice planting decayed in East Asia nowadays, because of neo-liberal agro-policies recommended by WTO (World Trade Organization). Then, showing chopsticks we demonstrated how dexterous we are using them. Shouts of “Oh” greeted us. Anyhow Fr. Kim and I could play successfully a lone hand.

The main theme of this Pre-forum was “Religious Faith (s) and the Defense of Life.” Indigenous people, living by the Amazon River (the Riverine) whose life habitat and extremely inhuman situation is in danger, due to rampant development projects that seriously destroy the Amazonian region, as well as Jesuits and collaborator Sisters and lay people working with them in the Amazon, made direct appeals on the situation. Brazilian, Marina Silva, an Indigenous former Minister for the Environment spoke on the possible maintenance of the development of the Amazon and the preservation of the environment.

Delegates from Colombia, Brazil, the Amazon, Africa and India presented their views on religious faith (s) and the defense of life with concrete experiences.

From the second day on the workshops continued according to various themes. Faith, Peace and Reconciliation, Social and Political problems, Human Rights were selected for the first day; Faith and the future of Amazonian Culture, Ecology Challenges and Answers, Religion, the Church and new Religion movements for the second day. The participants divided in groups, according to languages (Portuguese and English), shared together their discussions on the selected themes. Then, a coordinator from each group reported to the general assembly. I attended the workshops both days.

The focus of the discussions on the last day centered, again, on the lights and shadows of the Amazonian region. The groups’ discussions searched for concrete ways we could build up a possible sustainable world. I shared with my group the following, “Ecology has given rise to a new business and, as we can observe at the deforestation taking place in Indonesia with the production of bio-fuels, more CO2 emissions are increasing, and ecological movements fuelled by shortsighted commercial concerns cannot provide us with proofs that they positively influence a real preservation of our eco-system.

There are many issues I hardly understand. Of course, the use of cars and electrical appliances that emit little CO2 can, maybe, contribute to prevent global warming. But, if priority is given to the prevention of global warming, apart from being “mottainai”, control on new cars and electric appliances must occur. In other words, there is no other way but to slow down the speed of the economic system and production that are the assumption of actual mass consumption. And since that will produce problems like unemployment, we must also think about this.” Among the opinions expressed, there were those honestly invocating for changes in life styles, as well as those sticking to the production of raw materials for bio-fuels and large-scale coconut plantations that can, at least temporarily hire people, no matter the harms. People expressed freely their views.

The 4-day “Pre-forum Fe’namazonia” was a very fruitful experience and, especially the presence of the Indian delegation SAPI (South Asian People’s Initiative) and the Amazonian Indigenous “travelling team” was unforgettable. Their opinions, during the discussions of the small groups’ workshops were sometimes surprising to me. Living in first world countries, with such an overflow of information, I somehow felt the danger existing on getting accustomed to think abstractly on the basis of our information. The indigenous travelling team and the members of the Indian SAPI live quite apart and own totally different cultures, but it appeared clearly at the exchange party that they share common sentiments and that, both confront similar difficult issues under the influence of neo-liberal globalization. They have met Christianity, but their spirituality, different from the European, has nurtured their faith or relationship to God. India and the Amazon, different regional cultures and traditions worshipping God, but no matter differences, the image both have of God is so much the same that I felt newly surprised. It’s nothing but my personal view: they seem to have a feeling of God, better than to know him theoretically. I also felt the high level of religious sensitivity common to indigenous people. I remembered the “Life Fabric” or the letter sent by the Native American Chief to President Washington, at the time of the Western settlements when a presidential order was issued expelling the Indians and buying their lands. I was surprised in realizing the prophetic roles of such indigenous people..

< What is the WSF? >

Before reporting on the content of the WSF I want to explain its meaning first.
The WSF held in Brazil from January 27 to February 1 was the 9th Forum that was started in Porto Alegre in 2001.

According to the recorded data published there were 133,000 participants coming from 142 countries and 6,000 organizations (500 from Europe and Africa each and 4,000 from Latin American countries)

WSFs are held every year at the end of January. The reason is to hold them at the time of the Davos World Economic Forum (WEF). In other words, in order to understand the nature and the beginning of the WSF one needs to understand the content of the WEF.

The WEF or the so-called “Davos Conference” is organized every year at the Swiss tourist resort of Davos. In Japan is ordinarily known as the Davos Conference. Usually, about 3,000 people participate. They are CEOs from nearly 1,000 big companies, political leaders, like Presidents and Prime Ministers, selected scholars, intellectuals and journalists. The yearly fee is about 3 million Yen (US$30,000).

About 75% of the 3,000 participants come from Europe (39%) and North American countries (36%) and 4.1% from the Middle East. The populations of Europe and North American countries count for 17% of the world population and that of the Middle East is only 0.8% of the World’s. In fact, 80% of the participants to the Davos Conference represent less than 20% of the world. Thus, it’s easy to understand how regionally biased the WEF is. Thinking about Asia where 60% of the world population lives, its presence at the WEF is just 7.7%. In other words, Davos is not a site directly representing the overwhelming 80% of the population of the world.

On the other hand, the real serious world problems, like wars, hunger, disease, political oppression and violence occur in the lands where this 80% people live. We may say to some respect that the sponsors of WEF are those that have organized the world structures filled with actual gaps. The aim of the adjustments favored by the WEF is, basically, the continuation of promoting the neo-liberal free economic market and one doubt whether Davos really shows any interest in solving North-South differences and world poverty. Anybody confronting world realities can find the answer.

The first WSF was organized in Porto Alegre (Brazil) in the year 2001, in order to confront the Davos WEF and the fact that South America (Brazil) became the founder of WSF holds a great symbolic meaning.

“Another World is Possible,” the motto of the WSF has become well-known everywhere. In other words, there is a general basic awareness considering the present world system as a symbol of structures built by a handful of persons represented at the Davos Conference. Such a world is filled with a poverty gap and oppressive structures where many people are facing all kinds of serious problems. Our aim is to search for possibilities of a different world, not one lead by the Davos WEF.

A place where most people freely participate, discuss and make decisions together. Once such a process is safeguarded another world can be built.

In other words, the WSF in the search for another possible world can object to people, influenced by the present political, economic and social structures of a system producing the gaps and offer an alternative of networks of people dedicated to look for global ways to build just societies for everybody where human rights, democracy and peace are provided to all. This could, most probably, mean an alternative globalization to the present neo-liberalistic one.

In order to fully understand the aim for “Another World” and obtain a concrete image of it, let’s take a look at the 10 goals offered by the WSF-9.

The welcome massage by Labour Party of Brazil

1. For the construction of a world of peace, justice, ethics and respect for different spiritualities, free of weapons, especially nuclear ones;

2. For the release of the world domain by capital, multinationals corporations, imperialist, patriarchal, colonial and neo-colonial domination and unequal systems of commerce, by canceling the impoverish countries debt;

3. For universal and sustainable access to the common property of mankind and nature, for the preservation of our planet and its resources, particularly water, forests and renewable energy sources;

4. For the democratization and independence of knowledge, culture and communication and for the creation of a system of shared knowledge and acquirement with the dismantling of Intellectual Property Rights;

5. For the dignity, diversity, ensuring the equality of gender, race, ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation and elimination of all forms of discrimination and caste (discrimination based on descent);

6. For the insurance (during the lifetime use of all people) of the economic, social, human, cultural and environmental rights, particularly the rights to food, health, education, housing, employment and decent work, communication and food security and sovereignty;

7. For the construction of a world order based on sovereignty, self-determination and on people’s rights, including minorities and migrants;

8. For the construction of a democratic emancipator, sustainable and solidarity economy, focused on every people and based on ethical and fair trade;

9. For the construction and expansion of truly local, national and global democratic political and economic structures and institutions, with the participation of people in decisions and control of public affairs and resources;

10. For the defense of the environment (Amazon and others ecosystems) as source of life for the planet Earth and for the original peoples of the world (indigenous, tribal and riverine, afro-descendent), that demand their territories, languages, cultures, identities, environmental justice, spiritually and right to live.

All participants held their workshops’ discussions upon the basis of such 10 goals. Two Brazilian universities, Universidade Federal do Para (UFPA) and Universidade Federal Rural da Amazonia (UFRA) offered their campuses as the main site of WSF-9.

< The World Social Forum >

Opening parade in a squall

A walking rally in the afternoon of January 27 marked the beginning of WSF-9. Most probably, tens of thousands paraded through the streets of Belem for 4 hours that day. When we, the participants of the Jesuit pre-forum, arrived by bus at the departure point of the rally, people had already filled the streets, pressing each other and bringing along colorful flags, banners and various kinds of musical instruments.

Even if only half of the 133,000 participants and organizations took part in the parade, one can guess the cheerfulness of about 60,000 people parading there.

A Brazilian style sudden squall surprised us at the start of the parade, but no matter the strong pounding of the rain people continued the rally. The young Brazilian participants seemed to enjoy especially the rally under the heavy squall. During the parade I was able to meet with people of Japanese organizations, like “Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution” bringing their flag, “Osaka’s WSF,” “ATTAC Japan” and “People’s Plan Research Center.” I was able to meet with AKIMOTO Yoko of ATTAC Japan and I heard that about 25 persons had come this time to the WSF-9. In fact, during the Forum I could not practically meet any Japanese person. Most probably, the Japanese media did not report on the Forum and it was most interested on the Davos Conference. On the contrary, Latin American reporters were everywhere present. Again, maybe because the participation of Japanese and Asians seemed curious to western reporters I was interviewed by some French and English media people. I think that the awareness on the existence of the WSF is different in Europe and in Japan.

The Forum officially opened on January 28 and hundreds of workshops begun to run in the campuses of UFPA and UFRA. We, the members of the “Pre-forum Fe’namazonia” presented our report at the UFPA.

My main problems during the whole Forum were language hardship and the difficulty to get hold of information. The official language at the former WSF of Nairobi (Kenya) was English, but this one held in Brazil was admirably done only in Portuguese.

Sound demonstration

The main language at the Jesuit pre-forum was also Portuguese, but English-language interpreters perfectly helped to solve language problems. English facilities were poor at the WSF. The reality was that a few workshops were conducted with the help of English-language interpreters, but most workshops lacked them. This was understandable because a majority of the participants were Latin Americans and I had the feeling that was a sign for the Latin American cultural block to assure their identity as an independent region, not belonging to North American English cultural block.

My options were necessarily limited: either to select a workshop with English-language interpreters or one in Portuguese with somebody that could help me speaking English.

As a result, there was no possibility left to select a definite theme, but I went around looking for workshops with interesting themes, like development issues of the Amazon, indigenous and minority groups, pilot programs for ecological preservation, international network for the promotion of human rights, privatization of public services (water facilities, etc.), labor under neo-liberalism, solidarity economics, peace, anti-war movements, etc.

Finally, I would like to mention 2 significant aspects of the WSF-9. The first one was the participation of 85 indigenous groups from the Amazon and the SAPI members from India. They strongly manifested pride to belong to their tribal minority groups. Their very right for identity that is being threatened by neo-liberalistic globalization was made vividly apparent through the expression of concrete situations. “Another World” must be rooted on the basis of “life,” and be sensitive to issues concerning it. It becomes necessary to pay attention to their open reflections and natural wisdom.

Indigenous peoples

The second aspect was the presence of many Latin American youth. It is certainly hopeful to realize that so many young people feel attracted to build “Another World.” Latin American countries are surely moving into searching for ways to build a different society. They are moving away from the USA-led neo-liberalistic FTTA (Federal Technology Transfer Act), and from the international systems, IMF (International Monetary Fund) and WB(World Bank). Instead, they are implementing concrete steps to form a South American Bank, under the frameworks of ALBA (Alternativa Boliviarana para las Americas) and UNASUR (Union de Naciones Suramericanas). On the 3rd day of the Forum, 5 left wing Presidents of Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay) gathered and made speeches to an overflowing crowd of people. Of course, all countries have their hidden agendas and the degree of earnestness for a coalition is different. Nevertheless, it is true that the motives behind such political moves in Latin America are caused by the wishes of many around the world to implement more just societies, not a neo-liberalistic world where the stronger prey upon the weaker.

In my way home to the residence I met people of the rural group MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) parading through the streets. This group is one of the organizations represented at the WSF and it is publicly well-known in Brazil. From the very beginning of its foundation the Catholic Church and the Jesuits continue its support. I heard that the Jesuit novices of the central province of Brazil are always having their monthly experiments with the MST communities. At the negotiations with Brazilian President Lula, just before the WSF started, President Lula promised the MST a million houses for free. I experienced clearly the latent energy of the country that gave birth to liberation theology.

Presidents from 5 countries

This time I had the opportunity of meeting with many people and participating in many events at the WSF-9. It was a wonderful time of blessings for me. Reflecting on my regency on social apostolate, I had 2 years of very good experiences meeting with many people. From April, I will start my theological studies and it would be wonderful if I could be able to slowly digest fully the wonderful experiences I had meeting people. I want to sincerely thank all those I have met during my 2 years of regency.

Another world is possible.- World Social Forum 2007 in Nairobi –

Ando Isamu, SJ
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 136 / February 15th, 2007

Last January was the stage of two main world events that tried to shapethe future orientation of the international community for the years to come. The sites were different and symbolic: Nairobi in Africa and Davos in Europe. The programs were somehow opposite. In Davos (Switzerland) the issue was how to advance or rectify the policies of globalization and free movement of capital, but in Nairobi (Kenya) the call was for strict controls on capital and the liberalization of people’s move. In Davos businessmen
and politicians gathered secretly behind closed doors, but in Nairobi about 40,000 people from all over the world expressed freely, in the open, their dissatisfaction with a world system that being global produces more poverty, oppression and military conflicts than peace, security and comfort. People experience that they are mislead and cheated by international institutions
and their leaders.

An Ignatian Family Encounter
Days ahead of the World Social Forum (WSF) Jesuits from all 5 continents started to gather in Nairobi to begin a 3-day “mini-forum” to learn about Africa and share knowledge and information on important international issues affecting people’s lives. By January 17 about 155 delegates from over 35 countries gathered at Hekima College (Nairobi). We were Jesuits, religious and lay persons cooperating in Jesuit-inspired works and about 1/3 of the participants came from the African continent. Several Jesuit seminarians studying at Hekima College were also present with us.

Why so many Jesuits and fellow lay-cooperators (the Ignatian Family) gathered in Nairobi? What is in the minds of Jesuits with regard to the World Social Forum? As far as I know, no matter the importance of the World Economic Forum of Davos there was no Jesuit presence there. But why it was so different in Nairobi?
The 3-day Jesuit encounter combined plenary sessions and global orientations with 5 different workshops oriented towards some key global issues of the African continent that are considered also important world wide. They are: [1]refugees and migrant workers [2]HIV/AIDS, [3]Conflict situations,[4]Public Debt, Trade and Government, [5]Exploitation of natural resources and poverty.
Fr. General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach was scheduled to open the Encounter but was unable to be present and sent a special message to the Ignatian Family assembled in Nairobi.

“It is with great joy that I welcome the initiative taken by the whole Assistancy of Africa and Madagascar to hold an international encounter on the theme Spiritual and Social Transformation in Africa and Madagascar as a prelude to the 7th World Social Forum at Nairobi. I offer special greetings to you and to all the participants who have gathered from the whole continent of Africa, the island of Madagascar and from other parts of the world. You are fortunate to experience the traditional hospitality of Africa!

The theme you have carefully chosen expresses a deep aspiration to share, with the whole Church, in the integral evangelisation of Africa and Madagascar; an evangelisation that demands from us a renewal of our commitment to the service of faith, the promotion of justice, a greater sensitivity to the rich cultural diversity and an openness to other religious experiences (GC 34, D 2, n. 19).

The task of looking for an integral transformation of individuals and communities in the African continent presupposes a compassionate understanding of the complex and difficult situation confronting many of the countries. More than 20 years ago, the participants at the First African Synod, and later John Paul II himself, compared the situation of Africa to the man who was on his way to Jericho (Lk 10, 30-37) and fell into the hands of the robbers who stripped him of all he had, beat him and then departed leaving him half dead (Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, 41: AAS 88 (1996) 27). New external and internal forces have combined to maintain and, in some cases, aggravate the marginalization of many countries of the region.

In this ‘ocean of misfortune’ as General Congregation 34 described the marginalization of Africa (D 3, n. 12), there are many signs of life, and hope as many Jesuits and other apostolic partners have kept on the struggle to build a future for those who come after them (GC 34, D 3, n.12). I would like to stress the momentous nature of this gathering as an important step in crystallising these hopes and in affirming the willingness of the Society in Africa and Madagascar to shape its own future.

The set of various workshops you plan to conduct during this encounter give us an idea of the immense, and at times, unknown efforts, that the Society in Africa, and more particularly, the social apostolate, have made in many crucial areas. I think it is important to mention some of them briefly.

With the support of the Jesuit Refugee Service thousands of displaced persons and refugees have been accompanied, educated and their cause defended at many international fora. A variety of efforts have been underway to mediate in delicate situations of conflict and war; the Hekima Peace Institute intends to carry these efforts forward in an academic setting and is looking for closer cooperation with other international partners. Some social centres have fought courageously against the burden of international debt, coupled to unfair trade practices; they have contributed to strengthening democratic processes and have strived to make national governments more accountable to the common good. The network AJAN has been able to strengthen and coordinate the efforts of many individuals, give respectability to the Church’s involvement with the pandemic spread of SIDA and, above all, accompany with dignity many of those suffering from its effects. Some recently undertaken initiatives have started to link more effectively the advocacy efforts in Europe and the United States with the work done by some social centres and groups against the most blatant violations of human rights by multinational companies.

As you aptly mention in the documents explaining the objectives of this Encounter, our Jesuit vocation to be “servants of Christ’s mission” (GC 34, D 2, n. 1) defines our apostolic identity in terms of service. “As companions of Jesus our identity is inseparable from our mission” (GC 34, D 2, n. 4). The foundational experience of Ignatius at La Storta is also a call to be “servants of his mission, to labour with him under the same Cross until his work is accomplished” (GC 34, D 2, n. 4). This vocation “to be placed” with Jesus carrying his Cross is also a profound call to be with those who are today crucified, abandoned and marginalised. This foundational experience of Ignatius becomes a beacon to guide our reflections on how to achieve this spiritual and social transformation as aspects or dimensions mutually and intimately connected. As a universal apostolic body, “we want […] to be present, in solidarity and compassion, where the human family is most damaged” (GC 34, D 2, n. 4).

Finally I would like again to thank all of you who have made an effort to be present at this encounter, and those who have worked tirelessly to make it a reality. I also believe that this gathering can help you to prepare a joint public presence at the forthcoming World Social Forum where the aspirations of all those for whom we work and our particular way of proceeding can be forcefully put forward.

Let me end by encouraging you to walk ahead in strengthening the bonds between all the institutions and individuals engaged in transforming the social reality, in developing a wide consciousness that would promote among you greater cooperation and unity of purpose, and in developing a truly African and Malagasy Society of Jesus ready to build on the richness and confidence of the various cultures and peoples it is involved in.”

Program of the Jesuit Encounter
The characteristic nature of this Encounter was to deepen the Ignatian spirituality in the context of African actual social realities. The practice of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola is the basis of Ignatian spirituality. It consists on a radical view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, healer of people and stresses his life style always at the side of the poor and destitute, ready to give them hope, because of the dignity they have as children of God. It insists, first of all, on the conversion of oneself before trying to change others and structures. The transformation of social realities must start from imitating the action taken by God upon seeing the real situation of people around the world. As St. Ignatius observes in one of the most important meditations of the Spiritual Exercises, the Holy Trinity observing people around the earth decided to send Christ to become one of us and thus save human kind. This was a radical decision that inspires us to reflect that Jesuits have received the mission to serve others, a radical challenging mission.

The Spiritual Exercises end with a call to lives of love, not so much on words but on deeds, on action for loving God and others as ‘equals.’ There was also much discussion on discernment, on paying attention to experiences of joy and hope, as well as to desperation and disappointments, on the selection of sound judgement, on community building and individual respect, and on greater solidarity with the poor. In front of difficult social realities it is very important to seek the truth and objective information, to analyze it and use it to serve others, to listen to people’s experiences.

The social realities of African countries were offered by various African speakers in contrast to Ignatian spirituality, during the morning sessions. The post-colonial African continent has produced a variety of liberation movements with new social challenges in the economic, political and cultural fields. Although democracy is alive in several countries, independent states still following colonial ways are not able to deliver needed changes. Boundaries built by colonial powers still endanger the need for integration. The workshops in the afternoon sessions stimulated very live discussion on poverty, inequalities and violent conflicts, on the exploitation of natural resources, on refugees and migrant workers, on the spread of HIV/AIDS, on women’s discrimination, on national debt and the influence of multinational companies with their global economic policies, etc.

The World Social Forum
There was much confusion and lack of information in Nairobi days before the WSF started. We were told, for instance, that the Kenya government denied permission to hold the Forum in a place already decided and that at the very last moment a different one had to be fixed. Finally, on January 20, the opening ceremony of the WSF took place safely in a very big Park where the Moi new National Stadium is located.

Thousands of people marched through the city of Nairobi to confluence into the Park Uhuru. Groups of people walked dancing, singing and shouting slogans through the streets of Nairobi and gathered around a big central stage surrounded by a hill, similar to a natural amphitheatre holding about 40,000 people. Present there were the international committee of the WSF and several well-known personalities, like former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, Nobel laureates Wangari Maathai and Bishop Desmond Tutu, etc. Mr. Chico Wittaker, considered to be the author of the first WSF in Porto Alegre (Brazil, Year 2000) declared the first WSF in Africa opened.
Hundreds of workshops were organized daily in the vicinity of the beautiful Moi National Stadium and a special Jesuit Logistics Committee prepared in the evenings a selective program of useful workshops for Jesuits to attend. Many workshops would provide a space for fruitful discussions, but many others could not be held because the speakers were absent. Often, speakers were unprepared and that occasioned frustrations. Looking for workshops organized by Asian groups I run into some small ones dealing with Japanese ODA projects in Kenya or against exploitative migration and human trafficking, organized by groups like ATTAC Japan, the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), etc. Attending a workshop on Migration I realized how similar are the issues faced by migrant workers all over the world and noticed the fact of a new official Convention between Japan and the Philippines, by which Japan has agreed to accept thousands of Filipino/a workers in exchange of a site in Luzon island to dump industrial waste from Japan.

The Jesuit delegation held a seminar at the WSF on the theme “Social Transformation in Africa: an Ethical Face.” The seminar was well attended, and issues earlier identified as priorities in Africa and discussed at the Encounter were looked at from an ethical perspective.
Anne Peeters from JRS read aloud some sections of a testimony by an Ethiopian refugee entitled “There is more than one way of dying.” There are over 10 million refugees and displaced persons in Africa alone.

Paterne Mombe SJ from Togo dealt with violence against women, one of the main causes of the spread of AIDS. The adult rate of infection from HIV/AIDS is as high as 24.1% in Botswana, 20.1% in Zimbabwe, or 18.8% in South Africa. In Kenya alone about 6.1% of the population, 1,300,000 adults and children are HIV infected.

Antoine Berilenger SJ spoke about natural resources, one of Africa’s blessings, and paradoxically, one of its main curses. There is neither fair nor free trade; prices of agricultural commodities are fixed by the powerful, and African countries have been forced to open their markets to foreign products.
Peter Henriot SJ brought home the point poverty should be seen as an affront to life. Who profits from war and conflict? Who manufactures the arms and collects the money? Conflicts usually arise over natural resources.
Frank Turner SJ closed the session, highlighting the need for advocacy and briefly explained its meaning with regard to action that could be taken in industrial countries.

Highlights at the WF
The main avenue surrounding the Moi National Stadium provided an image of what could be to live in “a different possible world.” Bazaar type stalls managed by Africans sold all kinds of merchandise and souvenirs and thousands of foreigners from African countries and from all over the world strolled along looking for the sites of the workshops or observing the demonstrations and shows of different groups. Farmers or landless people, AIDS groups, street children, minority groups from India, Palestinian independent groups, Human rights organizations and Christian groups, and many others.

Workshops exposed misconceptions people have when it comes to child labor, like the poor does not want education or globalization creates more opportunity for children to go to school. There is widespread misunderstanding that child labor is necessary to provide enough income for the household. School is the best place to work.

African health institutions indicate that at least 586,911 Africans are dying from TB annually and that 24 million people living with HIV/AIDS have TB. The annual AIDS death figures for Africa alone is 2.1 milllion.

Regarding the issue of migration, there was a universal call to dedicate the International Workers Day in May 2007 to the rights of migrant workers in the world. There is an estimated 200 million in the whole world. The refusal of industrialized countries to accept Africans trying to reach European coasts was strongly criticized by high profile politicians, “Europeans exploited us for 400 years. Why do they refuse our young people when they try to enjoy part of their riches now?”
The 7th World Social Forum in Nairobi was a special moment in the face of the severe inequality in the process of globalization, terror and the war that feeds it. The WSF continues to expand and its increasing network creates hope. “Much of its power originates from being an open space, founded in the respect for diversity and plurality. The recognition of the principles and ethical values of freedom of choice and opinion, equality, solidarity, interdependence, participation and shared responsibility, non-violence, the preservation of common goods and nature – all of this fuels the WSF as a factory of ideas and alternative proposals to the devastating and exclusive capitalist dominion.” (Candido Grybowski, member of the International Council of the World Social Forum)

From Slums to Another World
A sea of participants wearing colorful T-shirts filled Uhuru Park. They came some 7 km southwest of Nairobi, from the Kibera slum house to about 800,000 people, the largest slum in East Africa, and marched through the venues of the Forum claiming the immediate need to erase poverty from Nairobi and all Africa, to provide them with water, roads and all necessary services, decent housing, welfare and education. One afternoon about 70 of them, in a sign of defiance, assaulted two open restaurants inside the venue of the Forum and took all food and drinks shouting loudly, “We want food! We want food!”
During my stay in Nairobi I visited the slums of Kibera with a Jesuit scholastic that has made a study of the situation there. I was deeply impressed by the inhuman living conditions. That is a totally different world.

The size of the households I interviewed, said the young Jesuit, varies from 4 to 19 persons, including the father, the mother and the children. They all live in single rooms with mud-walls and rusted iron-sheet roofs, without any formal system of electricity provision. These single rooms of about 3 meters by 3 meters as average are rented from landlords who live outside Kibera and who may own up to 10 rooms, the number of rooms depending on the size of the plot. The average monthly rent is Ksh. 600 (about \1,200). Access to food on a regular basis is very limited. Seven households simply declared: “We eat when we get.” Depending on what they get, a family can have one meal or two a day, but some days none at all.
Sanitation conditions in general are pitiful. There is only one latrine and one bathroom for a whole plot, which concretely means for about 50 persons. The water is sold to slums dwellers by private owners; the lack of proper sewers added to the heaps of uncollected garbage and human waste, make the environmental conditions unhealthy.
Access to decent health care services is a real head-ache for the great majority of Kiberans (Kibera dwellers) because of their high cost in good health centers.

There is a Jesuit parish, as well as several Catholic parishes serving the slum dwellers, as well as various NGOs. There are no official services and institutions present in Kibera, but I was much impressed by the education activities undertaken by lay persons of Christian Life Communities. They have initiated a School for the children of Kibera slums and built classrooms inside the slums, where 90 children are studying now. After 5 years they plan to build a School nearby for over one thousand children in a land bought by the Archbishop of Nairobi. Their dream is: “In Kibera also another world is possible.”

Where is the World Social Forum headed?
As the seventh edition of the World Social Forum, WSF has become a sort of Mecca for all those in search of a fairer world under the motto “Another world is possible.” It comprises an amalgamation of organizations, big and small, international and local, pertaining to very different ideologies; social movements, base communities, trade unions, and many dissenting groups. All are searching for concrete solutions to the challenges facing the building of another world based on the principles of justice, equity and respect of human rights, where, thanks to a more humane globalization, the economy will be at the service of people.

Undoubtedly, from its first meeting, the Forum exceeded all expectations as to the number of participants and its geographical expansion. As Sami Nair, an Egyptian intellectual and one of the leaders of the Forum of Alternatives, points out: “The World Social Forum has played an important role, but it is a system that is beginning to wear out.”
There is an intensive debate going on between those who consider that the Forum, given the huge diversity of the organisations that attend it, should be an encounter and space for dialogue, and those who want it to take unique stands, issue joint documents and carry out collective actions. (Valeria Mendez de Vigo, Entreculturas, Spain)

Any Lessons for us in Japan?
Japanese presence in the WSF was minimal, a natural fact due to distances and lack of interest in African issues. Nevertheless, anybody attending the Forum in Nairobi could realize that most of the issues discussed or exposed at the WSF are “global” and affect our lives and major decisions. Just to select priorities of the Jesuits present in Nairobi: migrant workers and refugees, trade and developments patterns, debt, depletion of natural resources, peace and arm conflicts, networking, Ignatian spirituality and involvement in world affairs are a few examples.

The Forum, through the major participating organizations, presented many concrete programs to try to define and build another possible human world and the methods taken and attitudes exposed could be of great help to us in Japan. Social transformation could only be attained by organizations that are able to do network together. It is also very important to put aside preconceived ideas about people and communities and go to listen to people and to the real stories they may have. A priority to change systems is, first of all, to respect people and their human dignity. All discrimination is wrong and must be corrected. Information is a very important asset in daily life. In many third world countries people are not given information on what is going on and all over the world true facts are hidden. Search of the truth and strict analysis tools will help much our work in Japan. In other words, study and research are a must for social transformation.

We have to convince ourselves and those in contact with us that “another Japan is possible,” “another Japanese Jesuit Society is possible.” We have enough spiritual motivation and the collaboration of many lay-coworkers dedicated as ourselves to spread Gospel values of faith, justice and peace.

It has been difficult for me to pick up the highlights of the WSF Nairobi 2007. You can find a fuller picture in Jesuit HEADLINES published by the Social Justice Secretariat

www.sjweb.info/sjs

Tokyo Jesuit Social Center: 25th Anniversary

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.

Another world is possible

Ando Isamu, SJ(Jesuit Social Center in Tokyo)
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 124 / February 23rd, 2005

Porto Alegre City

Porto Alegre is a coastal city in the South of Brazil with 1,300,000 inhabitants. There, during the last week of January more than 155,000 people from 135 countries gathered ahead of the famous Rio carnival to celebrate World Social Forum 5. Since the beginning of the 21st century, it has been customary to organize such social fora at the same time that industrial countries meet in Davos (Switzerland) to formulate common policies and programs for the world economy. Back in 2000, the entrepreneur Oded Grajew was in Paris at the time of the economic forum of Davos and angry at the ways the summit was taken place phoned his Brazilian friend Francisco (Chico) Whitaker of the Justice and Peace Committee (Brazil), to find ways to counterpart the summits of industrial countries at Davos. This is said to have been the beginning of the World Social Forum. The process has taken momentum at various levels, so much that, for instance, the strong international opposition to the United States war against Iraq started at the Social Forum.

In contrast to the strong economic orientation of the industrial countries summits, the World Social Forum embraces a world diversity of expressions that meet the universal wishes for tolerance and dialogue, justice, peace and equality. It is not politically manipulated, in spite of the high brass of clashing interests of extremist politically minded groups participating. The World Social Forum is, in general, critical of neo-liberalist theories and of globalization and opposes the official policies of WTO and world financial institutions, because they take side with industrial countries against the needs of the majority world poor. The recourse to solve delicate problems is not by violent means, but by freely expressing one’s ideas and opinions in an atmosphere of dialogue and mutual understanding. In a world where industrial countries seem to see everywhere phantoms of terrorism it is good to notice that there was not a single “terrorist act” during the whole week that 155,000 people met in Porto Alegre. The presence of the police had a low profile.

Chico Witaker

Statistics
By 25th November 2004, the final date for registration, 2,560 events, including seminars, workshops and presentations, had been registered by more than 4000 organizations from 112 countries. About 75,000 people had signed up for these events, but looking into the final figures, 155 thousand people participated – 35 thousand alone were in the Youth camp. 2,800 Brazilian volunteers were at hand to help during the event. Millions of people connected to the Forum through the Internet.

The organizers claimed that they had registered 100 musical shows, 41 public and popular theatre representations, 85 art shows, and more than 150 film and video presentations. The venue of the Forum was enormous, occupying 150,000 square meters, about 15 ha, the equivalent of 18 soccer stadiums. The cost of setting up the entire complex by Porto Alegre city was about 1.3 million US$.

[Past World Social Fora in numbers]
WSF 2001: 20 thousand participants from 117 countries
WSF 2002: 50 thousand participants from 123 countries
WSF 2003: 100 thousand participants from 123 countries
WSF 2004: 111,000 participants from 117 countries

Jesuit Presence
The Social Sector of the Conference of Latin American Provincials (CPAL) took up the task of organising the Jesuit presence at the Forum “with the aim of making the voice and the witness of poor and marginalized peoples heard, especially those from Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.” The Provincial of Brazil invited Jesuit participants and their collaborators to stay at a spirituality centre (CECREI) of the Province, very near to Porto Alegre, with the hope that the concentration of Jesuit delegates in one place will provide a possibility for sharing and exchange and for identifying the implications of this exchange in their apostolic missions.More than 150 Jesuits and collaborators, the majority of them from Brazil, and other Latin American countries participated.

The Indian and Sri Lankan delegation (almost 30) was the largest outside that of Brazil and Paraguay, testifying the great momentum that the former WSF 2004 had among the host nations.

Catholic Collaboration: Meeting with Caritas International
In line with the aggregation and networking effort promoted by the Forum, and upon the initiative of Caritas International, during the preparatory phase of the Forum a series of meetings were held with Caritas and other catholic organisations and congregations with the purpose of sharing information and views, and identifying possibilities for coordination and joint action. The Jesuit Coordinating team thus promoted the participation of the Jesuit delegation along the main lines of interest proposed by Caritas International (Peace and reconciliation, Empowerment and Advocacy, and Trafficking of Human Beings).

On January 26, Caritas International, in coordination with other Catholic groups, organized an inaugural Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Pompei. The Mass was presided over by the Bishop President of Caritas Brazil and an Indian sister working at Caritas-India delivered the homily. In a hall nearby, the partners of Caritas, CIDSE (Cooperation Internationale pour le Developpment et la Solidarite) and other organizations made a short presentation of the goals, highlighting the reasons for participating in the Forum.

Inauguration of the Forum: The Peace March
The Forum started with a peace march through the main streets of Porto Alegre. By 3:00 in the afternoon one could see a sea of flags and banners, of people chanting and dancing. There was a general air of pleasantness. We walked into the mass of moving people not knowing whether the march was moving or whether it had stopped.

Many banners proclaimed: ” With Bush and Lula (President of Brazil) another world is not possible”. Clearly, people are tired of pacts, adjustments and shady deals. The theme that has caught their imagination is that “another world is possible”. Those who marched shared this conviction or this dream, through a variety of organizations, projects and activities, each declaring its cause: sustainability, the defense of children’s rights, the fight against intolerance or any form of discrimination, the search for another economy linked with new forms of solidarity, the defense of the forests and water and a profound respect for difference.

The white flags of Caritas International said: “Globalize Solidarity”. And in the middle of a clear Latin American atmosphere calling for solidarity action with rural and indigenous people, with those without land, with workers or slum dwellers, banners brought from India by the South Asia Peoples Initiative (SAPI) drew the attention of thousands. Seeing the name ‘Asia’ many came and took photographs. There is something special in carrying a flag or a banner; it is a way of communicating your interest or your cause, a way of raising your voice in a sea of voices. Groups of even opposite views marched together, side by side, displaying their objectives. Strange companions in a peace march, but such is the world in which we live.

The Sri Lankan group had organized itself also behind, marching with dignity and attracting a lot of respect, and seeing them, people remembered the tsunami victims. The white apparel of Caritas International that came almost at the end contrasted with the bright red shirts of all the international socialists, the communists and the members of the workers party (PT) of Brazil.

The march passed by a 6-story high official building that had been occupied by about 200 people from the slums, 2 days before. The day after arrival, when Shimokawa and myself went there to join some groups of foreign supporters, a dozen police were at the entrance of the building already precinct. Several people from the windows greeted the peace march with their small red flags. A banner written in several languages called for housing facilities for those without homes. The group organizing the ‘invasion’ was MNLM, or the National Movement fighting for Housing Rights of Brazil. The Forum provided them the basis to negotiate with government officials for a satisfactory solution to the issue.

Against this immense, noisy, and colorful marching multitude it seemed as if two insurmountable walls obstructed the way: neo-liberalism and globalization. The Por-do-sol, the venue, was already filled by the time half the marchers arrived. More than 60,000 people gathered awaiting the inauguration of the Forum. A big stage had been prepared with a large TV monitor at its side. By 9:30 in the evening, when everybody had reached the Por-do-sol ground, we were expecting long inauguration speeches only to discover happily that the ceremony would be simple: a small child declared the Forum opened. Without formal speeches a night concert began.

Official Registration and Program
The participation at the Forum had to follow an official registration done under the umbrella of organizations registered and recognized ahead of the forum. No matter the quantities of computers at the Secretariat and the hundreds of helping volunteers we had to wait patiently to clear out our participation. People had to make long lines under the strong heat to pay the fees and to obtain the programs of the more than 2,000 workshops running throughout the whole week. Certainly the first day posed a serious situation. After getting hold of the thick programs we were left to ourselves. People stopped everywhere to check for issues of interest that appeared in the programs. We had to identify the places of the workshops – there were hundreds of big tents – test the leaders, the language and the scheduled time. Often the leaders were not there, the schedules and tents had been changed and nobody was on hand to give details. The long distances to walk on foot under a heat that sometimes reached 40 degrees and the difficulties to find the spaces or tents where one could find the workshops of his/her interest played against a full participation in many programs of interest. It was like searching for a different world. Nevertheless the amazing charm of the Brazilian people and their help made for the lack of organization.

What was really the Forum about? The detailed written explanation in the official program of hundreds of workshops with 11 interesting thematic fields that include the main dimensions of modern society could provide an answer, but this was out of the reach of the ordinary participant.
There was a clear atmosphere of anti-neoliberalism and against the globalization industrial countries try to implement, against war and oppression. Indigenous people, those deprived of their lands or without roof were present there, Dalits from India and Palestinians presented freely their views, looking for sympathizers as well as trade unionists from Latin American countries. But, the common denominator for the majority of those present in Porto Alegre was, “a different world is possible” and I would dare to say that we experienced it, during the days of the Forum.

Presence of the Youth: The Youth Camp
A big camping space was located in the middle of the venue, a sprawling area full of multicolored tents that offered free housing for about 35 thousand young people. Open showers and ecological plastic sanitation cabins dot the scene.

Walking through one of the main thoroughfares that criss-crosses the main camping area here, one was struck by the line of vendors, also mostly young, sitting on both sides of the road, with trinkets, beads, feathers, masks, various kinds of amulets, all for sale, and all supposedly coming from the forests of Latin America. Some of the young looked hardened by years of living on the margins of society; others seemed to be ‘freshers’ from comfortable backgrounds having a try at being ‘radical’; yet others were simply enjoying free boarding in a very crowded city. The framed face of Che Guevara was everywhere to be seen in the tents reserved for meetings and reflections, as well as old sepia-tinted photographs of the famous bombings of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), the famous Peruvian terrorist group. One sensed openness among the young, an unspoken affirmation of willingness to be different, of wanting to occupy a secluded and, in a sense, excluded space.

Listening to People: Personal interviews
One day I decided to meet people and hear their opinions. I interviewed 26 persons, at random, and found out that most of them felt very happy to express their views and experiences. About 12 of them were in the 20s and 30s, the rest were between 40 and 50 year old. 12 of them were Catholic and 11 declared themselves without any religion. About 10 were female, and the majority had come as delegates.

The sharing of experiences and a common hope of a different world that was possible attracted many participants. Coming to the Forum one could get new ideas and information, networks could be established, people can listen and learn from others, exchanges become possible. There was joy and dynamic openness. Many of the debates were interesting, fruitful and meaningful. One could experience new winds and trends around the world. Activists found many opportunities to spread their movement and to strengthen their networks, educators were searching for new trends, valid information and knowledge and bring them back to their students. The marginated and indigenous people were happy to let others listen to their experiences and pleas. Most people were looking for formulas to work together and cooperate to make a better, more human world, where people could express freely their suffering. Building spaces for dialogue had been positive and encouraging. Many issues were similar and people felt the need to respect and defend others. Anti-globalization and anti-neoliberalist practices were common, and most appealed against violence and war, in favor of a more human life.

Of course, some were dissatisfied with the organization and the difficulties to get to the right workshops, the lack of efficiency and the impossibility to implement such a wide action program.
Nevertheless, people recognized they had personally changed by attending the forum. It was an experiential historical event, where one lived day by day a different world and most of us decided to look for ways to continue challenging ourselves to try to implement some of the lessons learnt.

Closing ceremony
The World Social Forum 5 started as a world diversity expression, polyphony of voices that meet the universal wishes for tolerance, justice, peace and equality. And it closed according to these same wishes. This Forum was completely self-organized. All the activities were developed by the participant organizations. In the 11 Thematic Terrains, there were panels that accepted proposals, 352 in all that were the result of discussions and the assemblies.

We celebrated the communitarian life and the common responsibility in an open, public, collective and democratic territory. The Forum territory was a laboratory for changing life. It was a place where the initiatives converged. It was also the meeting of the Forum community and the Porto Alegre community, the city whose symbol is the sun set over the Guaiba river which has no owner, it wasn’t built, it belongs to everybody and to nobody in the same way. It was this sun set that, every day, passed through a territory in movement, geography of a transforming world.

There, in the territory of the Forum we brought into real life many transforming practices. The bio-construction proved that a house could be built from the nature rational order, the solidarity economy fair when it comes to prices and ethical when it comes to consumption, it was there. Challenging practices, such as the use of free software, making full use of the LINUX system, in opposition to Microsoft empire, translators volunteers network and new ways of communication shared, were joined day by day. This demands learning, persistent work. But for those who want to change things, there is only one way, and it is to try.

What comes nexr? Program for the future
The International Council decided at a meeting on 25th January that the World Social Forum 2006 will be realized in a phased-out manner in different parts of the world. With this, the WSF ensures its commitment to its Letter of Principles, seeking a permanent, continuous process of searching and building new alternatives, which are not limited to the events proposed. The final decisions about the WSF 2006 will be taken at the meeting of the International Council next April. The International Council has reiterated that the WSF 2007 will be held in Africa. The responsibility for its organization will be with the African organizations, but the International Council will help with the process of building the WSF in Africa.

Evaluating the Forum
During the closing ceremony, 352 thematic proposals received so far were placed before a huge panel. Talking to newspersons before the ceremony, Chico Whitaker, one of the founders of the Forum, acknowledged that the two themes more frequented by the participants were the one on human rights and the one on social struggles. Asked about the ongoing discussion between debate and action as objectives of the Forum, Chico again emphasized the fact that the Forum’s mission “is not to decide which actions to take on or which plans to undertake”. These functions are well performed by the organizations coming to the Forum. As an example, Chico mentioned that the campaign being organized against the traffic in arms is carried out by Peace and Justice organizations and not by the Forum. The great job the Forum has done is to prepare these 11 thematic axes that were the result of much articulation and coordination among various groups.

He emphasized three positive aspects of the Forum: its growing capacity to manage itself (the International Committee has not organized a single activity this year); its understanding that the process is more important than the content; and the shift in perception about the WSF, from being seen predominantly as a group of anti-globalizers to being thought of as a group of alter-globalizers. He also acknowledged that they have not succeeded in convincing the media that the ‘big shots” (Lula and Chavez, President of Venezuela) are not the most important persons of the Forum.

This energetic movement continues. And this Forum helped many actions that leave the Forum stronger and more organized, with agendas for the whole year. The dialogue and the meetings improve perspectives, open new horizons. Let’s go ahead. We have to do, to walk, to transform and to live. The other possible world depends on us!

SOURCES: For further information, please, refer to the Jesuit HEADLINES e-mail services
http://www.sjweb.info/sjs/
and to the official WEB of the WSF
http://www.forumsocialmundial.org.br/
 

Activities to provide work, space and new relationships

The Asian Workers Network (AWN) asks your Cooperation
Social and Pastoral Bulletin issue: No. 120 / June 15th, 2004

Whenever Christians think of their commitment to promote justice, in other words, of their dedication to social justice ministry, they must look for the distortions or dark spots in society and their deeper roots. It is our belief that once a person gets in contact with social darkness s/he can discover the light that destroys that darkness, because the spirit of God, the Father, has been always working in human society. In the task of social involvement we do not only fight evil, we also try to look for the bright aspects to find possible alternatives to support. It is very important for us to walk under the light. In mentioning dark spots of society and its victims we, naturally, should address the visible existence of homeless people in Japan. The article that follows brings forth a test experience that shows a light shining in the darkness and renovates social realities about to be lost in our Japanese society. Such realities are 1) A sense of solidarity and cooperation (not private individuals that are afraid of becoming dropouts due to enforced competition) 2) Creativity (not daily repetition of regulations) 3) Value of work (not just as means of survival, but as the concrete realization of the concept of being useful to others) 4) Local community (not groups of individuals ignorant of their neighbors). I’m myself a member of the steering committee of AWN.
(Shimokawa Masatsugu / Chairperson of Jesuit Social Apostolate)
Yuasa Makoto (AWN staff member)

Introduction
The motto of AWN, established in the year 2002, is “working together we continue living.” This is a visible goal to be experienced.
I have been working for about 10 years to support the homeless with an attitude of “companionship,” but the stance of the present activities is something new to me. Up to now, as a supporter, my activities differed from the site of work and living.
How different are my experiences now compared to my former activities? I hope that my views are able to express my personal experiences while I introduce AWN.

Recycle shop AWN

First Steps: Handyman Business
My first contacts with AWN go back to about a year ago. In fact AWN was established a year ahead, on August 2002. The following is the message attached to its inauguration: “The persons concerned (homeless) as well as their supporters work together and handle their businesses in such a way that, no matter the continuation of homelessness, they manage to assure themselves with a minimum income of 30,000 Yen to survive.” The first business was the opening of a recycling shop by obtaining second-hand clothing and selling it in a free market.

At that time, I was not yet involved in the activities and I cannot explain the details, but anyhow, the first aim was, “to get a monthly income of 30,000 Yen through work, in order to have food and to be able to go to a public bath.” AWN rented a 66 m2 space for a shop and an office with a bathroom attached to it. An organization, called Food Bank, donated rice and food and that helped to continue the activities. The drop-in-center functions of the place together with the work done supported the persons concerned.

I hear that the income of the first month was just enough to pay the needed 130,000 Yen for the rent of the place. In December 2002 the 3 staff from among the concerned persons were able to earn the 30,000 Yen proposed as a goal. Besides them, two more persons from the supporters’ side were also working full-time there. It is easy to imagine the pain at the time.

On the other side, I worked as a volunteer with a different organization to provide jointly guarantors for those in difficult economic situations to rent rooms, and we had to clean up the place when people had to leave the apartments. In other words, we were troubleshooters. The job consisted of solving the trouble, once the people had already left. This was an impossible mission. I did not want to undertake a work without any future vision, but there are times when something has to be done and I asked myself how could I perform the same task providing a vision to it? I reached the conclusion that maybe work done jointly by the homeless people with the assistance provided by the ones supporting their lives could become the answer. In normal circumstances, some kind of a survey could indicate who will settle things and how, what would be the cost. Then, I thought seriously about taking it as my job and transforming it in real business. Just, by the time, AWN business was stagnant after reaching the 600,000 Yen ceiling and the plans for breaking the 30,000 Yen income-wall had been revealed. The answer lied in producing more jobs, so that more companions could earn more income. That was the beginning of handyman business.

Step 2: Post Handyman Business
The first enterprise of the handyman business was to settle the problem of a rented apartment on 30 July 2003. Three main forces acted together.

Firstly, the persons concerned. The work of dividing meticulously the old clothing for selling is different from moving a house and settling everything by handyman business, such work is done by the persons concerned. People like myself, failed intellectuals, unaccustomed to labor, learn many things from persons concerned when we work together with them. Such is the case, in packing and shipping loading, in using tools, handling and transporting heavy things. This is also true when having a break or taking a rest.

The second strength comes from the supporters. The total work is not finished at the site of work. The same that the production of goods does not stop at the production line, but rolls through the sales and the purchasing of stocks till the goods are sold, handyman business goes through the business process of taking orders by phone, making cost estimates, sending salesmen, preparing the cars and doing publicity, giving the keys of the apartments and doing office work of writing bills and receipts, so that by filling all various business steps the work is finally completed. In fact, those concerned lack experience in office work and find it difficult. Although I do not have much experience either, at present I can make estimates and because of that I can give proper information to others.

 Thirdly, we lean on the strength of the collaborators. Due to the orders done by people, handy business can begin functioning. Minor movements like the ones of homeless people lack money, techniques and power and by making the best use of manpower, their only strength, they create jobs. At the beginning, incredulously, people say, “let’s try,” and we have found that persons that provide work are the source of support for the handy business.

At the start, we fixed the goal: “a monthly allowance of 80,000 Yen to all those who commit themselves for a year” and partly making fun of the business, customers as well as orders continue growing in such a way that labor days and sales increase, with the result that, counting the recycling business, the monthly sales have reached 2 million yen. This allows sharing 80,000 Yen among all 9 staff and the 2 full-time supporters plus other part-timers like myself. Based on the experience and managerial skills acquired we are moving to the next step of how can we together create more possibilities of work so that we can build a fit environment for many more homeless people to have a job.

The Meaning of Working Together
AWN aims to become a Workers Collective Union. In other words, workers manage together the business, they are responsible for all the decisions taken at AWN. On the other hand, AWN only has pay staff. All receive the same salaries and there are no volunteers. At present, those working in the shop receive 3,000 yen a day, but if they work in the handy business the pay is 6,000 yen, not including transportation and food. When going to work there is a fixed share for all staff members, according to the working days. Now, in order to assist the concerned staff that lives only from AWN’s profits, there is a housing allowance for them.

Work together

Something that helped me was the fact that I was somehow liberated from my dilemma between my personal life and my activities. To stress one against the other brings always headaches to the persons concerned as well as to their supporters. If one tries to fill in a blank space of life with activities, there will always be limitations and the blank space will always remain such. The reason is simple. It is impossible to eat. Again, if the efforts are spent in assuring food, the activities will suffer a blank. But, it will be difficult to recognize that. One wants to assure that there is no blank in one’s activities. And as a result, one places an excessive identity on action. And since all the efforts go there, halfway volunteer action seems impertinent. One is inclined to say that life is not so sweet. Only oneself can understand the mood and the situation on which he stands as a person concerned. I have seen many persons entrapped in bad environments and I also went through such bad experiences. This is true of other homeless. They are busy to get food and a place to sleep, so that they could survive. On top of that, they participate in activities. I have heard hundred times, “if I get into action I cannot eat,” but when people get involved in action, some profitable results are expected.

I have also often seen persons of action that somehow enjoy special privileges. After all, it becomes a problem of social awareness, they say. You hear people say: “The situation of homeless people is serious, but why don’t they participate in the activities? How those especial privileges affect the situation of other homeless?” Nevertheless the root of the problem is physical and material, not a mental attitude.

This dilemma surrounding homeless and supporters became very demanding to me through the years. In reality, one becomes so busy by doing things that action swallows life and not only to make a living is near impossible, but the bad environment into which one has fallen unconsciously appears clearly. Nevertheless, when it comes to “working together,” such a dilemma blows off, facing the very simple fact that the activities as well as the work aim at earning a living. We can say with no pretense whatsoever that, we will do our best to be able to have enough food. This way, anybody would accept any kind of little assistance.

One more good result, similar to what I have been saying, is that in AWN all staff members feel they are considered equal in all kinds of jobs. Before, I participated actively in the movement of homeless people, a movement totally constituted of those persons concerned, meaning that supporters were outsiders cooperating with them. But, in fact, the real promoters were the supporter of the movement. They wrote the leaflets, recruited the homeless, organized the movement and put together all opinions as the opinions representing the homeless concerned. Neither my role nor my stand as a supporter was never clear to me. Although I was sitting in front I could had also been sitting behind and that was a little confusing. Things are different now, because, by “working together” my stand becomes clear. All I do now is to work hard, performing my job in order to support AWN. I go ahead doing the things I am able to do well, and I learn from others those things I am not so good at. Tasks to perform at the site of work are rather simple and clear. Everybody does his job like cleaning the place, or transporting things, loading them. We do it naturally and the tasks shared follow everybody’s strong and weak points. The reason for that is simple: this is the smoothest and most efficient way to perform a task with limited personnel. This is not the job of “somebody,” but the site work of all of us.

The Falcon in the Micro Cosmos
I talked of “results,” meaning basically the liberation from a probable dilemma that arises from a limited space and Micro Cosmos, and it could be also called equality. The members of AWN, all together, are 16 people. Besides them, there are others living near AWN who live by the Sumida River, about 1,000 in all, from where most staff members come. Homeless in Tokyo number around 6,000. Although AWN might raise the income of its members and accumulate their skills and know how it will not affect the homeless in general. AWN has solved for itself the dilemma between “living” and “action,” but that is not the case with all the other homeless. At AWN everybody is equal concerning jobs, but inequality is common among all homeless people. We say working together, but the expression of “togetherness” is greatly limited to just a few persons. Maybe we should better refer to try to bring together all those homeless persons living nearby and to think of levels basically different from such activities. AWN is trying different ways to enlarge membership, but, after all, it comes to just about 20 more persons, what means that the majority of homeless people will remain outside, without any especial contact as before.

I, personally, feel that, at least at this moment, this should be enough and consequently my task now is to make that a reality.

I recall that during the 80’s, one of the keywords in use among citizens’ movements was, “global and local” and recently I think that “space building” is a good slogan. Homeless people are a result of social structures and their increase is a terrible phenomenon nowadays. Practically nobody is astonished today at the rapid increase of unstable workers as a result of the dispatch of personnel from one company to other. Young people evicted from their apartments, are dispatched to several companies where they are registered but they sleep in coffee shops reading comics, always holding back at a borderline, in danger of being thrown into the streets. Middle age persons, still healthy, whose tasks have been changed or that were forced to give up their jobs, are working part time at night in First Food or Convenient shops. American intellectuals call this trend, “low level competition” and it is a sign, not only of economic poverty, but also of a difficult social insecurity. This is how society is reflected into my eyes.

Faced with this reality, I ask myself what could I do and, for the time being, I thought what about building up a fortress. Space building might be a better expression. Instead of holding on to jobs with daily or monthly payment that very easily on the spur of the moment might cease, we must accept ourselves and continue building with our own hands ‘space’ to work together. We can build gathering places, like coffee shops or bars where any time we happen to go we could meet with some acquaintances, no matter who are they. Or maybe living spaces with good neighbor links where we are not in danger of being soon evicted. We must build with our own hands spaces from where the evil forces of society will not swept us away. No matter how small those places would be, provided that they are basically common, let’s build them rapidly following our interests and talents. It doesn’t matter they are only 4 or 5. But, it is important that they cover all work and living within a network system. This is my dream.
The work of AWN is small. It is nothing more than a small-size enterprise. It could not become big, neither it could be a small business that wants to win in competitive society but without being able to do so. I want it to be a spot not to be defeated. I feel lately that alternatives and not to be defeated bear such a meaning.

Seeking Financial Cooperation for a New Enterprise
AWN has plans to buy land and a building in order to proceed on to next steps. A 4-story ferroconcrete building, with the attached 208 m2 piece of land that is in front of the actual shop we are renting now, could become the site of common work so that we could ourselves together support our own living. Our plan is to make it the center to meet each other, the center of our lives.

The shop is so small that we have to work outside

In a good familiarity relationship with the neighbors who come to the recycling shop and call our place, “a cheap candy store for adults,” the shop has established natural links with the customers who, only after visiting us several times, come to realize that the ones working there were homeless persons. Those working together conduct in common the sharing of their tasks, and device ways to cut on costs in order to squeeze out personnel expenses to be able to accept new companions. They don’t make the place a close institution, they sleep there, they relate to the neighborhood through the shop and the handyman business, and on basis of that they contact those that have started to live alone in the vicinity. The place will become the basis for network among organizations that cooperate to solve the problems of the homeless concerned by giving assistance in medical, legal, welfare and other different technical fields. Literally, the site is the center to “work together, to live together.”

The price of land and building will be about 60 million Yen. (But, since it is a public auction sale, unless the Court publicizes the sale it would be impossible to know the exact bidding price). We already have 40 million Yen and, at present, we have started to collect the left 20 million by borrowing. The borrowing will be done through 2 different shares: 1 share of 1 million Yen or a share of 100,000 Yen. Since the public bidding is expected to take place in July, there is little time left. In case you were thinking to invest we will send you detailed information, and if the need arises we are ready to meet with you personally to explain the whole program.

Address to get directly in touch with us: AWN
2-14-19 Higashi Nippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo 116-0014
Tel & Fax: 03-5604-0873 or 080-3022-4422
E-mail: myuasa@k2.dion.ne.jp or pmshimo@aa.mbn.or.jp

The movement of homeless people is at a turning point as a result of advancing restructuring. We need cooperators to clear the way to start new endeavors.
(29 May 2004)

Networking in the social area

(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.

Co-ordination:
– 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).

and
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,
e-mail: sjs@sjcuria.org.
url:

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.

Looking at the future 20th Anniversary of the Center & 100th Issue of the Bulletin

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
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.