Social Action & Social Service

The 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus held in Dec 1974 was a turning point in its history in the search for identity and mission. Decree 4 of GC 32 transformed the Identity and Ministry of the Society of Jesus.

Decree 4 speaks of the Mission of the Society, “The mission of the Society of Jesus today is the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. For reconciliation with God demands the reconciliation of people with one another.48 In one form or another, this has always been the mission of the Society;1 but it gains new meaning and urgency in the light of the needs and aspirations of the men and women of our time, and it is in that light that we examine it anew. We are confronted today, in fact, by a whole series of new challenges.49

This search has led the subsequent Congregations to constantly search for our identity and mission in the ever changing scenario of the world. To speak in the language of the Spiritual Exercises, it is the Trinity looking down at the world, places the Son at its center for its salvation plan. Thus the plan of Salvation and the establishment of the kingdom of God are embodied in the person of Jesus Christ.

St. Ignatius prayed to our Blessed Mother to obtain for the grace to be placed with her Son. That grace was granted to him in a vision where the Eternal Father tells His Son, carrying his cross, pointing to Ignatius to take him into His mission. Ignatius is confirmed in his mission and the Society in its turn too confirmed in that mission.

GC 32, decree 4 spelt that mission as service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement. Further the same decree explained the commitment of Jesuits against the challenges faced in the modern world thus, Our response to these new challenges will be unavailing unless it is total, corporate, rooted in faith and experience, and multiform.

-total: While relying on prayer, and acting on the conviction that God alone can change the human heart, we must throw into this enterprise all that we are and have, our whole persons, our communities, institutions, ministries, resources. --corporate: Each one of us must contribute to the total mission according to his talents and functions which, in collaboration with the efforts of others, give life to the whole body. This collaborative mission is exercised under the leadership of Peter’s Successor who presides over the universal Church and over all those whom the Spirit of God has appointed Pastors over the churches.3 --rooted in faith and experience: It is from faith and experience combined that we will learn how to respond most appropriately to new needs arising from new situations. --multiform: Since these situations are different in different parts of the world, we must cultivate a great adaptability and flexibility within the single, steady aim of the service of faith and the promotion of justice.

Subsequent Congregations too reaffirmed this decree and continue to give new impetus in visioning and missioning the Society. The 34th Congregation of 1995, in Decree 3, Our Mission & Justice speaks, “. In response to the Second Vatican Council, we, the Society of Jesus, set out on a journey of faith as we committed ourselves to the promotion of justice as an integral part of our mission. That commitment was a wonderful gift of God to us, for it put us into such good company--the Lord’s surely, but also that of so many friends of his among the poor and those committed to justice. As fellow pilgrims with them towards the Kingdom, we have often been touched by their faith, renewed by their hope, transformed by their love. As servants of Christ’s mission, we have been greatly enriched by opening our hearts and our very lives to “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men and women of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted.”

And finally the 35th General Congregation, 2008, A Fire that kindles other Fires: Serving Christ’s mission today means paying special attention to its global context. This context requires us to act as a universal body with a universal mission, realizing at the same time the radical diversity of our situations. It is as a worldwide community – and, simultaneously, as a network of local communities – that we seek to serve others across the world. Our mission of faith and justice, dialogue of religions and cultures has acquired dimensions that no longer allow us to conceive of the world as composed of separate entities; we must see it as a unified whole in which we depend upon one another. Globalization, technology, and environmental concerns have challenged our traditional boundaries and have enhanced our awareness that we bear a common responsibility for the welfare of the entire world and its development in a sustainable and living-giving way.

Thus as this world changes, so does the context of our mission; and new frontiers beckon that we must be willing to embrace. So we plunge ourselves more deeply into that dialogue with religions that may show us that the Holy Spirit is at work all over the world that God loves. We turn also to the ‘frontier’ of the earth, increasingly degraded and plundered. Here, with passion for environmental justice, we shall meet once again the Spirit of God seeking to liberate a suffering creation, which demands of us space to live and breathe.

GC 35 Decree 1 No.6

With such powerful words, the Holy Father definitively placed the future of our mission before us, a mission expressed with complete clarity and firmness: the defense and proclamation of the faith, which leads us to discover new horizons and to reach new social, cultural and religious frontiers. As Fr Adolfo Nicolás noted in his words to the Holy Father, these frontiers can be places of conflict and tension that threaten our reputation, our peace, and our security. That is why we were so moved by the Pope's evocation of the memory of Fr. Arrupe. The Holy Father referred to his proposal that Jesuits be in service to refugees as “one of his last farsighted intuitions6.”

The service of faith and the promotion of justice must be kept united. Pope Benedict reminded us that the injustice that breeds poverty has “structural causes,”7 which must be opposed, and that the source of this commitment can be found in the faith itself: “the preferential option for the poor is implicit in the Christological faith in the God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8.9).”

By sending us to “those physical and spiritual places which others do not reach or have difficulty in reaching,”9 the Pope entrusts to us the task to “build bridges of understanding and dialogue,”10 according to the best tradition of the Society, in the diversity of its ministries: “In its history the Society of Jesus has lived extraordinary experiences of proclamation and encounter between the Gospel and world cultures - it suffices to think of Matteo Ricci in China, Roberto De Nobili in India or of the "Reductions" in Latin America. And you are rightly proud of them. I feel it is my duty today to urge you to set out once again in the tracks of your predecessors with the same courage and intelligence, but also with an equally profound motivation of faith and enthusiasm to serve the Lord and his Church.”11 In a decisive manner Benedict XVI confirmed what our previous General Congregations have said of our specific mission of service to the Church.

It is in this global context, that we need to place our mission and social intervention to transform the face of the earth in the localized context of our Province.

Context, challenges and core issues

Sri Lanka today is faced with many challenges in the context of post-war scenario. The 30 year of ethnic conflict had come to an end on 19th May 2009. The Government of Sri Lanka officially announced that the war had concluded.

The war concluded but the conflict has not stopped. In this context the core issues faced by the people of Sri Lanka are:

- Centralized power and refusal of power sharing
- Out of proportion Militarization of the minority areas
- Manifold religious intolerance
- State assisted colonization rapidly and adversely changing the demography of the minority areas
- Devalued democratic principles – rule of law, independence of judiciary, corruption…
- Serious violations of Human Rights with impunity
- Lopsided developments affecting people, ecology, environment

Thematic areas

- Social mobilization for regaining Human Rights and Democracy
- Political solution that fulfills the aspirations of the Sri Lankan people
- Affirming pluralism/religious tolerance/ethnic harmony
- Restorative justice for the affected people
- An end to the ongoing conflict

Primary objective/goal of thrust area

- Building a peaceful Sri Lanka
- Accepting pluralism and secularism
- Assuring enjoyment of Human Rights by all Sri Lankans
- Overcoming discriminations of all kinds
- Empowering people (men/women/youth/children…)

Strategies adopted to achieve the objectives

- Establishment of a think-tank center in the capital
- Educating and organizing the masses
- Advocacy for change at various layers
- All social centers coordinate and collaborate with the Center in the Capital
- All social issues are brought to the notice of this Center for discernment
- Each district social center plans the activities to address the local and national issues

Our Social Centres

- Centre for Social Concern-CSC, Hatton
- Jesuit Social Centre, Galle
- Satyodaya Encounter Centre, Kandy
- Shanthi Community Animation Movement, Dehiwala
- Early Childhood Development Project by JRSS in the North and East.

Prepared by V. Yogeswaran, SJ on behalf of the Social Service & Action Team