In terms of distance, there is little that separates India from Sri Lanka. At Park Strait – what is also termed as Adam’s bridge or Rama Setu, the distance between Rameswaram (the South Eastern tip of Tamil Nadu - India) and Talai Mannar (on the North Western side of Sri Lanka) is only 50 kms or 18 nautical miles. Prior to the 15th Century (1480) when a cyclone broke up the land mass the route was passable on foot.
For the JCSA a small hop into neighboring Sri Lanka turned out to be a giant step. It connected us not only to Sri Lanka but the other countries that constitute the South Asian Assistancy – Pakistan to the North West and Bangladesh to the North East of India.
In a historic meeting representatives of Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh were able to present before the JCSA: The Secular History of their countries; The History of the Jesuit presence there; and The Challenges and Opportunities they faced. For Fr General Arturo Sosa, three of his general councellors and the JCSA members, it was a time out from their busy schedules to listen attentively to the needs and aspirations of the Jesuits in these countries. It was also a time to discern what and how the Lord was calling them to respond to the apostolic needs there.
The presentations threw up many avenues for apostolic collaboration and networking. Let it suffice here to present one significant area from each of the countries. For Sri Lanka it was in the area of Reconciliation: After the long drawn out 30 year civil war, there is a crying need for reconciliation based on justice and forgiveness, to restore the shattered trust between the communities. For Pakistan it is the need to feel supported amidst the threats of being engulfed by majoritarian politics, but at the same time without playing the victim card, reaching out to build bridges of peace, non-violence, and amity with the Muslim majority. For Bangladesh it is finding their footing as a Jesuit mission. Through a good strategic plan; building themselves up as a united team scattered as they are around the country; and emphasizing more strictly on the Jesuit way of proceeding.
Fr General’s presence was stimulating and encouraging. He spoke to us on rededicating ourselves to the goals of GC 36 and had pertinent guidelines for a couple of other issues related to governance. Fr Victor Assouad (the General Councellor for Western Europe) and a native of Alleppo – Syria, gave us a good picture of what has happed and is happening in Syria and the Middle East these days.
In all the meeting enabled us to reach out in solidarity to the South Asian Countries on the margins. To include them and express the will of the JCSA to engage in the development of the Jesuit mission there.
Report: Fr Keith Abranches, SJ (Socius JCSA).