Archive for the ‘Global Poverty’ Category
Jesuits have recently provided 127 flood-affected families with new homes in Raichur, India. Residents there lost their homes in late 2009 when flooding swept through the southwestern region of the country.
The Jesuits in the region have been working for the last two years to help rebuild the homes, especially for the poorest in the community.
“We are handing over 127 houses in Manvi and Sindanoor subdistrict,” said Jesuit Father Eric Mathias, director of the Centre for Non Formal and Continuing Education, a Jesuit-run non-governmental organization (NGO).
“We have been given a lovely house with a bedroom, hall and kitchen. This is a great gift to all of us who had no shelter, said Arogyappa, one of the beneficiaries.
Each home cost 150,000 rupees (US $3,000). Ninety percent of the funds to build the homes were provided by the Jesuit-run center, the rest came from donations.
Hampayya Nayak, a local legislator, praised the Jesuits for their efforts during the handing over ceremony in late February.
“I appreciate the Jesuits’ commitment to the cause of the poor. They have shown people through their work where God is really found.”
In 1972, Jesuit Father John Baumann started a small training institute with the goal of supporting neighborhood organizations in California. What eventually came from this idea was the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations, now known as the PICO National Network. And, his desire to help local organizations has grown to a national outreach program, which has helped more than a million families and 1,000 congregations from 40 religious denominations. PICO has successfully worked to increase access to healthcare, improve public schools, make neighborhoods safer, build affordable housing and redevelop communities. Because of his work on problems facing urban, suburban and rural communities, Fr. Baumann sat down with the National Catholic Reporter to share his perspective on the U.S. economy today.
NCR: From your long-term perspective, what do you make of all that’s going on in the U.S. today regarding economic disparity, Occupy movements, etc.?
Baumann: I’d say that many Americans believe that the American Dream, also known as “America is the land of opportunity,” was once true, but it doesn’t hold anymore. Every previous generation has really known America as the land of opportunity, where children were expected to do as well or better than their parents. Yet, today we find our nation in a crisis, with record levels of poverty, the rising inequality and worsening predictions for our children’s future.
What is really troubling to me is this whole gap between the rich and the poor that has been growing over the past 20 years or more. It’s not an aberration; it’s a result of deliberate choices. It seems like that over the last 40 years, a series of economic choices have really redistributed the income upwards and as a result of that, it provided less and less opportunities to everyone else. All this has led to the financial stress on our families, and really it’s something that hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression.
It is often said that the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways which we are unable to predict or sometimes to even understand. For Jesuit Father Don Vettese what should have been an impediment, a traffic accident, instead opened up the possibility of an even greater calling — to serve the poorest of the poor.
It was 1994 and Fr. Vettese was then president of St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio. One day, after his talk with the school’s senior class about the Christian calling to have a preferential option for service to the poor, the students approached Vettese with an idea.
“A few of the students came to my office to explain the difficulty of feeling compassion for the poor without experience,” says Vettese, “and they challenged me to help them educate their hearts.”
It was from that conversation Vettese planned a student service trip to an orphanage he’d founded a few years earlier in Guatemala City.
What Vettese did not know was that this trip would turn into something much greater. One morning, as Vettese and the students were driving to the orphanage to work , there was a traffic jam resulting from a car accident. When their van was diverted from the main road they suddenly found themselves in the Guatemala City garbage dump. Here they witnessed a sight that was almost unreal to them: a community of people living, quite literally, in garbage.
“The scene,” Vettese recalls, “was hell. There were acres of mounded garbage burning. There were hundreds of people milling around, looking for food and recyclables, while animals fed on the garbage. Vultures with eight-foot wing spans were swooping down for food and at the recyclers. We saw infants being stuffed into the trash and covered with cardboard to prevent the vultures from hurting them, and later discovered that their mothers felt the dangers from the vulture attacks were more serious than the rat bites that would occur from stuffing them into the garbage.”
Vettese’s talk about Christian leadership came back to the group full-force; that evening, he and the students reflected on the experience of the day, and the students wanted to know what could be done about the plight of the families they’d seen living in the dump. It was that fundamental question which led to the formation of International Samaritan.
In November, over 1,100 students, teachers, parish members and others passionate about faith-inspired social justice gathered in Washington, DC for the 14th annual Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network.
For this year’s Teach In, Jesuit Father Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, provincial of the East African Province of the Society of Jesus, was the keynote speaker who discussed the issues facing his province today. During his time at the Teach In, National Jesuit News interviewed Fr. Orobator about the challenges that the Society of Jesus faces in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and the Republics of the Sudan in the North and South.
“I think the unique mission of the Society of Jesus is that we are able to think ‘outside of the box’.” I think that is very unique to Jesuits,” says Fr. Orobator. “We can work in parishes, we can run schools, we can run communications centers, we can run many different apostolates, but we can do it in a way that is unconventional.”
The theme of this year’s event was “The Gritty Reality: Feel It, Think It, Engage It,” derived from a speech given by former Jesuit Superior General, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, in 2000 entitled, “The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education.” Kolvenbach said, “students, in the course of their formation, must let the gritty reality of this world into their lives, so they can learn to feel it, think about it critically, respond to its suffering and engage it constructively.”
You can watch National Jesuit News’ interview with Fr. Orobator below.
“I have to leave, but I want to leave you with something from me: an oath before God. From today until the day I die, I dedicate my life to the liberation of the poor in the struggle for justice, and you are my inspiration.” Jesuit Father Fernando Cardenal declared these to his friends and neighbors in Medellin, Colombia, over 40 years ago after completing his final course for becoming a member of the Society of Jesus.
With the assistance of a translator, Fr. Cardenal explained to a packed audience at Boston College that his time spent living in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Colombian city informed his entire life’s work as a Jesuit and political leader in his native Nicaragua.
Among his neighbors was a family with seven children, whom Cardenal referred to as his “little bodyguards” because they were always following him around. One time, when he returned to his Jesuit residence, Cardenal walked in to find the children eating the Jesuits’ garbage. He described the emotional impact this moment had on him. Cardenal said, “That was a big hit for me. I loved them. You can’t imagine what that did for me.”
He continued, “Many times, the only thing these children had to eat was a roll made from corn and hot water with brown sugar added to it. My neighborhood was like a big lake, and we were all under the water of suffering. Often, I didn’t want to leave the house. The people were always suffering and without hope. When I walked down the street, I kept repeating to myself, ‘Unbearable. Unbearable. Unbearable.’”
Cardenal realized, “I cannot accept that people live this way. As a human being and as a Christian, I cannot accept it. It has to change.”