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ROME 1998



To our brothers in the social apostolate:

A.T. Thomas, S.J. (1951-1997), Hazaribag, India, who worked prophetically for the dignity, education, and land rights of the dalit people
and gave his life so that they might have life.

Joakim Mtima Chisemphere, S.J. (1958-1997), Zambia-Malawi delegate to Naples, resonating with Gospel values of justice, who lived the Congress with great openness, zeal and consolation.

With God's grace may these Characteristics help us hear the cry of the poor as A.T. did and make good on Joakim's hope for the Jesuits social apostolate

Characteristics of the Social Apostolate of the Society of Jesus is published as Promotio Iustitiae 69 (1998) by the Social Apostolate Secretariat at the General Curia of the Society of Jesus (Rome) and is available in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and in other languages as translations are made.

Since the current version of Characteristics is a working draft, please feel free to photocopy it in part or whole for internal use, but please do not publish it in any form without the express permission of the Social Apostolate Secretary. A definitive edition of Characteristics is expected in early 2000.

Social Apostolate Secretariat
C.P. 6139 00195 Roma Prati Italy
+39-06-687.9283 (fax)



3     1. Who inspires us? Origins     
9     2. What do we do and live ? Basics     
      3. How do we work? Components     
a. Reading the Situation
19     3.1 Socio-Cultural Analysis     
23     3.2 Cultural Reading     
29     3.3 Economic Reading     
35     3.4 Political Reading     
41     3.5 Religious Reading     
b. Promoting the work
47     3.6 Teamwork     
53     3.7 Cooperation and Networking     
59     3.8 Planning and Evaluation     
65     3.9 Administration     
c. Forming the apostolate
71     3.10 The Jesuit Body     
77     3.11 Next Generations     
      4.How do we proceed? Style     
85     4.1 Discernment     
91     4.2 On-going Tensions     
97     5. Why do we hope? Vision     
v     A. Putting the handbook to use     
vi     B. The Social Apostolate Initiative     
vii     C. Feed-back     
viii     D. Resources     

Preface - i -

According to the Constitutions, the social apostolate flows from the overall mission of the Society of Jesus; its specific goal "is to build, by means of every endeavour, a fuller expression of justice and charity into the structures of human life in common" (NC 298); and it takes the form of "social centres for research, publications and social action" and "direct social action for and with the poor" (NC 300). This definition from the Complementary Norms serves well to introduce the social apostolate in its great variety around the world.

Since mid-1995 the following question has served as a stimulus to reflection and renewal:

How do you Jesuits of the social apostolate bring the justice of the Gospel to society and culture?

Responses out of the experience, prayer and discussion of Jesuits working in this field world-wide coalesced into the themes and exchanges of the Social Apostolate Congress at Naples in mid-1997 and have been distilled into the characteristics presented in this handbook.


An initial idea of the characteristics may be found by considering the "Contents" page. Each chapter stands on its own, yet is closely inter-related with the others, and the overlapping sections suggest movement but not in strict sequence.

Following the concentric groupings suggested by the graphic:

Foundations. The fundamental orientation is found in the faith which motivates us and the vision which draws us:

1. Who inspires us? and

5. Why do we hope?

The characteristics are permeated by the spirituality of St. Ignatius and the tradition of the Society of Jesus.

Framework. Our activities but also how we live, where we are socially and spiritually inserted, and our way of proceeding, together form an organic whole:

2. What do we do and live? and

4. How do we proceed?

Wherever we are and whatever our involvement, we rely on constant reflection and dialogue in order to choose freely and well among the permanent tensions in the social apostolate.

- ii - Preface

Building blocks. In the central group of chapters,

3. How do we work? the active concerns of each Jesuit social project find expression by: a. Reading the situation

to comprehend the surrounding reality;

b. Promoting the work

to assure appropriate conditions for our activities; and

c. Forming the apostolate

to feel responsibly inserted in the sector, and for the Society to exercise its care for this ministry.

Following the sequence of sections from top to bottom gives a different sense, that of an itinerary which begins with our motivation: 1. The inspiration or spirituality at the origins of the social apostolate
2. finds expression in life with its integrity of basic elements. From the ministry thus embedded,
3. we pass in review of its many features: a. with complementary readings of the situation,
b. with attention to what enhances our service, and
c. with the responsibility exercised by each work and by the Society for the social apostolate. Aware of the complexity,
4. we spell out our way of proceeding among the permanent tensions and keep moving towards
5. the vision which draws us, sharing the good news with others.
Still another approach begins in the middle of the graphic with the particular Jesuit social activity we are involved in. From the work we carry on (3b.), we follow the characteristics as they emerge out of what we do and spiral towards both origins (1.) and vision (5.).

Ideas on characteristics

These Characteristics elaborate the purpose of the Jesuit social apostolate to build a fuller expression of justice and charity into the structures of human life in common, to bring the justice of the Gospel to society and culture and establish a common basis on which Jesuits and colleagues can meet, reflect and work more closely together in the mission entrusted them.

At the same time, the Characteristics offer our lay co-workers the full account which they deserve of the social apostolate to which they contribute. The 34th General Congregation decreed that every undertaking for which the Society of Jesus takes ultimate responsibility "must be guided by a clear mission statement which outlines the purposes of the work and forms the basis for collaboration in it" (d. 13, n. 12), and the Characteristics serve as such a statement for the Jesuit social apostolate as a whole.

Preface - iii -

The Characteristics reflect the approach, attitudes, concerns and questions of the Jesuit social apostolate emerging from a patient process of reflection. At Naples we learned that our apostolic sector is characterised by our typical ways of looking at problems, by deeply held and widely shared convictions, by key questions which arise time and again, by on-going tensions running through all our works and Provinces.

Drawn up out of our experience and tradition, the Characteristics are neither description nor doctrine. They suggest "what should be" without legal pretence of regulating an apostolate which by essence needs to be flexible and responsive.

What makes them characteristic is that they are "questions which cannot not be asked" by anyone involved in this apostolate.

Our apostolate is made up of a very great variety of social, cultural, human and organisational situations. Social reality itself is complex, and our apostolate cannot ignore this complexity in its discussions and projects without betraying the reality into which the Lord Jesus sends us to live and serve. The Characteristics respect this variety and complexity, hopefully without themselves becoming too complicated. 

Located midway between the Constitutions or General Congregations and the mission of each Province, the Characteristics make our common mission concrete in a particular apostolate. The purpose is not to separate our sector from other apostolates, nor is the intention to appropriate any idea or value exclusively or to deny it of other Jesuit ministries or of other groups. Our hope, rather, is to contribute to a more frank exchange and more fruitful collaboration.


We acknowledge how the Characteristics document for Jesuit education was a moment for greater collaboration among collaborators (headmasters, principals and staff) and we hope that our own co-workers can benefit from greater sharing by Jesuits about their spirituality and values through our own Characteristics document. (Naples Congress)
Like the book of the Spiritual Exercises, the Characteristics is meant to be used as a guide and stimulus to personal and especially group reflection. Every reader is urged to keep a specific Jesuit social apostolate in mind the work, the individuals and communities associated with it, the people accompanied and served and to ask if the reflection corresponds to this experience and sheds light on the situation. While reading or in discussion, one might continually be asking:

· How is this characteristic true of our social apostolate, that is, this specific project or centre, or the social sector in this Province?
· Do the main points affirmed help our social apostolate to reflect on its situation and challenges,
and discover the next steps for renewal?

Þ Putting the handbook to use (Appendix A)

- iv - Preface

In dialogue

The Characteristics, authored by the Jesuits of the social sector, are primarily directed to members already involved in the sector:

· Fellow Jesuits in the social sector, so that we might develop our common notions, language and understanding. The basic purpose is to stimulate reflection on the state of each one's social effort whether active, intellectual, developmental, organisational or pastoral in form and those of the whole sector, with the hope of renewal.

· Colleagues and co-workers with whom Jesuits work closely in the social field are also the intended audience, for the sake of better, more open dialogue together, beginning with the "state" of our common work and going on to reflect on other aspects of the shared effort. Future colleagues or co-workers men and women applying or volunteering for a position in a Jesuit social project will find here a thorough introduction to our whole social mission.

The Characteristics handbook, though written by and for the social sector, is also affectionately and respectfully made available to others, beginning with:

· Our fellow Jesuits and colleagues in other apostolic sectors and Jesuits in community: we very much hope that improved comprehension and communication within the social sector will somehow lead to more fraternal dialogue and greater mutual understanding and the possibility of working together more closely.

· We are happy to share this ongoing reflection with brother priests, brothers and sisters in religious life, fellow followers of Christ in the Church. Our hope is that together we will better serve God's people, especially the poor, in culture and society. In addition, we hope to engage the generous dreams of young people considering a vocation to priesthood or religious life.

· The Characteristics handbook offers young Jesuits an opportunity to reflect on their social experiments or pastoral involvements, and hopes to engage their interest in the social apostolate as a regency or when planning special studies. It can also be used by formatores and scholasticate professors when refashioning the course of studies and when orienting their students.

· Last but also first, Provincials in their concern for the whole mission and for its different aspects, may find the section "Forming the apostolate" (3c.) of special relevance. The Social Apostolate Initiative of reflection and renewal, within which this handbook is an instrument, is meant to encourage each Province to respond corporately with a vigorous social sector and also a vital social dimension to the challenges of poverty, injustice and suffering encountered in contemporary society.

The poor, those who suffer, the excluded and the victims of injustice to whom God sends us, are present at the origins of the social apostolate, throughout its evolution, in its every form and effort, and at its goal. They are also at the origins, throughout the dynamic, and in the very purpose of the Characteristics. May the Lord who hears their cry also accept this our effort "to pursue a commitment to justice for the poor in an effective and profoundly Jesuit manner with the best possible comprehension of today's society and culture" (Father General at Naples).

1. Who inspires us? Origins pg - 3 -

Ignatius of Loyola, inspired by Jesus Christ and the saints in their poverty, exchanged his nobleman's cloak for the tunic of a beggar. Putting all his trust in God, he set out on a lifelong pilgrimage in which he always remained close to the poor and interiorly became ever more deeply poor himself. In Rome, his travels over, he worked with prostitutes and the homeless while serving as General.

For Ignatius, the neediest in Rome. Similarly the sick in the hospital of Trent for Laynez and Salmeron, the needy "savages" of New France for Jean de Brebeuf, the Africans deported as slaves to New Spain for Peter Claver, the fisherfolk of South India for Antonio Criminali. The early companions heard the cry of the poor in an entirely natural and entirely spiritual way.

"Our commitment to follow a poor Lord," Ignatius wrote to the Jesuits in Padua, "quite naturally makes us friends of the poor." The same love of Christ, said Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach at Naples in 1997, "impels us to be near people and with them in their daily life, like the first Jesuits to take once again to the streets of our cities, in order to read there in the very heart of people's existence the signs of the times, the signs of the Spirit's action."

In a thousand scattered places where these words are being read, the "poor" are neither a sociological category nor a pious generalisation, but the name for the real persons and groups among whom we live, whose conditions we study, with whom we work pastorally and socially or whom we foresee serving in future. In their eyes we see the warmth of care, the shine of dignity, the glow of hope, a twinkle of humour, a spark of protest. We also see the tears of sadness, fear and insecurity, the pain of rejection, the dullness of despair.
The contemplation of Jesus who becomes a poor man in order to bring about the Kingdom of God and dies for this cause and is raised by the Father, inspires the first companions to follow as pilgrims the way of Jesus. And they decide to do so as a group, continually seeking the call of God to commit themselves wherever the Kingdom seems most threatened. 
(Latin America)
The entirely natural and spiritual significance of the poor for Ignatius becomes for us, in a more complicated social context, the most compelling paradox and the origin of our social apostolate. Miserable are the poor: it is enough to hear their soundless cries of suffering, their strident shouts of protest. Blessed are the poor: it is enough to meditate on the Beatitudes and consult our own experience.

The encounter with real not romanticised, politicised or spiritualised poor people in their suffering and with real not abstract or commercialised poverty is shocking and dull, uninteresting, intolerable, unattractive and ungratifying. Logically it is to be avoided. Contact with the miserable poor in reality and with social reality as they live it is a real scandal. The abuse, misery, injustice they suffer cause us indignation because people whom we know and cherish are afflicted.

Contact with the blessed poor is also in reality a beatitude for us. The involvement with them leads to authenticity, freedom from attachment and greed, liberty to give and receive, and great happiness. To be with the poor in dally life and to remain near their suffering is to be questioned

Pg - 4 - Who inspires us? Origins

and continually invited or nudged to go deeper and to change. Remaining with the suffering, feeling resourceless and powerless there is truth here but not defeat. When suffering is assuaged, injustice set right or conflict overcome, then we are blessed to have been witnesses and perhaps of some help. "To live poverty as a grace in an egotistic world lacking a sense of responsibility for others, will place us joyfully with the Son and with those among whom the Son wants to be, the poor and neglected of the earth" (GC34, d.9, n.18).

This then is the paradoxical origin. Poverty and misery are never treated complacently in the Gospels. They are non-values which simply should not exist and which in no way express the will of the Creator. An engagement with the poor in reality, not just on television or in statistics, is an encounter with suffering and injustice but it is also an encounter with happiness, the original meaning of beatitude.

Faith in Christ drew many of us like Ignatius to encounter the poor whom we would otherwise naturally flee. Christ has us "hear the cry of the poor in a spiritual way" and so brings us to the poor. We recognise them as special "friends of the Lord," the same Lord whom we wish to follow. Prom them we often learn a great deal, especially about how to live as a disciple of Christ.

This drawing near is born of our faith, our desire to follow Jesus poor and humble, our feeling that we are sinners yet called and sent to proclaim the good news to the poor. From a purely human perspective, without the love of Christ crucified, there is nothing good to see and everything to despise (Isaiah 53). Now we live the blessed scandal, the scandalous beatitude.

Contact with the poor gives a special colouring to our spirituality and our spirituality makes our action more radical more rooted in itself and going more deeply to the roots of injustice. Drawing near to the poor and letting ourselves be touched by their suffering becomes a major source of our spirituality. Their weakness brings out the best there is in us and involving us emotionally in their life, makes us live that mixture of tenderness and indignation called compassion.

In drawing near to the poor, we have received as a gift from the Church the ancient tradition of charity adapted during more than a century of insightful social teaching in the praxis of development and justice. Rerum Novarum (1891) alerted the Church to the exploitation and suffering of industrial workers and launched the tradition of social research and theological reflection in which we participate.

We have also received the gift of the Spiritual Exercises, the form and manner in which as Jesuits we live a lifelong relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Following the outline of the Exercises, here are examples of what we have learned:

Beginning with all people as God made us, within reality as made for us to care for: the enemy of human nature who waits in ambush, especially in situations of fragility, causing confusion. Sorrow. Contemplating the Holy Trinity who hears, sees, knows and intervenes, inviting us to enlist in the mission of the Son ... and live as He did, in real poverty. The choice between two Standards always seems ever clearer. Following Him, watching and listening. Contemplating the Cross, both totally upset and peaceful when, with His help, we experience the same feelings, anger, desolation, silence, sense of abandonment as He did, as the poor do. Seeing His crucified body so near, so like the Origins - pg - 5 - bodies of those who most suffer, sometimes we even wish our own body to approach the Cross, too. Then souls sometimes depressed by lack of success are overjoyed with the Resurrection reinvigorating with the light and the power of hope. We pray to obtain love and aim for the greater glory of God and for the magis, the more.
We have also learned from the Constitutions and the General Congregations of the Society of Jesus. The "Instruction" (1949) of Father General Janssens called on Jesuits to humanise the crushing conditions of society, and "Decree 4" (1975) defined the struggle for justice as essential to the service of faith. 

"From the witness of many companions who live with the poor, we know that, along with the hard lessons of poverty, such experiences bring the evangelical values of celebration, simplicity and hospitality which so often characterise the life of the

We find Jesus standing with the poor and hungry, the marginalised and oppressed, the women and orphans and refugees, the victims of AIDS and famine and so on. (Africa)
poor" (GC34, d.9, n. 15). The poor value feelings, family ties, the body, the basics. They have a knack of bringing us back to what is essential in

life. They accept us as we are, poor in our own way, and when privileges redound to our own benefit, it is important though not pleasant to feel the twinge of conscience. They are a source of hope, a source of authenticity. They become our friends.

We try to make what we have acquired in our formation and experience, from the Church and all human fields, our studies of social and political reality, available to the poor, we work for and with them, contributing what we can without pretence of solving everything or sometimes anything. We learn to accept and give simple things. Even when we seem to do no visible good, we stay. We become their friends.

In following Jesus according to the Gospel, it is characteristic for us to live our Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit tradition within a social involvement, a social commitment.

An incarnate spirituality has chosen Christ who identifies himself with the poor and wants to be welcomed and served in them, in order that the poor be respected and assisted. It is only on this basis that we can utter the beatitude of poverty (Father General at Naples).

What is also characteristic is to live our social commitment and insertion on the basis of the Ignatian spirituality of the Society. The very different situations in which we live "intersect" with the usual Jesuit manner of assuming and living our heritage, and our sector places its own accent on certain elements.

The lifelong commitment to follow Jesus, the daily friendship with the poor, can change a life, go on changing lives and generating community, sometimes visibly and often imperceptibly helping to make the world at once more human and more divine.


1. Does the paradox of poverty both miserable and blessed are the poor shed light on our personal vocation and commitment? Does it serve to explain some aspects of our social ministry

pg - 6 - Who inspires us?

or justice work? Do we experience it as a compelling paradox at the origin of our social apostolate?

2. We understand thoroughly that poverty is not natural; even if not always produced directly by human hands, "it is now within human power" to overcome it "but we do not really want to" (GC32, d.4, nn.20,27). How does this seem true of poverty in our area or country? In what sense is overcoming it a question of spirituality as well as economics or politics?

2. What do we do and live?  Basics - pg - 9 -

Ignatius and the first companions imagined that their future lay in pastoral work among pilgrims in Jerusalem; while waiting for passage to the Holy Land, they worked in hospitals and preached in the streets. But when the trip to Palestine proved impossible, they placed themselves at the disposal of the Pope.

Had Paul III entrusted them with a specific ministry, this would have given identity and focus to the young group. Instead, the Pope accepted their desire to be always available for "whatever the present Roman Pontiff and others to come will wish to command us... and wherever he may be pleased to send us" (Formula 1540).

No sooner had the first companions decided to remain together as friends in the Lord and a society of Jesus, than the assignments they accepted in obedience to the Holy Father or to Ignatius as General had the effect of dispersing them all over the globe. But the fact that Jesuits are available for mission ad dispersionem, far from diminishing the importance of community life, makes it all the more essential.

"What do we do and live?" forms an integral question about our social activity together with the community which sustains it. We are not known exclusively for our work, as some may think, but also by how we live. This conviction has not always been shared to the same degree by social apostolate Jesuits, but it is increasingly becoming central. There are three fundamental reasons: because effective work in the social apostolate requires the support which essentials of community provide; because community life is itself evangelically, apostolically and even socially effective; and because some of the most important values which we promote in our work become all the more credible when we live them in our communities. These values include care for one another, mutual help, right relationships, inclusion and simplicity in one word: solidarity.

Much to do...

The work then is central to the mission, and the poor and the struggle against poverty are central to the work. When asked "What do you do?", a full reply includes our spirituality in contact with the poor at the origins of our work:

It is a spirituality lived out within a social involvement, within a social commitment, following Jesus, according to the Gospel. This commitment is an experience which involves our whole life.... An incarnate spirituality has chosen Christ who identifies himself with the poor and wants to be welcomed and served in them, in order that the poor be respected and assisted (Father General at Naples). Þ Origins (1.) We do not think of a spiritual core and a material shell, or a spiritual reality with a historical expression. We are neither just intellectually interested nor just personally involved, but both; neither visitors passing by and taking a look, nor professionals who deal at arm's length, but friends and hard workers.

From the beginning, the companions took up a great variety of works, among them "works of charity." The word "charity" and the expression "corporal works of mercy" (feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead see Matthew 25:31-46) point to needs without specifying the response. More than 450

Pg - 10 - What do we do and live? Basics

A community founded chiefly for this purpose: to strive especially for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine and for the propagation of the faith by the ministry of the word, by spiritual exercises and works of charity, and specifically by the education of children and unlettered persons in Christianity (Formula 1540).

years later, the same concerns of charity and mercy, understood in terms of contemporary society, underpin the social apostolate. The adjective "social" points to all human coexistence as lived, as changing, as analysed or studied, and the expression "social apostolate" suggests concern for suffering, injustice and poverty. But again, no particular activity or approach is specified or ruled out.

Besides the expression "social apostolate," terms used in different parts of the Society trifle and for the Society include: social action, social ministries, pastoral social, social sector, mission ouvrière, social justice, missione popolare, Quart monde or Fourth World, and perhaps others. The different terms are not exact synonyms. "Social apostolate" is used as a convenient generic name, but not as an attempt to impose a single name or uniform vocabulary.

To find out what the social apostolate means in the Society of Jesus today how our spirituality is embodied in daily life, how the motivation gets expressed, how the mission is carried out in reality a good starting point is to ask "What do we do?"

A written answer may be found in the Catalogue of the Social Apostolate arranged in four fascicles of some thirty pages each: Africa and Asia, America, Europe, and Social Centres. The Catalogue, first published in 1997, gives the name and purpose of each significant work of social action, and of each centre for social research, training or action.

The works can be broken down in various ways:

· according to type of injustice, suffering, exclusion or exploitation: abandoned children; child prostitution; oppression of women; forcible displacement and exclusion of refugees; unemployment and underemployment; rural and urban poverty; problems of the elderly; addiction to alcohol or drugs; HIV/AIDS

· according to people served: ethnic or racial minority like aboriginal, indigenous or tribal people, dalits, gypsies or travellers; civil groups and associations; trade unions and other movements

· according to type of activity or service: social or socio-cultural centres for research, reflection or action; centres for training or rehabilitation; health; housing; programmes to welcome foreigners or marginalised people

· according to role or identity: social scientist; worker priest; prison chaplain; social worker; community organiser; Jesuit accompanying a social movement or marginalised groups

· according to purpose: development; solidarity; protection of the environment; promotion of human rights or the rights of peoples

Basics - pg - 11 -

· according to approach or technique or institutional form: teaching social analysis; literacy training or popular education; pedagogy of justice and solidarity; community or movement organising; advocacy of policy change; formation of leaders; formation of volunteers

· according to level: from the most grass-roots to the most global, from local through regional and national to whole continents, world organisations, the United Nations

The Catalogue provides an overview of the social efforts in each Province and, cumulatively, in each Assistancy. In certain places or regions, Jesuits have opted to accompany particular peoples and made a longterm commitment, for example, with native people in the Americas, with aboriginals in Australia, with dalits and tribals in India. Overall, the Catalogue gives an impression of great scope, variety and plurality, which may seem bewildering at first. No one issue, group, approach or type of work characterises what Jesuits do socially. 

Without doubt, great issues like unemployment, housing, racism and global warming are urgent and world-wide. Each has a domino effect on many other issues, and a whole lifetime can worthily be dedicated to any one. It may be

We are concerned with integral human development. dignity, rights, someone to listen to the lost, someone to speak for the silent, offering access and equity. We are trying to accomplish the promotion of a human environment of justice, freedom and charity where people's self-initiated efforts can grow and find direction.
(East Asia)
tempting with a view to giving the social apostolate focus, facilitating co-operation and strengthening its identity to choose one of these or a similar issue as the social priority. But the Society resists making such an option. The evident benefits are outweighed by the restrictive effect it would have on our availability, mobility (not just geographical but especially socio-cultural) and creativity in response to changing needs.
No one approach has been favoured, much less imposed, but certain lines of development can nevertheless be traced in the fascinating history of the social apostolate ("From Rerum Novarum to Decree 4," PJ 66, February 1997). Today under very rapidly changing circumstances, the challenge is to choose well from among many different possible forms (more or less institutional), ways and means (more or less academic or professional or popular), styles of co-operation and techniques of communication. 

Each particular work is important in its origins, development, purpose, service. The many works are not just a haphazard collection but have something important in common and find their place together in the social sector and within the mission of

In times of crisis (conflicts, war), we give special witness to our integration among the victims of injustice by staying in physical solidarity with them in the midst of instability and insecurity.
the Province and the Society. The fact that projects of great variety together constitute a sector, small or large, depending on the history and circumstances of the Province, is a characteristic of the social apostolate.
Þ The Jesuit Body (3.10)

pg - 12 - Basics - What do we do and live?

Community life

Community life is characterised by a project in which the personal and the ecclesial mission, personal relations, the style of life, communication with others, common prayer, and insertion in the human context are all taken into account. Recent General Congregations have encouraged Jesuits to live up to high ideals of community life for example, GC34:

· "Our manner of life personally and in communities has to be simple, hospitable, and open" (d.9, n.8).

· "When community life is strong in its support and truthful in its challenge, then Jesuits are inspired through their chastity to make visible the God who labours to help others" (d.8, n.21).

· "Some insertion in the world of the poor should therefore be part of the life of every Jesuit. Our communities should be located among ordinary people wherever possible" (d.3, n.17).

Such appeals can inspire and motivate, but the difficulty in living them can also discourage. With the recognition that community is an involved and delicate topic, the following reflections suggest how community life might come a bit closer to the ideals. Please keep an existing community in mind, its members (the members may include other religious or lay people) and neighbours, its place in the Church and the world.

Just as the previous discussion laid out the great variety of things done in the social apostolate, here we classify the various living-situations, beginning according to Jesuit occupations:

· Jesuits involved in the same project (grass-roots or development or social research) live together in one community, which may be located in the same premises as the work;

· several Jesuits in one community are all involved in the social apostolate, but in various works or projects;

· several Jesuits of one community are involved in the social and other sectors, and have differing contacts with the world of poverty.

Another grouping is according to contact with the poor:

· Jesuits work for the poor (social research, teaching, writing, advocacy) and live in a non-poor area;

· the community members work with the poor and live elsewhere;

· Jesuits live among the poor with some social or pastoral involvement, and work or study elsewhere;

· an individual Jesuit lives on his own among the poor and is connected with a nearby Jesuit community;

· Jesuits work with and live among the poor in full insertion: the most visible, coherent and credible form of community for the social apostolate.

This typology, probably not a complete one, serves to situate the following important features of community life. They are too well known to be spelled out, but they deserve repeated attention to see how they can be fostered:

· fellowship, meals, Eucharist and common prayer, recreation, rest, informal exchange of every kind, brotherhood and friendship;

Basics - pg -13 -

· sensitivity to problems of injustice both nearby and on a larger scale, and support for those who struggle for justice;

· readiness to stand in solidarity with neighbours and local groups;

· concern for one another's work and for the mission of the whole community;

· the Spiritual Exercises each year, personal prayer, the respectful sharing of faith and spiritual experience;

· honest communication and supportive relationships, by twos and as a group, with mutual support and challenge, including support for the superior in his role;

· appreciation for the quality and simplicity of life together and willingness to contribute;

· regular meetings on community life itself, discernment of significant community issues as well as apostolic reflection in common;

· bonds with the Church: the parish, the diocese, religious congregations and lay movements;

· relationships with other Jesuit communities and with the Province.

Are these features generally present? Probably yes, in varying proportions and with an increasing desire to live a community life marked by such points. To consider them commonplace or routine would be a mistake; on the contrary, creativity and energy need to be invested if we are to have, for example, effective community meetings, meaningful common prayer, a simplified lifestyle. A great help is for each group to examine its community life annually, identify the features to be improved and draw up a feasible plan or project. ÞPlanning and Evaluation (3.8)

The features of community also depend on material facts. Do the location, size and style of our dwelling help to connect the community with the neighbourhood and make it accessible to poor people? What effect does the interior design have on the way we live together and relate with one another, on the hospitality we offer and the image we project? How does an open and hospitable dwelling also allow for some privacy? (Similar questions may be asked about the location and architecture of buildings that house our social centres and projects.) When starting a new community, considering a change of location, or planning an expansion, serious discernment should precede the major choices involved.

Practically the antithesis of community is the individualism typical of many cultures, including that of the Society. Each one's life, work, spirituality may become "none of your business" to the others. Despite this powerful tendency, good community is a real encouragement to put and keep our life in common. There may be room for what used to be called "fraternal may correction" whereby, when someone is behaving irresponsibly or endangering himself, others make the effort to help him see what is amiss and remedy it. 

Community becomes the locus for apostolic reflection, especially when the members are involved in various ministries rather than all in the same

For most of us and despite our failings, this communion of life with the poor forms a joyful part of our daily life, to a greater or lesser extent and since quite a long time. "To be with" means situating oneself at the same level of the people, without any particular power or authority, to share situations of exclusion and marginalisation, if these arise. (Europe)
project. Ideally, each member should feel encouraged to speak about his own involvement and, when facing an important choice (e.g. with whom to work, whether to change projects), to put the question "on the table."
Þ Discernment (4.1)

Pg - 14 - Basics - What do we do and live?

Jesuit common life sustains and nourishes our faith, desires and commitments, and these how we live, how we pray influence and sustain our work of social apostolate. What we do returns to enrich common life as subject of prayer, reflection, occasional discernment. Our community becomes a living parable of hope and solidarity for neighbours, colleagues and visitors. Hospitality gives such testimony if the poor are welcome at our table, and if young men considering their future calling in life are welcome to "come and see" how we live, what we do, who we are.
On this journey in proximity to the poor, our Jesuit community is important when it offers us support and solidarity, when it makes us feel part of the body of the Society, when the witness of our brothers is a source of inspiration. When such solidarity or support is not offered, this causes great difficulty and suffering. (Naples Congress)
Community therefore is for mission and is mission, and the renewal of community helps us to reconceive what we are doing in the social apostolate.


Insertion among the poor, particularly important for the social apostolate, is an attractive but complicated subject. Few of us are called to live like the poor or to exercise a principal ministry of simple presence, yet insertion is one of the topics most often and insistently raised at the Naples Congress.

To be inserted means to have continuous prolonged contact with the poor those who suffer misery, injustices, violent conflict, exclusion and to enter into real relationship with those whom we accompany and serve and whose concerns we research. Insertion among the poor does not take the same form for each work, each community, each Jesuit. It may occur among those with whom we live or with whom we work. But in all these forms, insertion is characteristic of the social apostolate.

Whether in the urban set up or in the rural area, our preference should always go to a poor neighbourhood so that our desire to follow Christ poor can express itself in the daily solidarity with the poor, becoming their natural companions and friends in the Lord (Father General, 1998).

Insertion means entering with the poor into a personal and cultural relationship so real that trust can develop. Seeing things their way and taking on their viewpoint shapes how we see, understand and interpret many things, from details of daily life to large issues and transcendent values. Insertion marks our reading both of the Gospel and of social reality. Insertion helps us resist becoming too comfortable and may mean going without some comforts or even a few basics. Insertion is a testimony and an encouragement to others. ÞCultural Reading (3.2)

Both living among the poor and working with them is the ideal. In the mission ouvrière, for example, Jesuits took the plunge into working-class milieux from which the Church had become largely absent. Truly inserted communities and works can serve to anchor both the faith lived and the reality grasped by the entire social sector. Once Jesuits are deeply there in the world of the poor, living and listening and learning, new initiatives and projects may emerge.

Basics - pg -15 -

"What do we do and live?" is a single question, and our overall reply in this chapter may be encapsulated in a triple friendship friends of the Lord, friends with the poor, friends in the Lord. When our friends are in need, as GC34 rightly says (d.2, n.9), we cannot turn aside. We want to do what we can to address their many crying needs.


1. Reading the ideals expressed in GC34 or in Father General's 1998 letter on community life in relation to the Jesuit community you are familiar with, which are the most appropriate values to strive for? To what extent are they being realised? How does this common life enhance the work of those living in the community?

2. How are those involved in the social apostolate, inserted among the poor? Is this insertion significant for their social ministry? Is it significant for Jesuit community life and in the lives of other staff-members? Does it seem to say something to others?

3. Thinking of a specific social effort in the Province (whether grass-roots, or organisational, or intellectual), how may we describe the social change it is working for? Is there an explicit effort to transform culture as well as structures? In what senses would we call it apostolic or evangelical?

3.1 Socio-Cultural Analysis - pg -19 -

The deep impulse to understand our social context flows from several sources:

· Friendship with the poor causes us to ask, "Why must they suffer?" And if injustices accompany or cause suffering we also ask, "Why the injustice?"

· The Jesuit tradition of the magis or greater service has us put the best methods and understanding we have at the disposal of the poor.

· Seeing sin at work individually and in structural ways spurs us to look for the deepest roots of injustice and to place our hope in the transforming mercy and justice of God's kingdom.

The impulse to analyse and understand may seem to conflict with a commitment to action. Urgent needs impel us to respond even when it is not fully clear how best to do so. Real engagement with others means being vulnerable and not in control, responding without having all the answers. Therefore analysis should not paralyse our social action; neither should it be a refuge from responsibility. We do not need to know everything before acting.

On the other hand our action risks remaining bunkered or blind unless it is guided by firm understanding. Thus the very responsibility to respond as best we can to people's needs requires that we analyse the context and dynamics of their situation. It is also true that our understanding powerfully shapes our action and choices so that even the most concrete response presupposes an analysis. So it is vital to reflect with care and discernment about the authenticity of our analysis.

Types of Socio-Cultural Analysis

Different though complementary types of socio-cultural analysis, each with its own link to social action, might usefully be identified:

· "Academic": This tries to examine social and cultural problems through different interpretive frameworks provided by the human and social sciences. Such analysis must respect the criteria of evidence and coherence established by the interpretive framework being used. The work is primarily one of study, reflection, research and writing. Such analysis can be fairly distant from social action. Its results, however, should inform our action, which can benefit from the systematic effort made by "academic" analysis to be as objective as possible.

· "Policy and Planning": Two kinds of analysis come under this heading. The first involves preparing dossiers on particular issues of concern in order to bring about specific changes at a political or structural level. This type of analysis focuses on supporting action to campaign for change. It is motivated by the scandal of injustice and aims to persuade those who can bring about change. It also contests and opposes views that condone on-going injustice and accepts the need to propose practical solutions or ways forward. The second kind of analysis is meant for planting and prioritising: e.g., a refuge for the homeless needs better to understand the phenomenon of homelessness so as to decide what type of service to extend or phase out.

· "Social awareness": This emerges from the base. It is a patient listening to and dialogue with the marginalised about their culture, the structures of injustice they experience, the kind of society they hope for. This type of analysis is also educational. It shapes and enhances culture in a process of learning together. It is also mobilising as it enables the marginalised in their struggle to articulate their needs and to work for more justice.

Pg - 20 - Reading the Situation Socio-Cultural Analysis

Policy-oriented analysis that seeks to bring about a specific change in social policy may be somewhat resistant to the many questions raised and qualifications added by an academic point of view. One might fear that the academic approach would weaken the "political" punch of the policy-led analysis. Academic analysis, on the other hand, can have a strong policy impact by setting the dominant paradigm, for good or ill, and may cause harm if it endows harmful policies with an undeserved academic prestige.

Academic analysis may also seem opposed to the type used in popular education and organising. The academic can easily dominate or dismiss the insight and searching questions posed at the community level. There is also a tension between the legitimate desire to protest against suffering at the popular level and the legitimate concern at the academic level to establish distance and objectivity which will convince even those who are insensitive to the injustice. Similar tensions exist between analysis for policy and analysis for awareness Policy-based analysis can become quite remote from the day-to-day dimensions of poverty and injustice and get caught up in bureaucracy and compromise in the search for solutions that work. On the other hand, awareness-raising can get stuck in a repetitious kind of protest unless it focuses on possible real changes.

Characteristics of our Socio-Cultural Analysis

Our starting point: In the social apostolate our starting point is Christian compassion, which is more than merely sympathetic feeling. It comes from real listening and commitment to those who suffer. Compassion then is also the starting point for our socio-cultural analysis. This is not lack of objectivity, for true compassion is open to the truth and is not prejudiced. Moreover, no socio-cultural analysis has a neutral standpoint. We always start from some existential or academic position and each opens up a limited horizon.

Academic rigour, even if not the starting point for our analysis, is absolutely indispensable. It comes as a second step that helps bring realism and solidity to an analysis that is already born of the "shock" of injustice. Academic objectivity also ensures that those who do not share our option can understand the results of our reflection. Some Jesuits live a fully valid expression of their vocation working in the social sciences as teachers, writers and researchers within the intellectual apostolate.

Multiple academic frameworks can be used to interpret even the simplest concrete human situation: psychological, economic, anthropological, sociological, ethnological, cultural, political, historical, philosophical, religious, theological; the list is an open one. Each of these highlights different complementary aspects of what is going on in a single concrete situation. They are like so many lenses, each providing a certain hue and definition. Each perspective rests on its own set of assumptions and value judgements both in the models or categories used and in the way they are applied. Yet even if one trained all these lenses on a given situation, there would always be more to be said. Human life and human freedom are ultimately mysterious.

Social scientific methods are extremely useful in identifying the most important objective facets of a problem, culture, or social structure. They should be used with a care that respects the integrity of the method by acknowledging and respecting its limits. Academic frameworks are frequently applied inappropriately to areas of life that they do not adequately account for for example, market economics applied to questions of culture.

Socio-Cultural Analysis - pg - 21 -

We need to develop a new way of thinking which has to be both critical and creative, confronting our reality in order to illuminate it, to interpret it and also to change it. In what we are and what we do, we have to think globally and more interdependent, and also to act locally for the transformation of culture and society. (Europe)

Intellectual honesty about the limits of an analytical framework helps avoid ideological misapplication because it acknowledges our limited perspective, belonging as we do to one period in history, with limited intellect and mixed motivations. We must let go of some of our opinions when we subject them to thorough examination and the available evidence. It takes humility to engage in a real search for understanding of our context. Similarly, real sensitivity to the suffering of the poor we humbles us and makes us sensitive to the consequences of our analysis for the weakest. It is an ethical limitation on academic analysis that such consequences only emerge slowly after implementation.

In the social apostolate, then, the analysis of our context is characterised by compassion for those who suffer, the quality of our use of different academic frameworks, and the humility with which we acknowledge their limits.

Attention to the consequences of analysis for action: Analysis can paralyse, particularly when split by a dualism between the micro level and the macro level of socio-cultural structures. If analysis is to inform our action, then it must address the spaces of freedom for action. Many persons and groups find it hard to find any space for free action at the macro level. The situation seems too vast and complex, and socio-cultural analysis at this level may induce fatalism. So it is vital to attend to the middle structural and cultural level the meso level. This meso level is where we find the structures and culture of a school, a neighbourhood or village. If we attend to the meso as well as macro and micro levels, we might identify spaces of freedom for social action.

Socio-cultural analysis can bring about good effects but have negative ones as well. If it gives a veneer of rationality to prejudice, intolerance or violence, the consequences can be tragic. Academic analysis can apparently legitimise structures that bring about injustice with arguments that purport to meet the academic requirements. Policy-led analysis can remain at the level of denunciation or propose unworkable policies. Analysis for social awareness can inflame passions or inflate expectations and then, when these are frustrated, provoke disillusion or violence.

On the other hand, academic analysis can deeply challenge unjust social structures by analysing them with clarity and demonstrating their incoherence. Policy-driven research can effectively support movement for change, and engage policy- and decision-makers in a dialogue that respectfully challenges their fundamental presuppositions. Social awareness analysis can appreciate the culture and dignity of marginalised groups. Dialogue is required in conducting socio-cultural analysis so as to maximise the probability of positive effects and safeguard against negative consequences.

Socio-cultural analysis conducted in dialogue: The first safeguard is to carry out analysis in relationship with those who will be affected by it. Their feedback is a key test of the truth of the analysis. It is all too easy to propose solutions from the outside and miss critical factors in the context that make the proposed solution totally inappropriate.

An important way to connect our analysis with those affected is collaboration within the social apostolate between those who work at the level of academic reflection and those who work on

Pg - 22 - Reading the Situation Socio-Cultural Analysis

the front line. Those taken up with the work of analysis can only be involved to a limited degree with front-line work among the poor. Yet the analysis is an integral part of the social apostolate because it is directed towards the long-term alleviation of the suffering of the poor and those on the margins. Þ Cooperation and Networking (3.7)

In this light, it is crucial to foster real dialogue between those of us in the social or university apostolates who do social analysis and those on the front line. Moreover, there are conditions for such dialogue: knowing the limits of the social sciences, being willing to learn from each other, not being overly critical at first, seeking to know why others say what they say.

The second safeguard is to conduct our socio-cultural analysis in a team, where the limitations of one person's analysis or theory is subjected to the group's questioning and exploration of the issue. Since the intellectual formation required for competence often induces an individualist style of working, academically-formed people find the process of teamwork quite challenging. 

A Christian awareness of the world's suffering: We are acting out of Christian awareness when we analyse honestly, openly, sensitively; when we recognise the bias that can distort our analysis and blind us to the harm it causes; when we are open to the truth, even if it means admitting to being mistaken; when we read the signs of the times; when we are aware that our contexts (social, cultural, economic, political) are fundamentally affected by the drama of sin and salvation; when we 

We do not want our analysis to be a merely academic exercise. Born from our contact with life wherever we find it most threatened, the analysis seeks to defend life in concrete action. Our analysis is oriented not only to enrich our understanding of human life in its social dimensions, but also to propose and, insofar as possible, to create forms of social coexistence more respectful of the dignity of every man and woman.
(Latin America)
distinguish between those things in our world and environment that lead to death and those that lead to life; and when we recognise the signs of hope in places where God, already at work, awaits us.

The Characteristics now offer four "readings" of the contemporary situation: cultural, economic, political and religious. They are neither theory about culture/economics/politics/religion nor complete exposé's of each field. Rather, they try to show the relevance of each context and its connections with our work for justice.


1. Thinking about the Jesuit work of social analysis you are most familiar with, which category best describes it academic, policy and planning, or social awareness? Does it have the strengths of this particular form of analysis that are identified here?

2. How does the ideal of Christian compassion seem to motivate or influence our social analysis, and does the analysis seem to generate feelings of compassion and lead to some action?

3. What efforts are made to ensure that our work of social analysis is conducted in dialogue with the poor, with others doing work of different kinds? Does the dialogue seem fruitful? Are there notable short-comings in the way the analysis is done?

3.2 Cultural Reading - pg - 23 -

"If we have the patience and the humility and the courage to walk with the poor," noted Decree 4 of GC32, "we will learn from what they have to teach us what we can do to help them" (n.50). This patient, humble and courageous "walking with" and "insertion" influence how we perceive and interpret the surrounding context of the social apostolate. The first "reading," which provides a viewpoint or perspective on the others, is the cultural one.

Decree 4 identified well the human or cultural roots of social reality: "The structures of society are among the principal formative influences in our world, shaping people's ideas and feelings, shaping their most intimate desires and aspirations; in a word, shaping mankind itself" (n.40, emphasis added).

Twenty years later, GC34 explicitly defined our mission in terms of evangelisation, culture, dialogue and the promotion of justice (Decrees 2-5). But can culture and dialogue simply be added to faith and justice as understood since 1975? Are these categories simply grafted onto existing approaches of the social apostolate and its traditional social analysis? Clearly not. Then how are they to be integrated into our work?

What seems required is to pay a new kind of attention: to learn from the poor, from personal experience, from social science to perceive culture until eventually this awareness becomes habitual and colours our prayer, analysis, interpretation, planning and action.

Learning to cross the river

"To cross the river where the stones are" is a graphic image of finding culture. Such crossing does not require the engineering concepts needed for building a bridge, nor would these be useful. What's needed is rather an experiential knowledge born of watching where the people ford and have always forded. What's needed is to learn what thousands of crossings have taught them, where to go without slipping and falling in. This may not be the only nor even the best place to cross: there may be other stones not discovered yet. For the time being, though, let's stay on the bank to watch and learn where the stones are. One day, we make a first crossing, then a second, then another and eventually we find out about the real boulders deep under the water. At the same time, we recognise that culture is as much the river as the stones.

Perhaps impatient to get a new bridge built as a step towards other changes, the social apostolate used to think differently. But with the great adjustments after 1989 and with GC34's insistence on culture and dialogue, we realise that social analysis and social action often remained on the surface, without risking a dive to look for the real stones of culture under water. Social movements did not usually pause to ask if the changes would meet people's real needs, correspond to their aspirations, help them reach their real goals, coincide with their deeper faith and feelings, and so on.

The stones of culture, even when concretely experienced, do not necessarily submit to rational analysis using our customary sociological, economic or political tools. What we can do is cross the river where the stones are, acquire the habit of perceiving them even if they are partially or fully beneath the surface, and describe them with care.

Pg - 24 - Reading the Situation Cultural Reading

Culture is something to taste, touch and sense, not only to see and analyse. We human beings are not homo economicus limited to market exchanges and the drive to maximise advantage in every human exchange, nor exclusively a "political animal", nor simply a private individual. Any analysis (economic, sociological, psychological) risks the distortion and reduction of culture to rational categories which prevent grasping the viewpoint of those who cross the river stepping from stone to stone. 

This "viewpoint" includes accepted norms, shared values, whatever motivates daily life and also public life. Attention to culture helps us see that injustices touch or affect aspects of daily life which went unnoticed in earlier models of survival, family, social groups and classes. 

So we understand that the laws of a state, the rules of trade and commerce, access to basic goods and services like education or health or recreation, family relationships and many other structures or institutions would not exist or function if people had not internalised the countless norms, values, opinions and tastes that configure a concrete culture. 

In the Esplugues neighbourhood of Barcelona, the older people (above 50 years old) us the services of doctors provided by Social Security but, when these seem not to help, the people go to healers. The healers charge exorbitant fees but their mix of prayers, rituals, remedies and massages does occasionally bring about a cure a result not obtained from the Social Security doctors. Consequently, the people are unlikely to support demands for a new Primary Health Care Centre (since they have little confidence in the effectiveness of the doctors). They find it difficult to understand our preaching against "superstition" (because for them it is true and real, not superstitious). Just as we question their confidence in the healers, they relativise our unquestioning trust in modem so called scientific medicine. The Neighbourhood Association and the parish, respecting the people's culture, ask whether it can and should be changed and, if so, how to do so without further uprooting the older population who are being deprived of familiar securities without finding new ones to replace them.
Compared with hard (economic) facts, culture seems subjective, and in a sense it is: it shapes real people's way of life from within. Culture is also "collective" and structural because it is shared by a human group. These shared motivations, norms, values and ideals serve to maintain or to change social relationships, be they just or unjust.
Global "culture"

Global "culture" seems very distant from the rural image of fording a river on foot, but in fact it is both near and relevant as it is spreading all over the world and interacting in various ways with local and traditional cultures.

In this global sense, the word "culture" is placed in quotation marks because, while we note its powerful effects, we are not sure whether it really is a culture. Does anyone live more globally than locally? The adjective "global" suggests that it reaches everywhere and yet is hard to grasp. Global "culture" is ambiguous, ambivalent, with both positive points and destructive ones.

Cultural Reading - pg - 25 -

On the one hand it appreciates individual achievement, competition, and the possession and consumption of material goods. It is supported and propagated by the extension of market structures into all spheres of human life, by the production and sale of images, and by the world wide web of mass media. It is all too often an anti-solidarity culture. 

On the other hand, the global "culture" reflects the claims of science and the benefits of technology. It also promotes human rights and the free flow of information and has spawned networks of local and non-governmental groups that struggle for justice.

The mass media and the open market economy are leading to wards the creation of a mono- cultural world resulting in the destruction of indigenous cultures, skills and technology. Multinational organisations are particularly active in creating a consumerist culture: the human desire for incessant wants and the fascination for anything big and foreign.
(South Asia)
This "culture" is experienced in different ways in various regions of our planet. At times it is beneficial, at times threatening and at times corrupting. Everywhere it mixes with local elements to form the actual operative culture of a people.

There's a danger of personalising global "culture" and demonising it instead of distinguishing the liberating points from the destructive ones. In an ever more interdependent world, global "culture" is unavoidable and its quality and effects are of vital concern.

Dominant and minority cultures

Powerful or majority groups have tended to use their economic, political or military advantage to dominate minorities, and an aspect of such domination has been contempt for and repression of minority culture. Ethnic, racial and religious minorities, immigrants and refugees are often excluded economically, politically and also culturally. The dominant or majority class, caste or group exercises power in the cultural dimension, and the dominated or minority group resists in various ways, also culturally.

The language of human rights seems well founded and universally recognised, yet often fails to persuade the majority that the minority has intrinsic dignity and deserves the same unconditional respect that people extend to "our own." Inclusion and dignity are cultural realities. The integration of the minority would involve them in a new culture, a mutation of their previous one, and the dominant one would obviously change too.

The most dramatic cultural dilemmas obtain when powerful ethnic, racial or religious conflicts break out. We run the danger of being partial to our own group and therefore blindly uncritical of the abuses and injustices committed by our side. Rather than absolutise our culture as the only "real" one, our vocation calls us to perceive injustices even if "our own" are responsible or complicit, and to speak out and resist them. This takes gifts of openness, lucidity, discernment and reconciliation. It's not easy, it's nearly impossible, but it's necessary and important!

Pg - 26 - Reading the Situation Cultural Reading

Some examples 

Since culture is always concrete and specific, it may be useful to think of several issues as they used to understood by social analysis alone, and then notice what difference it makes to add a strong cultural component: 

· We used to argue about capital punishment ethically, make the case for abolition legally or historically, approach the problem politically and legislatively. Yet the debate between adoption and abolition is a highly emotional and cultural issue among many peoples. 

· Many people outside South Asia are shocked to learn that some 130 million dalits (formerly known as "untouchables") are systematically humiliated, impoverished and deprived of their dignity. Yet those working for political and legal reform recognise that cultural change, which may be even more difficult to achieve, is what dalits really want. 

· The personal, biological, medical, economic and political aspects of HIV/AIDS are obvious, and obviously very important. Nevertheless, HIV/AIDS is a very cultural and, often enough, religious issue as well.

Those in social ministry, Jesuits and members of the laity, have be to contend with serious issues of morale coming from the general contemporary U.S. cultural climate of cynicism about ideals and social structures, worsening income polarities, fearfulness as values shift and disintegrate. Those in church-based organisations must also deal with a growing U.S. disaffection with organised religion and with tensions within the church itself over a variety of issues. Social ministries can be scattered, sporadic, unfocused. They can lead individuals involved in them toward burnout. 
(United States)
· Corruption is a complex phenomenon. Whether it is more endemic than formerly or just more visible seems hard to say, but clearly in many poor countries corruption may constitute the single greatest obstacle to development and improved welfare. Corruption rests upon shared values, social bonds and cultural patterns as well as on individual selfishness.

From our African cultures, we draw the hopes for a society marked and influenced by the values of family, community, solidarity, hospitality, respect for life, and deep religious consciousness. These values promote hopes not for a return to older forms and styles (often irrelevant to modern situations) but rather the building of future forms and styles more congruent with the integral development and promotion of suitable livelihoods we all desire. (Africa)

· Once a dictatorship or civil war has come to an end, how should serious abuses or crimes of that era be handled? One common-sense idea is "wipe the slate clean, let bygones be bygones, and make a fresh start. Yet many countries have gone through the process of a truth commission (Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, South Africa) or war crimes tribunal (Rwanda, former Yugoslavia) in order to deal publicly, culturally, with past abuses.

· In Sri Lanka, history seems to have introduced powerful elements of rejection into the two ethnic cultures. It seems impossible to reconcile the Tamils and Sinhalese by political or military means. Small-scale projects may prove more effective, that bring children and teenagers of the two groups together and create a more tolerant common culture.

· Those working with an excluded group testify that it is not the handicap or impoverishment itself but the subsequent exclusion and rejection that causes the greatest suffering. Dignity, acceptance and inclusion are structural and cultural issues; a merely political or legal change, for which one struggles, may be only a first and in fact the easiest step in achieving real social change which involves change of

Cultural Reading - pg - 27 -

attitude, behaviour and relationships. Work with marginalised people, if it is to be socially relevant, needs to inculcate new patterns of behaviour both among the marginalised themselves and in other groups of society.

Our own culture

Observing the stones which others use may be easier than taking notice of one's own river. "Our own group" may be the one we grew up in, or it may be one with which we have come to identify deeply. In either case, culture structures us from inside, and we cannot claim an above-it-all "objectivity" as if we lived outside time and space. We are always "submerged" or "immersed" in the culture of our own people and as Jesuits we have a culture of our own.

Thus a certain inter-cultural dialogue takes place within us, including the culture of the universal Society of Jesus, requiring sensitivity and considerable generosity of spirit. Among the staff of a Jesuit project, there may be colleagues or co-workers who do not consider themselves religious. Significant cultural and religious differences exist but often remain unspoken. It seems important to find occasions in which to dialogue at the level of these usually non-verbalised ideas and instincts, norms and values which earlier were called the rocks for crossing the river. The Characteristics aim to provide the space and language for such dialogue.

Justice and culture

What the culture of a society has to do with its just and unjust structures is not easy to determine with objectivity or precision. To begin with the culture, to learn where the stones are, does not mean to accept that culture uncritically. Reflecting on the words "justice" and "culture" as they form a cross at the centre of the Naples Congress logo:

· Culture, including religion, can lead to economic, political and social injustices. Injustices, that is, recurring injuries causing innocent suffering, are a rebuke to the culture in which they occur.

· Cultures support and legitimise injustices, namely, unjust dynamics or patterns and also support the new laws or arrangements meant to repair them and achieve justice; culture as it is may contribute to change; stones can (with difficulty!) be changed, or different ones used, or another ford may be found or made.

· Work for justice has to find roots in the ideals and motivations of the culture, or else there will be no real change; economic, social and political transformations demand cultural changes as well; social action may contribute to cultural change.

· Working for cultural change remains an abstract idea until one finds the necessary material and means. Schools, colleges and universities have traditionally been the Society's privileged means for promoting cultural change especially in the students, also in their parents, and indirectly in the wider society. Today, social apostolate projects offer an apt vehicle for cultural change at different levels of society. Working in this way on culture, one hopes slowly but eventually to see structural changes as a result.

Great social changes require great cultural changes and vice versa.

Pg - 28 - Reading the Situation

The Creation of a human environment of justice, freedom and charity is a joint enterprise but with the main responsibility on the poor. The outsider must also enter through the door of the poor's culture. (East Asia)

· In our changing, interrelated world, we seek to promote transformations which support the life of the poorest and achieve justice for all. Thus our research, organisations and action are often situated on the cultural frontiers and have the effect of transforming culture. Like ourselves, our organisations are often inevitably agents of modernisation. We should promote, in a conscious way, those cultural changes that are as human as possible.

· True charity and true personal conversion introduce new behaviours but with the and new values at the level of daily life and, if these are supported by a group, they become socially relevant and help bring about a socio-cultural change which in turn advocates institutional or structural changes.

Crossing the river where the stones are means taking the people's culture as a continuous point of departure for developing social-justice thinking and action. Otherwise, can a social apostolate contribute to real social change?


1. Reflecting on the culture that you consider most deeply your own, which of its features would appear most striking to a visiting outsider?

2. To encounter a culture is "to cross the river where the stones are." How does this metaphor apply to the culture which live and work in? What is the river, and what are the stones? What might be involved in a real change or transformation?

3. Several examples were given in which adding a strong cultural component leads to a different understanding of issues than the one obtained through social analysis alone. Can you add other examples from your own experience?

4. "Only within cultures can we speak of God and his justice. But the justice of the Gospel, for its part, always questions every culture" (Naples Congress). What does this suggest about the evangelising mission of our social apostolate? What are some implications in practice?

3.3 Economic Reading - pg - 29 -

"Give us this day our daily bread," Jesus taught us to pray, and also: "Man does not live by bread alone." The unemployed and the hungry appreciate what a secure livelihood means because the lack of it causes them much suffering, and they also know the importance of hope.

Realising how the poor people we live near and work with actually face their hardships and survive is an indispensable source for the social apostolate. The observed economics of survival forms a basis for our economic comprehension, cooperation and action, and a compass for moving through the local, regional, national and global levels from micro to macro and back again without getting lost or discouraged.

Interpreting the economic context

Constantly bombarded with news about the economy, we are familiar with quite a few elementary expressions if only because of repetition:

aid, capital, class, commodity, consumerism, consumption, corporation, credit, cutbacks, debt, dependency, development, disparity, distribution, dollar, economic policies, environment, euro, exchange rates, finance, First World, franc, gap, globalisation, goods and services, growth, IMF, income, industry, inflation, interest rates, investment, jobs, lira, manufacture, mark, market, MNC, nation, North-South, poor, pound, poverty, prices, prices, privatisation, productivity, public spending, public debt, raw materials, recession, rich, rupee, SAP, social services, speculation, technology, TNC, trade, unemployment, union, wages, work, World Bank, WTO, yen To reflect on the basic meaning and ethical value of terms like these is immediately to encounter the complex ambiguities of the domain of economics. Each Jesuit social project, whether it helps people survive in a poor neighbourhood or confronts global structures, can benefit from identifying the most used expressions and deepening its understanding of them. "Deepening" means combining the experience of people who live the phenomena, the expertise of people who work in them, and the knowledge of those who study and teach them.

What is characteristic for our work in the social apostolate is attention to economic issues in their social, political, cultural, religious aspects as they affect those we seek to serve. This chapter will probably be of greatest use to those whose "reading" tends to overlook the economic aspect.

Since as Jesuit social apostolate we are directly involved at all the levels identified above, it is characteristic that we do our economic reading" in an inter-level dialogue. Economic problems and injustices cannot be understood, much less faced or solved, without this intelligent cooperation.

What is characteristic, then, is not an interpretation or an analysis of the economy (much less claiming to be the correct one!), but stimulating each group to undertake an active, interrelated reading and rereading of the economic circumstances of the people it serves.

Pg - 30 - Economic Reading - Reading the Situation

Which means to: 

· identify categories, ideas or notions to keep in mind 
· connect economic vocabulary with lived experience 
· enrich ideas with opinions coming from various milieux 
· appreciate ambiguities and complexities 
· include ethical and spiritual dimensions 

This we do here with three excerpts, each exploring a major notion or category the market, poverty and globalisation. Of all economic categories, these probably have the broadest application. Two of the texts are from Jesuit sources, and the third is from the Human Development Report 1997. They show what "reading and rereading economy" might mean, and they are selections worth taking as points of departure for analysis, reflection and group discussion.

India today is a country of class and caste inequalities. Within this general division cumulative inequalities based on caste and sex differentiation are particularly conspicuous. Some groups accumulate almost hegemonic power and advantage based on urban-rural, class-, caste- and sex-based differences. This section of the population can afford to live at western levels of consumption. At the other extreme, 48 per cent of the country's 880 million people suffer from malnutrition, illiteracy, and ill health and are victims of the same urban-rural, class-, caste- and 
sex-based differences.
(South Asia)
The market:
The market as an historical expression of the need for human beings to support each other and to fulfil their present and future potentialities is neither good nor bad, neither capitalist nor socialist. It exists for everyone as a complex of relationships that must be controlled skilfully, in freedom and solidarity, in order to ensure an agreeable level of life for everyone.

Like any kind of relationship, the market can be employed perversely to destroy persons and peoples. But the fact that such perversion is possible should not make us forget the patrimony of knowledge and culture that mankind has created around the market throughout its history.

The challenge is not to destroy the relationship of trade, but to place it at the service of human fulfilment in harmony with creation; to situate it in a context of equality of basic opportunity for all people; and to dignify it by liberating it from the forces of domination and exploitation that distorted it into the mode of production that proliferated in the western world (Document of the Latin American Provincials on Neo-Liberalism, 1996).

Poverty: Poverty has many faces. It is much more than low income. It also reflects poor health and education, deprivation in knowledge and communication, inability to exercise human and political rights and the absence of dignity, confidence and self-respect. There is also environmental impoverishment and the impoverishment of entire nations, where essentially everyone lives in poverty. Behind these faces of poverty lies the grim reality of desperate lives without choices and, often, governments that lack the capacity to cope (Human Development Report 1997). Economic Reading - pg - 31 -

Poverty, with roots in local culture and influenced by global factors, is to be "read and reread" culturally, politically, religiously as well. "Poverty and misery are never treated complacently in the Gospels," said Father General at Naples. "They are non-values which simply should not exist and which in no way express the will of the Creator."

Promotion of sustainable livelihood (a mix of economy, ecology and equity considerations) is increasingly difficult. The spread of HIV/AIDS is having disastrous economic consequences in many countries, as are ethnic conflicts, violence and war. (Africa)
Globalization: The theme of "globalization" could not be ignored when it came time to analyse the various contexts of our apostolates, but it proved impossible to reach agreement on just what the term entails.

· For some, it is a question of the globalisation driven by Neo-liberalism which widens the gap between rich and poor.
· For others, it implies cultural globalisation which destroys local cultures.
· For still others, globalisation is an ambiguous phenomenon; and Neo-liberalism as well has its positive aspects which have to be humanised. For this reason there were no unanimously adopted strategies.

Some delegates, especially from South Asia, urged that the Society should take a clear position condemning the system.

The delegate from Detroit graphically described the futility of King Canute who tried to stop the incoming tide by brandishing his sceptre at it and predictably ended up soaking wet.

This is the reason for the varying emphases in particular and limited proposals: for structural changes, or for modest initiatives to improve the situation of the poor; or for world-wide attempts to oppose the system. And yet it was clear to all that Neo-liberalism, insofar as it puts macro-economic growth over and above the welfare and life of the poor, becomes an ideology and, to this degree, should be resisted. The whole issue is to determine whether this is the interpretation which fits the economic reality from country to country (Naples Congress in PJ 68, September 1997).

Hearing the cry of the poor

When working on economic issues, Jesuit social projects seem to combine, in different proportions, several perspectives of reflection and emphases in action:

· ethics: naming values which should be decisive
· protest: denouncing the unacceptable
· reform: possible solutions, alternatives and collaboration

pg - 32 - Reading the Situation

Ethics provides light, such as found in Catholic social teaching, for thinking out the whole sequence, from the injustice people suffer all the way through to action for change. The economy exists for persons, not persons for the economy. Therefore economic policies and institutions have to be judged by how they protect or undermine the life and dignity of persons.

Groups marginalised for reasons of race, sex, caste or class are frequently very poor, and the same reasons may falsely "legitimate" their exploitation by a dominant group. Corruption, discrimination and ethnic conflict also frequently exacerbate poverty, while public investments in education, health, environment, physical infrastructure and appropriate social institutions are often concentrated where the relatively wealthy live, thus perpetuating discrepancies or a so-called "gap". 

All people have rights to life, basic necessities, education, housing, work, decency, participation in society. Therefore the stability of our government and corporate institutions, indeed all people, have moral obligations to work together to achieve these goals. The fundamental moral measure of any economy is: how the poor and vulnerable are faring.

There is a widespread assumption that the "American Experiment" is, all things considered, a success. Jesuits generally share the optimism of most people in the country about the U.S. way of life, the stability of our political institutions and our ability to change life for the better. We expect social change to be evolutionary, not revolutionary. We look upon government as a generally beneficial and often responsive to changing needs. This accounts for our efforts to work through and influence local and national political structures.
(United States)
Protest is born of close contact with those who suffer impoverishment, exclusion and exploitation. It depicts the suffering as intolerable so as to awaken those who are unaware or complacent and win their support for action and change. The urgent protest of the poor can lead others to examine their own lifestyles and options.

Protest is often stark and dramatic and forthright in condemning. It may be quick to blame those at another level while neglecting local and national responsibility that lies close at hand. The impulse to protest comes first and only afterwards talk of reform. It is important to identify spaces of freedom and responsibility for action at different levels.

Change or reform tries to create, find or build solutions, through research, politics and negotiations. Many efforts at reform consist of local small-scale economic efforts, for example, appropriate technology to make local products more marketable, credit schemes for micro-enterprises, job retraining programs to upgrade skills, enhancement of watersheds. Local improvements often depend on identifying regional or national factors causing poverty or injustice. Since poverty is usually multi-dimensional, so too effective reform needs to be multidimensional.

Other efforts are made in collaboration with governmental, non-governmental and intergovernmental organisations and people's movements and target broader concerns, for example, human rights, fair trade practices, housing for the urban poor, agrarian reform, foreign debt, environmental sustainability.

Economic Reading - pg - 33 -

Facing constraints at local, national and international levels, reformers seek spaces of freedom so that change might really be effected, and they turn to protest when such possibilities are blocked. Þ Political Reading (3.4)

Located at every level in nearly every area, our social apostolate has the chance to recognise, not just conceptually but in practice, the interdependence of different economic situations between rich and poor within countries, between the poor of different countries, and between rich and poor countries.

Those close to suffering and experiences of injustice may cooperate with those who work for reform, those in "the developed North" with those in "the developing South." Communication and travel make networking relatively easy. The critique of global economic problems such as the international debt requires a solid intellectual understanding of global economic realities and how they affect the lives of the poor. Þ Cooperation and Networking (3.7)

An increased awareness of the cultural dimension does not make economic analysis any less important. On the contrary. Our approach may be characterised by a simultaneous insistence on both "daily bread" and "not by bread alone," an economics in service of all of humanity.


1. At the beginning of the chapter some sixty economic terms were listed, and then reflections on three of them were cited. Choose three more terms from the list and reflect on them, bearing in mind their deeper meaning and ethical and spiritual dimensions.

2. What in our experience is the role of the poor in economic and social change? What is the key to emerging from poverty and participating in society? Is it participation in the market, or an alternative approach? Does the Church effectively accompany people in such efforts?

3. Why does awareness of the cultural dimension not diminish the importance of economic analysis. How do the cultural and economic readings affect each other?

3.4 Political Reading Reading the situation pg - 35 -

A cry sometimes loud and strident, sometimes silent with suffering - comes from "those who have no voice." The Jesuit social apostolate, living among them, working with them directly or for their cause, constantly hears this cry. This apostolate consists of many efforts to help the voiceless find their voice, to help the poor express themselves and turn their powerlessness into responsibility. "We Jesuits enter into solidarity with the poor, the marginalised and the voiceless, in order to enable their participation in the processes that shape the society in which we all live and work" (GC34, d.26, n.14)

Their silent, inarticulate or loud cry changes our comprehension of social reality. It enters our consciousness and becomes our point of view. The powerless influence our manner of dealing with the powerless. We discover links between the "insignificant" experiences of suffering and the big structures of society and culture.

This chapter presents not a political theory or a political interpretation but an approach that our social apostolate can use to do a political reading of its situation. "Politics" can be a hot or sticky topic. Strong convictions emerge about what Jesuits must or cannot do; often the words are emotionally charged and imprecisely used. Some guidance may be helpful for discussion within our groups and with others. Moreover, "politics" points to an important dimension of our work that has much to do with its significance and effectiveness. We do well to become aware of it, take responsibility for it, and clarify our specific contribution with some self-critical reflection. ÞPlanning and Evaluation (3.8)


Politics takes place within a particular context - a municipality, a department or province or state, a country that we can think of as a great area. Within this area, politics can be very specific, but it has the overall role of keeping nearly everything else in its place and in harmony or balance. In this most general sense, politics begins with sovereignty, authority, decision-making, and it touches on many facets of life: 

· nationality and citizenship whereby each individual participates in all the rest 
· trade and commerce, finance and taxation 
· foreign relations and defence
· the justice system and penal system 
· immigration and minorities 
· education and communication, culture and sport 
· family, marriage, social relations, religion 
· social assistance or social security 
· many others, some depending on the country and culture

These are the many sorts of things that public authority is supposed to see to actively. But we can also conceive of public authority as minimally responsible for the basic conditions something without which people cannot take part in human life. These minimum guarantees are defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Every human being, without distinction of any kind, has the right to the following: 

· life, liberty and security of person 
· recognition as a person before the law 
· freedom of movement and residence 
· participation in the government of his or her country 
· freedom of thought, conscience and religion 
· work, rest and leisure 
· an adequate standard of living 
· education 
· much else which, if absent or violated, leaves life less than human

Pg - 36 - Political Reading Reading the Situation

The two open-ended lists, one positive, the other minimal, are vast in scope. Like economics and culture, politics in its own way touches on "nearly everything." Political authority, for its part, is not vague and all pervasive but highly articulated everywhere, even in very remote or "undeveloped" places. There are multiple levels of authority: local, municipal, regional, national, international, global. They take many interconnected forms: executive, parliament or congress, political parties, civil service in departments or ministries, countless public institutions and offices and more.

In whose interests does the whole political complex function? Obviously the answer should be "everyone's," but this ideal is subverted in a variety of ways. A very obvious contradiction occurs when a political space is ruled by a dictatorship or a dominant minority, which in a non-representative manner diverts the political or governmental process to serve narrow rather than common interests.

Less obvious but very real distortion can come from the economic side. With the so-called "triumph of neo-liberalism," major economic actors like multinational banks and corporations seem exempt from any legitimate political control and, instead, dominate many aspects of life where non-economic criteria ought to prevail. Business and advertising are free to impose their consumerist model. Structural Adjustment programmes, meant to put the economic house in order (much needed), are imposed without sufficient political control and create a disproportionate burden for the poor. Instead of being broadly political and taking many aspects into account, policies can become narrowly economic.
Our political action should be different because it tries to heal abuse of power and those abused by power. Our spirituality, therefore, is vital for the success of the social apostolate: a spirituality which can accept failure, non-success, incompetence and division will help ensure that our involvement with power and influence be as "clean" as possible. (East Asia}
Corruption hidden although "everyone knows" is another widespread form of betraying the political process with disastrous effects on many facets of socio-economic life.

So, many people in many very different countries feel that public authorities do not adequately fulfil their role of distributing power, resolving conflicts, and making it possible for people to work together. The prevailing mood of apathy or "anti-politics" seems justified by feelings and reasons such as:

· the public apparatus has outgrown its competence and become inflated and inefficient; many citizens feel cheated and frustrated;
· reform or down-sizing has cut so deep as to leave the state incapable of exercising its functions; citizens feel badly served, neglected, abused;
· continuous crises of governability, caused by poverty, violence or natural disasters like drought, leave citizens insecure;
· state institutions and functionaries, parties and politicians have lost all credibility with the public;
· poor media coverage trivialises politics and reduces it to image, public relations and opinion polls;
· utopias have collapsed, disappointing many who had hoped to bring about a more human world through political, structural or revolutionary change;
· a sense of politics as only concerned with "competing interests" has eclipsed any notion of the common good";

Political Reading Reading the Situation pg - 37-

· in a culture of individual or private satisfaction, people pay little attention to the public interest.
Þ Cultural Reading (3.2)

In this apathetic or cynical climate of "anti-politics" which prevails in many places, people do not look to traditional political authorities like parties or the civil service to respond to urgent needs. Instead, an alternative political actor or subject, sometimes called "civil society," has emerged to take matters in hand.

Our common social dwelling is crumbling and our societies are turning into conglomerates of individuals with no ties to each other, set against each other in varied and wide-ranging violence. To rebuild this common dwelling means strengthening civil society and its ethos, popular organisations, the State and its power to govern political institutions. All this goes hand in hand with the bringing to birth of new social projects, planned and carried out by the community.
(Latin America)
A concrete problem which the public authority cannot or will not resolve and which no one individual alone can solve motivates people to band together and take it up as a common cause. Overcoming their own fears and often lacking much cultural support, people look for very immediate solutions. In some ways this process is similar to the formation of trade unions in the nineteenth century to confront the problems of low wages and subhuman working conditions. Local groups of all kinds have mushroomed everywhere to face very specific problems - illiteracy, contaminated drinking water, unfit housing, police brutality and many, many others involving poor people in urban slum areas, peasants, indigenous people, AIDS sufferers, and so on. Groups fail, succeed, wither away, while some make the transition from a specific problem to a more general issue like land tenure, social services, human rights, environment. Groups solidify, band together, become local organisations, enter into coalitions and networks, evolve into civic movements for political change.
Some groups develop into stable organisations, usually called NGOs, dedicated more professionally over the longer term to the same causes.

Thus in nearly all the areas and at all levels under political authority, popular groups and movements and small-scale solutions, meet needs that public authorities fail or refuse to meet, or constrain authorities to exercise their responsibility. The groups usually stress participation and strive to be internally democratic with leaders coming from their own membership. The claim that poor and ordinary people have no options, no voice, no influence is refuted in practice.

The groups and movements that make up civil society usually do not aspire to become political parties or win political power. In this sense they remain anti-politics" and work in an unstructured way for humanisation and solidarity. Many state their purpose as a "without": a neighbourhood without drugs or without youth unemployment all the way to a world without land mines, child abuse or environmental degradation. Such "withouts" avoid describing a particular political model and leave space for other aspects of a fully human development.

Neither winning a particular local issue nor achieving more responsive political structures comes easily. Social change may be highly desirable, a great mobilisation may seem very promising, and yet the moment may pass without any real change. Popular politics requires both realism and perseverance.

pg - 38 - Political Reading Reading the Situation

Political dimensions of our work

Where does the Jesuit social apostolate fit in relation to the two ideals described above public authority and civil society? Our projects do not usually fulfil a state function, although we occasionally contract to provide a public service and often accept government funding.

Our projects or centres do not usually identify institutionally with a political patty, though advice and other help may be give discreetly, and sometimes it is hard to distinguish between supporting a movement and belonging explicitly to a party. But the people we work with often do get involved, and so the lament, "We lose our best leaders to politics." A lay member of our staff in partisan politics is said to act in an individual capacity, but this distinction is often overlooked by the public, and the lay staff may be restricted in their political activism as if they were members of the Society.

Over the past decades, Jesuit social projects have supported great political movements for liberating change in some countries. These movements have brought significant improvements in the freedom and quality of life. Yet the same movements have fragmented, lost credibility, become bureaucratic, or lacked ethics. Support, when "unconditional," proves to be unworthy.

In relation to civil society, Jesuit social projects do a great deal of political work with great integrity and occasional success. The social apostolate takes part in every type of group, coalition, network, mobilisation or movement, in pursuit of specific solutions as well as transformations of structures.

Sometimes our project consists precisely of organising such groups or movements and accompanying their development. In other cases we are approached by groups for help. Occasionally one of our staff exercises some leadership, though it is nearly always better to encourage and support others to exercise leadership. In a coalition, the Jesuit project's role may be to promote reflection or bring in ethics or spirituality. Often we contribute the capacity to do research, clarify the problem, think out a policy solution, develop a plan or strategy. Our staff is familiar with the public sphere - they know whom to call, how to get things done or prevented. Such know-how, put at the disposal of the poor, is a political contribution. It helps others express and further their concerns in the public sphere and often indirectly serves to transform structures.

Jesuit social projects, especially research centres, may be explicitly and deliberately oriented towards influencing the public sphere. Often we advise others who criticise injustices or urge public authorities or economic leaders to adopt alternative policies. At times we speak out ourselves. In some countries such advocacy takes the form of political lobbying, local or national, and there is also effective work done with regional bodies like the Organisation of American States and international ones like the United Nations.

We use the media to criticise injustices and influence public opinion. When it is possible to enlist broad support from many sectors of society, there is a better chance of achieving some social change.

"Any realistic plan to engage in the promotion of justice will mean some kind of involvement in civic activity" (GC32, d.4, n.80). For example, caring for the homeless or promoting rural development will have consequences in the public sphere. Working with the homeless may lead to influencing public authorities to adopt a more compassionate housing policy, while working with the rural poor may lead to encouraging a fairer marketing of agricultural produce.

pg - 39 - Political Reading Reading the Situation

Jesuit social projects seem to have several related political responsibilities. Since every activity to promote justice has some political impact, we should ask if these ramifications at are coherent with the basic convictions which motivate our project, and if people actually see our work in the same light. We are interested in bringing the justice of the Gospel to society and culture; to society and culture; therefore we should take care how our apostolate comes into the public domain. Even a ministry of simple presence accompanying those who suffer, which seems very low-profile or small-scale, has an authentic vision, dedication and testimony to share with others in the polis and the Church. 

Pluralism and reconciliation 

Social justice work dealing with deep suffering, structural violence or persistent negation of rights often gives rise to . conflict. In addition, when our own nation or ethnic group is in conflict with another, the natural sympathy we feel for our side can blind us to our group's intolerance, hatred or violence impulses from which we are not exempt. 

At the same time, the current mood in the country at large is characterised by disillusion over unmet expectations, distrust of big government, economic insecurity, fear of losing control of our economy and traditional values, a growing antagonism toward new immigrants, and the persistence of racism. There is general agreement that our governmental and social institutions often fall into an adversarial mode of operating. This promotes the formation of interest groups and the pursuit of narrow agendas, developments which do not serve the common good. 
(United States)
We cannot avoid conflict, but we do need to pay close attention to our attitude towards the individuals and systems involved. We are called never to "demonise" others, no matter how cruel or unjust their behaviour, but to distinguish between the sin and the sinner. When we protest, we must be clear in our analysis of the issues, forthright in condemnation of injustice, and calm in trying to persuade those who are opposed. Similarly, when criticising our own country or another, we must do so with balance and respect.
Our work should always be ready "to reconcile the estranged" (Formula, 1550). Reconciliation goes to the heart of everyone's motivations and allegiances, requires much freedom and courage, involves great depth of encounter with others, and offers opportunities for personal healing and social transformation. Members of the Jesuit social apostolate have given heroic witness, even with their lives, to the extraordinary radicality of unconditional Christian forgiveness and reconciliation. At a national and even international level, true reconciliation requires uncovering the injustices perpetrated and a limpid process of justice. The social apostolate can contribute to public processes of truth and reconciliation and to negotiated settlements of conflicts. We may serve as guarantors of fairness in compromise. We should work tirelessly for reconciliation in divided societies and for truth and justice rather than vengeance.
New mechanisms are needed to promote understanding and reconciliations among the warring countries of the South.. There is an increase in the number of refugees in South Asian countries as a result of ethnic conflicts, religious fundamentalism, and so forth. Jesuits should engage in the efforts towards the promotion of friendship and understanding among neighbouring countries. 
(South Asia)
pg - 40 - Political Reading Reading the Situation

The political dimension, precisely because it deals in the currency of interests, influence, privilege and power, has an inherent ambiguity and entails considerable risks and temptations. The "buzz" that comes with a public profile and media attention can easily carry anyone away. The greater the political impact, the greater the need for a discerning interior freedom in orienting our action and so for frank discussion with fellow Jesuits and colleagues.

When a social project loses sight of its Jesuit mission, however, political and ideological errors all too easily result and the project can get used in favour of a partisan political interest. It takes great honesty to be self-critical and great courage to approach a colleague especially the director! in this regard. Despite these risks and difficulties, we do not renounce the public voice or political dimension; otherwise ours would not be a social apostolate.

The social apostolate, even within a single Province, does not depend on political unanimity among its members but glories in a healthy pluralism of political conceptions and styles which actually increases our apostolic effectiveness. This pluralism is put to the test when it comes time for a whole centre, the whole sector or the whole Province to take a public stand on an issue.

Although public service has lost prestige and "anti-politics" is widespread, political life cannot be abandoned to unscrupulous, self-interested or technocratic mentalities. Jesuit social projects need to foster the political vocation as a noble choice for those who wish to serve the broader interests important for everyone.

The political dimension brings us back to basics: to the exercise of power by all the people for all the people; to respect for human, political, civil and social rights and for each person's freedom; to participation of all citizens through the many and varied channels of democratic society; to the traditional notion of the common good, central to the social teaching of the Church.

The promotion of justice is an integral part, not of an ideological view or a political programme, but of the evangelisation whereby the justice of the Kingdom is really communicated and put into effect.


1. A lay staff member in a social apostolate project is invited to stand as a candidate in an election. How should the staff as a whole and in particular the Jesuits respond? What factors need to be taken into account?

2. Our Jesuit social project, involved in a nation-wide coalition on a controversial justice issue, is elected to the steering committee. What factors ought to be weighed in deciding whether or not to play this leading role?

3. Do many people in our area seem disappointed in politics? Are they seeking other avenues for protecting themselves, raising a protest, promoting change? Should our work try to help rehabilitate the "political vocation"?

3.5 Religious Reading - Reading the Situation - pg - 41 -

If we are near enough to hear it, the cry of a refugee, AIDS sufferer, unemployed parent or abused child transfixes us: "Why does God let me suffer like this?" and "Blessed be His holy name!"

Those who in large numbers suffer intensely, perennially and innocently are the poor, and theirs are the problems of injustice which the social apostolate exists to address. The same poor "the widow, the orphan and the stranger" are those who in our Judaeo-Christian faith enjoy God's preferential concern: "Whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."

The same poor, in great proportion, are religious believers and religion is essential for many of them. To overlook this is not to encounter them fully, much less to comprehend them. To depreciate their religious beliefs or treat them as a merely private matter is yet another impoverishment imposed on the poor by others. In our social apostolate, we Jesuits and most of our co-workers are religious, too, and while doing much economic and political analysis, ironically we have paid little attention to the religious dimensions of justice until now.

Religion is also an essential part of nearly every context. Some situations are marked by important religious differences; for example, many dalits, though not all, are Christians within a larger Hindu context, and there are differences between Catholics who are dalit and those who belong to a caste. A situation may also be marked by different traditional elements which have lost their vital religious force but still have a social significance. There is a sense of the numinous or the sacred expressed in new-age or other non-institutional forms. There are many sects, cults, icons ...

This chapter, not a theory about religion and social change, clarifies some elements for reading the religious situation, shows some connections with our work for justice, and reflects on the depths of our social action.

Elements for Interpreting

Religion is notoriously difficult to define or even to describe. It is like culture in that it is "both stones in the river and the river itself." It is like politics in that it gives meaning and order to everything and yet constitutes a specific area of human reality and an institution, in different ways, of both traditional and modern society. Obviously there are many connections but also significant differences between faith and religion; here, usually, we mean both. A religious reading is meant to be combined with the previous cultural, economic and political readings to provide an integrated reading of a whole social situation with all its changing vital connections and complexities.

In the social apostolate we constantly meet people of various religions because in hardly any situation of ours does a single religion exist by itself. People we work with those we serve, our co-workers on staff, members of other groups and organisations may be members of the Christian Church (either Catholics like ourselves or of another denomination), or members of other religions, or people who have grown up distant from religious tradition or have been formed in an explicitly atheistic or secular viewpoint. Therefore, while our commitment to work for justice is rooted in our own religious experience, other people's commitment may be rooted in very different religious experiences or in humanist, liberal or political values. Among the poor,

pg - 42 - Religious Reading Reading the situation

their religion itself or, if Christian, their way of living it often differs from our own. Beliefs can be expressed in simple ways which someone from "outside" or with a modern mentality may easily fail to grasp, especially if in a hurry.

Religion is within culture and forms an important sometimes the most important ground and content of a culture. It embodies and expresses a people's or society's system of beliefs, enhances what is truly most important in human life, and gives meaning to major personal and communal moments and historical transitions. Religion also differs from culture: it goes beyond merely human meanings and values, connects with origins and tradition, and opens up to the transcendent and the future beyond time. While work for justice has its own integrity and intrinsic value, it also has an open meaning not restricted to the secular plane.

Considered in its social ramifications, religion appears ambiguous. It may include elements of oppression, enslave the human spirit, prop up the status quo and resist justice with fatalism or resignation. As the poor typically show long suffering, social activists could fear that their religious belief would sap their political anger. There can be a very unhealthy link between religion and nationalism. Religious people may resist social change that could free them from repressive bonds but also foments individualism.

Religion may also liberate people from enslavements of all kinds, motivate them with compassion and generosity and even self-abnegation, free them to care for others and for creation, and give them courage to act. The religion which people depend on may also keep them bonded with one another in community.

In this reading of religion, then, we are truly participant observers. Our viewpoint is not unreligious or atheist, as if ensuring objectivity, but religious because both we and the situation are religious. Nor do we profess to work for justice on a purely secular basis as if a "neutral" or "value-free" ground would provide a sound foundation for justice and solidarity. But where political conflict and even violence occur in a decidedly sectarian form, it may better serve both truth and justice to work with others on a strictly secular basis. Our attitude in all places should be respectful, where respect includes transparency, openness and, when possible, sharing one's best with the other.

When the social apostolate "reads" the economic or the political dimension, it does so competently and seriously. But in the background there is a "not only" (not only economic, not only political) which comes from Christian anthropology that sees human beings as open to the transcendent. We read the economic and political situation from an internal standpoint, not from outside it; a cultural reading involves us even more intricately; and in a very special way are we implicated in the religious reading.

Links between religion and our work for justice

Between religion and justice, the critique may go in both directions. Whatever critique is put forward, especially if in public, needs to be made respectfully, not self-righteously.

The viewpoint of justice may need to criticise religion a belief, a practice, a religious leader as regressive for covering over and justifying an unjust situation. Does the religion implicitly support injustice or elitism, or does it genuinely favour the transformation of injustice? In ethnic

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conflicts, the groups fighting one another may be labelled according to their respective religions. As a result, the conflict can appear to be primarily religious even if the real issues are of quite another order like land, resources or sovereignty.

The religious viewpoint may also find injustices in a given situation and criticise them in the light of its beliefs or in the name of its communities, as when religious leaders resist a tyranny, condemn racism or apartheid, or pray for peace. Religious beliefs are frequently at the root of people's social hopes and motivate them to face and change an unjust situation. Religious practice can support people as they try to find the causes of their sufferings and overcome forces far greater than their very limited resources. Even among the very poorest, for example in refugee camps of unimaginable misery, communal religious celebrations motivate, inspire, unify and orient everyone. This belies the prejudice that people need to be healthy, educated and secure before being able to believe and act religiously.
Some religions encourage human action for the transformation of the universe. But others can at times foster a passive and fatalistic attitude toward nature and development, life and death, social relations and structures. There is however always a liberating force in faith. In the present situation of overwhelming odds against justice for the poor, it calls for religious courage to stand up to the titanic forces of oppression.
(South Asia)
Thus, religious belief may encourage people to be compassionate, to help one another, to carry on even when they meet resistance. Religion can strongly support the struggle for justice by inspiring the poor themselves as well as others working with them, for them or in solidarity with them. The multiple relationships we should have with all these people and their religions can be characterised by only one word: dialogue.

Dialogue requires respect and listening. Respect for the beliefs of others does not usually mean avoiding the topic, hiding our own convictions, or pretending that they and we are non-religious. Occasionally it is appropriate that the basis for co-operation be secular and the faith of those involved not be expressed explicitly. Social justice ministry among non-Christian peoples should not be misconstrued as a tactic to proselytise or elicit conversions.

Dialogue begins with a preference for putting a good interpretation on another's statement rather than condemning it. But this presupposition from the Spiritual Exercises does not mean accepting everything in the "other" unilaterally, holus-bolus, or with the over-compensation which finds nothing but light in the other tradition and only obscurantism in one's own. Self-critical regarding our prejudices, we express our convictions transparently and respectfully, while openly and honestly searching for the truth. It is when we seek a shared understanding, really listening to those who hold different views from ours, that we best perceive and learn.

Listening to words and descriptions is important, but just a start. Dialogue means perceiving, in the living beliefs of others, the social impact or significance of their faith. It means paying attention to what is good in their tradition and seeking respectfully to share ours with them.

We keep open the possibility of criticising beliefs or practices which enchain people, cause social fatalism, justify violence, or support elitism - and of being so criticised ourselves. Among the poor or among colleagues, we may encounter religious prejudices, caricatures of God, harmful ignorance about our own Church or the religion of others.

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Dialogue includes facing these as respectfully and effectively as possible. What most interests the social apostolate is the dialogue of action, in which Catholics, Christians of different denominations and others collaborate for the integral development and liberation of people. One of the fruits of this collaboration may often be greater mutual religious comprehension and tolerance. Christian faith fosters a keen sense of sin as radical disobedience of God and radical betrayal of our human identity, nature, vocation. In the light of the Gospel we see most clearly that injustice springs from sin, personal and collective, and that it is made all the more oppressive by being built into economic, social, political and cultural institutions of world-wide scope and overwhelming power (GC32, d.2, n.6). Without recognising sin it is impossible to accept forgiveness and difficult to forgive others, and this in turn leaves reconciliation superficial.

Promoting the justice of the Gospel should never, to be sure, be confused with proselytism which is so prevalent among some sects. On the other hand, the fear or the risk of being accused of proselytism does not offer us an excuse for systematically living our faith in secret, for hiding our faith, for making it purely a private affair or for failing to share our deepest convictions. 
(Father General at Naples)
Our directly pastoral work with poor people can help Christian faith grow and include the promotion of justice as an integral part. The Eucharist celebrates the presence of the Risen Lord, the unity of the whole of the Church, and with its deep sense of community, it is both an experience and an anticipation of the justice unselfishness and detachment of God's kingdom in which we are truly brothers and sisters to one another.
The South Asian religions have a common humanising core of teachings concerning personal, moral and social life. They lay stress on the value of possessions, love of the family, respect for the elders, care of nature and right conduct in personal and public life. These core common values can be the basis of integral human liberation and for co-operation in building faith human communities in our societies. (South Asia)
Catholic Social Teaching is a heritage we could make better use of. Beginning with Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Catholic Church has analysed and reflected on the great problems which began with the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of modern society (world-wide since de-colonialisation and accelerated with globalisation) in the light of Christian and Catholic tradition. The following are some of the major themes, presented following more or less the pluralist chronological order in which they appeared:

· concern for the "voiceless" of modern society, the exploited industrial workers
· the call not only to provide charity but also to rebuild society itself
· interventions for world peace and reconciliation
· fundamental flaws in communism and capitalism
· within the common good, the state's obligation to promote the welfare of all sectors of society
· the important principle of subsidiarity which allocates responsibility to the appropriate group
or level in society

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· condemnation of the international arms race
· human rights and individual liberties, duties between states
· the obligation of rich individuals, groups and nations to share resources and provide the poor with the necessary means for their own development
· the transcendental and social nature of each person as the basis for social teaching
· the poor and oppressed as protagonists of social change
· the preferential option for the poor, and solidarity
· a solid, nuanced appreciation of the economic aspects of life and work
· the meaning of sin in its social manifestations and structures
· the urgent problems of international debt and impoverishment
· the social and religious significance of protecting the environment

This tradition of social teaching can enrich everyone's "readings" of the situation at all levels. It can serve as a basis for collaboration. The social apostolate as both action and reflection also contributes to the social teaching and practice of the local Church.

"I cannot define religion, but I know it when I see it" and "A good religion is one that produces saints" are affirmations by learned experts. We are drawn into a reading and reflection on religion which cannot be only "out there." As participant observers, our personal engagement manifests the inspiration which motivates us and the hope which keeps us going, and in both of these the poor have a great share.


1. Prepare the discussion of this chapter among the co-workers in such a way that first the religious situation, and then our own involvement, are respectfully treated. Would some of the conditions favouring dialogue be of help?

2. Does anger have a legitimate, even necessary, place in social justice work? Is it tension with a commitment to reconciliation?

3. In a specific situation where religious people are working for justice, does religion bring an extra dimension to the work? Are there political consequences? Does justice have something to critique in this religious situation?

4. Are we accustomed to do "religious reading" as described in this chapter as part of our socio-cultural analysis? What effect does it have on the other readings of society which we usually do?

Continue to 3.6 Teamwork