Authenticity must drive ecological conversion

Environmental challenges were the major focal point at the recent meeting
of Jesuits and lay people working in media and communications.


By Michael McVeigh, Head of publishing and digital content, Jesuit Communications

While the effects of climate change are being felt in many parts of the globe, the Asia Pacific region is perhaps one of the most vulnerable to natural disasters. Along with the consequences of rising seas on low-lying islands and coastal regions, the region has also experienced more extreme floods and storms in recent years, as well as droughts and heatwaves.

The ecological crisis was a major focus at a Hong Kong meeting of Jesuits and lay people working in media and communications last week. The Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) meeting brought together nine representatives from across the region, representing the Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, Malaysia-Singapore, Australia, Indonesia and the Chinese Province.

The meeting’s convenor, Fr Nono Alfonso SJ from the Philippines, highlighted some of the environmental challenges in a presentation to the delegates. “Many countries experienced their hottest year on record in 2023, along with a barrage of extreme conditions, from droughts and heatwaves to floods and storms,” he said. “In 2023, a total of 79 disasters were reported in Asia; of these, over 80% were related to flood and storm events, with more than 2000 fatalities and nine million people directly affected.”

Globally, 2023 was the hottest year on record, and Fr Alfonso noted that countries in the Asia Pacific region experienced extreme heat events in 2023. “Japan experienced its hottest summer on record. China experienced 14 high temperature events in summer, with about 70% of meteorological stations exceeding 40 degrees Celsius and 16 stations breaking their temperature records.”

These environmental challenges will only compound some of the other issues facing the region, including extreme poverty, political instability and the plight of displaced people and refugees.

JCAP President Fr Jun Viray SJ spoke to delegates about Father General Arturo Sosa’s urgent call to reflection and action in response to the ecological crisis. He noted the growing sense of urgency across the world, but also the pushback on proposed action and delays in implementation brought about by those most heavily invested in industrial sectors.

JCAP President Fr Jun Viray SJ echoed Father General Arturo Sosa’s urgent call to reflection and action in response to the ecological crisis. Photo: David McMahon

Quoting Fr Sosa, he noted, “As humanity, we continue to walk towards the abyss. We know better the consequences of rushing ahead, but we advance without finding enough strength to change the course.”

Fr Viray noted some of the things the Society has done to address the ecological crisis, including making caring for creation one of the four Universal Apostolic Preferences. However, he said that we have yet to bring about the deeper changes that would signify an authentic ecological conversion.

Delegates then went on to discuss how they might collaborate to tackle various issues, including ways they might work together to support the response to the ecological crisis across the Asia Pacific region.

The meeting was hosted at Wah Yan College in Kowloon, a Jesuit secondary school which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary. It was the first gathering of the communications apostolate since the pandemic, providing the opportunity for delegates from different regions to share some of the media projects developed in recent years.

Some of the projects highlighted included an award-winning feature film produced by Jescom Philippines (Gomburza, which is currently available on Netflix), Vietnamese social media initiatives aimed at supporting young people with mental health issues, and a festival highlighting young film-makers in Timor-Leste.

In addition to the sharing and collaboration sessions, delegates also met Cardinal Stephen Chow Sau-yan SJ, who has served as Bishop of Hong Kong since 2021 and was made a Cardinal in 2023. Cardinal Chow offered some insights into the Church in China, and the role of the Church in Hong Kong in building a bridge between the mainland and the broader Catholic Church.

Banner image shows sunflowers in early morning sunlight. Photo: David McMahon

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