EcoJesuit in the Amazon

Sue Martin, Sustainability Centre Coordinator at Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview, reports on the recent EcoJesuit meeting in the Amazon.

EcoJesuit has as its aim the coordination of the ecological and environmental work of the Society of Jesus globally. Recently I attended its 2018 annual meeting on behalf of the Australian Province and Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP).

The meeting was held in Colombia because Pope Francis has announced that the 2019 Synod will have the Amazon as its theme, and EcoJesuit wanted to include this focus in the meeting in preparation for the Synod.

The meeting was held in the capital Bogota, and in Leticia, a small town deep in the Amazon Jungle. The brief was to develop a five-year strategy for the period 2019­–23; the focus of EcoJesuit during this period will be ‘water’.

In Bogota the objective was to establish links with academia and NGOs working in that part of the world. We met at the Pontifical Javeriana University (a Jesuit university) for a one-day workshop.

In Leticia, a three-day strategy workshop took place. Twelve delegates attended, including EcoJesuit director, Fr Pedro Walpole SJ (based in the Philippines), and the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat assistant, Fr Xavier Jeyaraj SJ (Rome).

The three working days were followed by field trips, including a 75km boat trip down the Amazon, during which we were fortunate to see the river’s famous pink dolphins. We were hosted by an Indigenous family on the last day, experiencing how they now live in an urban setting and farm on the edge of the jungle.

We learned that the Amazon is under serious threat due to deforestation, which has global implications for both biodiversity loss and climate change. We explored how focusing on water as a key theme has the potential to draw together the many diverse social action centres run by Jesuits throughout the world.

The workshop was inspirational, but the strategy for the next five years now needs to be implemented enthusiastically and vigorously.

Sue Martin is the Sustainability Centre Coordinator at Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview.

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