For the past two weeks Trung Nguyen SJ (the Rector of Jesuit Mission) and I have been visiting Jesuit ministries in Hazaribag (India) and Lahore (Pakistan), and meeting the Australian Jesuits living and working in those places.
Our Province’s links with Hazaribag go back some 66 years to when the first Australian Jesuits were missioned there. Since then, more than 40 Jesuits from Australia have served in India. Eleven are still there.
Our links with Lahore go back some 30 or more years, and have involved a much smaller group of Australians. Two are still ministering there.
The contribution of Australian Jesuits to the people and Church in India has been underpinned by a wide range of supporters in Australia and New Zealand. The annual Maytime Fair in Melbourne and Indian Bazaar in Sydney give great testimony to that long, loyal and generous support.
Over recent years, our links and responsibilities to other countries in our Asia Pacific Conference have increased, too. We now support projects in many countries in our Conference and have particularly supported East Timor, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.
What does the future hold? It is not easy to let go of our connections and relationships with India — nor, I think, should we.
Yet our commitment to our own Conference is most important, and the demands are ever increasing. It is important we continue to grow in friendship and partnership with the other Provinces of our Asia Pacific Conference.
This recent visit to India has caused me to reflect that we are being invited to consider a new chapter in our relationship with the Hazaribag Province.
While our Australian men in India age and their numbers decrease, we pray the Hazaribag Province will continue to grow. I hope we can encourage those in Australia who have long supported the Hazaribag mission to continue to do so.
But, as well, I hope we can open a new dialogue as to how a new two-way partnership might now evolve, building on that relationship of some 66 years.
How might we further grow that relationship? What might a realistic, new, mutually beneficial two-way partnership look like? This is something I hope we might all consider in the year to come.
Fr Brian F. McCoy SJ, Provincial
PS: It is not hard to see and experience the power of dust and smog in Asia, whether travelling in convoy with coal trucks in Hazaribag or experiencing the smog of Delhi or Lahore. Schools were closed in Delhi for the week we were there and planes delayed in and out of both Delhi and Lahore.
Whatever economic benefits the proposed Adani mine brings to Australians, it is hard to see it will bring long-term health benefits to the people of India.