Listen to José Magadia SJ about his views on the issue of ecology, one of the “hot topics” of the General Congregation.
Fr Magadia’s interest in ecology, at least at the moment while he is rector of the Loyola House Jesuit Residence in Davao City, Philippines, is of a personal rather than institutional nature. This sort of personal interest is shared by other Jesuits in his country: “In the Philippines, we have become accustomed to many catastrophes that are environment-based. We have had terrible floods, we have had landslides, many people die, and it’s always been an issue in the country. The interest is there for a whole lot of us, in a general sort of way.” He considers ecology “very, very important” and says: “I cannot understand why there are still some who find it difficult to see this as an important issue. That was one of my surprises [at the GC], to find out that there are some who do not. I think we [Jesuits] have always been interested, but now we feel that the time has come for a more explicit movement towards valuing the environment as something that we share and therefore have to protect together.”
Asked about different approaches to environmental concerns in the global north and south, Fr Magadia reflects: “Maybe there are differences but I think the spirit is the same and that spirit has to do with finding ways and means to preserve Mother Earth, to respect her, to find ways and means to respond, so that the future can be better safeguarded.” He points out that the challenges are different at different levels of the Society: “Certainly at the very base, among Jesuits, it will mean issues of lifestyle. Individuals will have to do some kind of examination of conscience where challenges are concerned.” But beyond that there are the levels of communities, institutions, provinces, assistancies and conferences. “And now”, he adds, “I think there is an urgency to see the Society as being able to move on the universal level, not merely as sub-units.”
He sees JRS as a possible model for this: “For the Society to make an impact on the global level, something like JRS has to happen, something that is more universal, where you have values, individuals, experts contributing to a clear issue, to identify priorities. Environment is such a big issue, you’d have to unpack it: climate change, deforestation, marine preservation, desertification, and I guess the task of prioritisation will have to go hand in hand with our asking ourselves what our capacities are, where our strengths lie, and what the need is out there.” The question for the Society of Jesus to keep in mind is: “What is not being done that needs to be done?”
In response to this question, the whole of the Society could become involved: “This is where science, faith, research and education should come together, it really requires a multi-sector response, it cannot be done by single institutions. We have to get our work done as a unified body.” One example of approaching environmental issues on a global level is to do advocacy. However, it takes the right skills to do this: “If you want to enter the international advocacy area, you have to train in lobbying, you are going to have to know the ins and outs of the various international organisations working in these areas and play the game. And part of playing the game is knowing the rules, both the formal rules and the informal rules. These are skills that go beyond the issue of environment – they have to do with lobbying, with management, with an ability to see where things are really going and to know what is important and what is not important. [For this, you need] a good manager, someone who can bring people together, a networker.”
In conclusion, Fr Magadia looks at the immediate future: “My hope is that we can already start now. There are people already who are aware, and who want to engage in specific, concrete actions. Others just have levels of sympathy, which is fine, these are all improvements from zero. But I think with the younger men, there are more possibilities.”