A vision of action and hope

Joel Thompson SJ on his speaker tour
Joel Thompson SJ on his speaker tour

Lynn McWilliams, Outreach Coordinator at Jesuit Missions, explains how, through its work with schools, the organisation journeys with youth, helping them to explore the contribution they can make to living a faith that does justice.

Companions in Action

As part of the Companions in Action partnership programme for schools, the Jesuit Missions Education Advisory Group is creating exciting new resources, including an Agents for Change journal for primary schools. Creativity, art, music, poetry and drama are being explored as a means of sharing culture and ways of caring for our common home. Young people in our schools are being urged to take an active role in the world, whether by adopting lifestyle changes, participating in events such as the climate change lobby or by volunteering with Jesuit Missions.

As part of this emphasis on creativity, Jesuit Missions will be a part of ‘Instruments of Creation’. This initiative of Leonie Adams, a music teacher at St John’s Beaumont, is designed to use music and the arts as a way of better understanding our relationship with the created world. St John’s Beaumont and Donhead Preparatory Schools are the first schools to participate and will be performing a concert on 11th October 2019, at Sacred Heart Church, in Wimbledon.

We are Change

On 26 September 2019, delegates from the Jesuit and associate schools across Britain will gather for the Companions in Action ‘We are Change’ conference. The keynote speaker for this event will be Fr Leonard Chiti SJ, Provincial of the Zambia-Malawi Province and former coordinator of the Global Ignatian Advocacy Network. He will be discussing the impact of climate change on farmers in places like Zambia and looking at a way forward during this period of ecological transition. The conference is about empowerment and helping young people to gain information and skills, which will help them to realise their potential to be a positive voice for social and environmental change in a complex world.

Fr Leonard Chiti will also be doing a speaker tour, titled “The Future of food in Zambia: A Climate Change warning”. The tour dates include the 8th October at Farm Street and the 30th September at St Wilfrid’s in Preston.

Personal witness

Jesuit Missions believes that personal witness, meeting individuals who are making a difference, is a dynamic way of empowering youth. During Lent 2019, Fr Xavier Jeyaraj SJ, of the Jesuit Social Justice and Environment Secretariat in Rome, visited Jesuit schools across the UK and asked: Is leadership too important to be left to leaders? He explored the concept of leadership in contemporary society and proposed that everyone needs to exercise a leadership role to speak out for social and environmental justice. Already marginalised because of poverty, indigenous people often lack a voice to bring about change. Those like Fr Jeyaraj who seek to speak out for them are frequently threatened with intimidation and violence.

Joel Thompson SJ’s speaker tour, ‘Reflections on the Good Life: Dialogue and Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in Guyana’, considered how dialogue with indigenous peoples is fruitful since their ‘cosmovision’ can challenge prevailing conceptions of the good life while dispelling romantic notions about their lifestyles and initiatives. He also discussed the forthcoming Synod for the Amazon as an opportunity to build bridges of solidarity and respectful dialogue with the people of Amazonia.

Both speakers emphasised that young people have a key role to play in being a voice for positive change in the world.

"Jesuit Missions’ outreach programme is journeying with youth in this time of social and ecological transition, offering a vision of action and hope," concludes Lynn McWilliams.

This article was first published on JESUITS AND FRIENDS 103