The report I delivered last Jan. 3 to the Superiors and Directors of Work of the Jesuits in the Philippines on the “Mindanao Conversation” of Dec 26-28 was well received. Fr. Provincial Tony Moreno repeatedly expressed his gratitude to the Ateneo de Davao University team that conceptualized the Conversations in the format of our now regular Pakighinabi, invited and followed up on the participants, arranged accommodations, prepared the venue with maps, historical photos, and Mindanao décor, provided for meals, meriendas, background readings online, cultural enrichments, multimedia coverage, stenographic and secretariat documentation. I repeat my thanks to this team including Vinci Bueza, Bong Eliab, Bel Actub, Beth Arcena, Su Doromal, Philip Santos, Fretzie Alfaro, Stephen Fundador, Tess Isidor, Tender Farolin, Meong Cabarde, Faye Bello, Riza Baldovino, Rikki Enriquez, Vina Araneta, Ian Parcon, Nonoy Tomacruz and all their companions. It was an extraordinary job on days normally given to rest and recreation. It was a job excellently done!
In an earlier blog, I published my report on the Mindanao Conversations. Part of that report was a listing of the ten action points proposed by the participants of Mindanao Conversations. After the meeting of Superiors and Directors of Work it is clear that these action points shall be taken very seriously, even if the manner in which they are now formulated may not be carved in stone. Jesuit communities and institutions are now invited to reflect on them as they shall in substance be made part of “the Province Roadmap” at least for the years under the leadership of Fr. Tony as Provincial of the Philippine Province.
In an attempt to begin the reflection on the action points insofar as they pertain to ADDU, the first thing that can be stated is that the four foci of discernment belong to the vision-mission statement of the Ateneo. First, ADDU is missioned to develop “communities of peace” especially as these may develop from “the promotion of faith that does justice,” “cultural sensitivity and transformation,” “inter-religious dialogue, especially with the Muslim and Lumad communities of Mindanao.” Second, ADDU is missioned to promote “the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution.” Third, ADDU is missioned to engage “vigorously in environmental protection, the preservation of bio-diversity, and the promotion of renewable energy.” Finally, ADDU appropriates “the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola” and so “excels in the formation of leaders for the Philippine Church and society, especially for Mindanao. This means that the areas on which the Philippine Jesuits discerned extraordinarily during the Mindanao Conversations are the habitual areas of concern of the ADDU from its self understanding and mission.
Sometimes however what is habitual turns routine – even in the halls of academe. Instead of excitement, one meets boredom. The religious moment fails to connect. Yet, precisely because actual peace has not been achieved, and poverty remains most debilitating in Mindanao, and the environment ravished by the human being takes reluctant vengeance now on millions of human lives, and leadership that is both appropriate and effective so woefully rare, the need for all even in the ADDU community to reflect on the topics of discernment may have more than usual significance.
Commitment to Peace
As a Jesuit University, ADDU pursues peace first and foremost in its University commitment to the discovery of transmission of truth. This is because of an abiding commitment to Jesus Christ, “the way, the light, and the truth.” As there can ultimately be no conflict between faith and reason, so must the historical conflicts between faiths in God find ultimate reconciliation in God himself, who is truth. It is God himself who shall have to lead ADDU to this reconciliation. The ADDU must follow God’s lead, humbly.
The commitment to truth provides significant agenda for reflection, research and instruction: the truth of the Mindanao narrative from the viewpoint of Mindanawons, the truth of the injustice done on Mindanawons by non-Mindanawons, Spaniards, Americans, Japanese and Settlers from the north, the exclusion of Mindanaons, Islamized and non-Islamized, from their homelands. The narrative of indigenous and foreign religions, of Islam and of Christianity, each seeking the hearts and minds of the Mindanawons, seeking to express themselves in their ways of worship, their ways of living together, their song and their dance, their rituals of work, recreation and play, of love and sorrow, of generating life and meeting death. The narratives however of discord among these peoples, of misinterpretation of customs, of exploitation, of suffering and poverty. The narrative also of vast and diverse wealth in natural resources – in mountains heavy with pristine forests, in oceans, rivers and lakes teeming with life, in unimaginably rich gold- and mineral mines, in rich fields for bountiful harvests. The narrative, however, also of how these natural riches have been alienated from the Mindanawons, their forests destroyed, their ricefields abused, to promote private interests or foreign interests, rather than those of the Mindanawons as such. This narrative must be told and re-told, so that the injustices done against Mindanawons be manifest, and the debt in justice to Mindanawons be recognized not only within the Philippines but even beyond our shores. ADDU must find its mission in this truth.
In the diversity of positions that divide Christian from Christian, Muslim from Muslim, Lumad from Lumad, ADDU, led by a God of Truth, Light and Compassion and the goodness of people who come together in his name, must continue to excel in Action Point 4: “That Jesuit universities and institutions act as convenors and consensus builders in facilitating and providing more avenues for inclusive discussion, dialogue, collaboration and consultation on crucial issues such as peace, environment, wealth creation and its equitable distribution, spiritualty, leadership, social justice and the common good among various stakeholders hat include both the main actors and informal leaders.” Through its various schools and units, its experts in diverse disciplines, through its departments of theology and philosophy, its Al Qalam Institute, its Mindanawon, its Ateneo Institute of Anthropology, its College of Law, through its faculty, staff and students involved in such multidisciplinary efforts as Pakighinabi, ADDU will continue to bring diverse people together in search for consensus.
In the name of truth, we must strengthen our ability to contribute to ongoing qualified reflection on the common good. Even while the “common good” is itself a history-bound concept that eludes definition once and forever, we must continue to engage in an ongoing critical conversation of what the demands of the common good for our times are. As the Mindanao Conversations suggest, our times are marked by a pained struggle for justice and peace for all Mindanawon peoples, the dominance of an economic system that alienates the wealth of Mindanao from the peoples of Mindanao, an environment still gravely threatened by ”an economy that excludes” even as we already experience the awesome effects of climate change, a dearth of spirituality, esp. Ignatian spirituality, and leadership that is impelled by that spirituality to pursue the common good. We understand the common good necessarily transcends the “private good” of individuals, of national or multi-national corporations, and in our global world, even of nations. But we must consider this among our most urgent tasks in the pursuit of truth. Here, the truth presents itself not only as an object of speculation, but as an imperative for action.
The action must include the transformation of structures. Thus ADDU “provide greater institutional support for social movements and advocacies that actively lobby for the enactment of laws upholding social justice and the common good, as well as offer university support for local church, communities and organizations that support such advocacies” (Action Point 9). This is action that must be coordinated by our University Social Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC) and backed up by our University Research Council (URC).
Through the skills and creativity of its writers and artists, its media practitioners and public relations experts, ADDU shall involve itself vigorously “in communicating peace” (Action Point 1).
Wealth Creation and Equitable Distribution
It is the dehumanizing poverty of so many in Mindanao, especially in the ARMM, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao and Bukidnon, that should drive the university to serious commitment to wealth creation. Wealth is necessary not to satisfy the eros of individuals for private amassment and accumulation, but to meet genuine human needs, to humanize those needs, and so to create cultures that celebrate the best in human creativity and achievement. Wealth created, it is to be distributed equitably in response to human need, not avarice, so that through the creation of wealth, poverty is eradicated not created.
ADDU must develop a greater capacity to participate in ongoing economic research and reflection that would indicate whether our Mindanao communities are creating new material wealth or losing it. We must know whether in Mindanao we are using our resources in a manner which allows wealth to be generated sustainably, and so fuel the ongoing humanization of our communities, or whether we are contributing to a future catastrophe in poverty because in the generation of apparent wealth for the benefit of some we are killing the ability of future generations to create wealth, condemning them to inevitable impoverishment and dehumanization. For this reason we must act to strengthen our faculty of economics under the leadership of Atty. Arnold Abejaron, Chair of our Department of Economics. We have agreed to explore a partnership with ADMU’s Department of Economics through an outreach program that shall develop more expertise in Mindanao economics within the ranks of all the Mindanao-based Ateneos. This will have to be a long-term commitment. Scholarships shall be made available to faculty members and students willing to dedicate their careers in response to this challenge.
It is in this manner that we hope to respond to the 6th and 7th action points of the Mindanao conversations: “Rethink old or create new paradigms in developing initiatives, program and projects that provide for the creation of and access to wealth as a means of addressing poverty and of empowering communities, especially those at the margins” (#6). This must be understood against the backdrop of environmentally devastating large-scale and small-scale mining, the increasing use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture, the use of monocrop farming, the ongoing depletion of forests. “Develop further studies and research on the market that provide the basis for the creation of a new economic system anchored on the principles of accountability, transparency, good governance, social justice, environmental responsibility, and the ultimate aspiration for the common good” (#7). If the ways of wealth creation through an economics of exclusion have been so objectionable, what is the manner in which wealth creation and appropriate distribution should be pursued. This is a key challenge for ADDU.
Meanwhile, our School of Business and Governance, which educates and forms close to half of our student population, may use its ongoing strategic planning to appropriate these challenges. Business and entrepreneurship are about wealth creation. But they are also about the formation of managers and entrepreneurs who are as zealous for the equitable distribution of wealth as they are for its creation.
The common good demands not only attention to poverty but to the environment. The efforts towards justice and peace in Mindanao, wealth creation and its equitable distribution, and spirituality-driven leadership must all be based on a need to respect and protect the environment. This belongs to what is demanded in “rethinking old and creating new paradigms” of wealth creation of Action Point 6 and in the “creation of a new economic system” of Action Point 7. Beyond committing ourselves to greater participation in environmentally responsible economic reflection, we must continue the work of educating our students in environmental responsibility, e.g. the work of Ecoteneo in our Basic Education, and in doing cutting edge research on the environment, e.g., the recently-published first part of the studies by TropICS and AIA on the effects of mining and water in Mindanao.
Spirituality and Leadership
We know the importance of spirituality. It is “what makes us tick.” The University Ignatian Formation Office has been attending to this for the ADDU Community. It supports reflection on one’s actual effective spirituality, and invites appropriation of Ignatian spirituality through its retreats, recollections, and follow ups. The Mindanao Conversations encourage this – and more. Its Action Point 8: “Create new, ingenious ways in appropriating and integrating Ignatian Spirituality that embrace various aspects and ways of life – or as applied in different religious contexts – as a key component not only in strengthening social formation but also in developing relevant social engagements and advocacies.” It asks that wealth of Ignatian spirituality be allowed to impact on different aspects of life in different cultures and even in different religions; that it be allowed to help shape social conscience and social action, that therefore leadership. This is possible through an insightful use of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Here ADDU, in its own appropriation of the Ignatian Spirituality, shall be able to make its contribution.
Parallel to this, the Mindanao Conversations call emphatically for the creation of appropriate leaders: “Create values-based leadership formation programs for Christian, Muslims and Indigenous peoples that provide probing critical analyses of the complex issues of peace, using inclusive, integrative, and exploratory multidisciplinary approaches” (Action Point 1). “Form leaders both in the church and society who possess good moral conscience, a healthy understanding of the exercise of Christian power that puts the common good over and above personal interests, and who are responsible and accountable for decisions made on behalf of the community” (Action Point 2). “Develop a leadership institute for indigenous peoples that provides appropriate formation of tribal leaders, empowering them to better address socio-cultural and political issues affecting their respective communities, and capacitating them with technical know-how in dealing with complex issues such as ancestral domain, environmental protection, cultural preservation, among others” (Action Point 3).
This is a tall order. Fr. Provincial Moreno has stated that Action Point 3 shall be referred to the Jesuit Higher Education Commission (JHEC), which will however not completely take it out of our court. ADDU will need to contribute to this through its Ateneo Institute of Anthropology and Mindanawon and School of Education. Already these ADDU units have developed a proposal for a Senior High School for the T’Boli which will incorporate long-term leadership formation.
On the one hand, the development and formation of leaders at ADDU in the sense of Action Points 1 and 2 is a general aim of its education mission and core curriculum and incorporated in its general thrust of forming ADDU Leaders Sui Generis. The Academic Council under the AVP and Ateneo Leadership Center under Beth Arcena however can review core curriculum and leadership formation activities to check on the formation of “good moral conscience” and the “healthy understanding of the exercise of Christian power that puts the common good over and above personal interests.”
On the other hand, it may be noted that the substance of these two action points is anything but general but refers in fact to the rich content of the Mindanao Conversations. It is a statement that there are not enough values-based leaders for Christians, Muslims and IPs who are able to critically analyze the complex issues of peace in Mindanao using … multidisciplinary approaches. There are not enough leaders both in church and society who possess good moral conscience… and who can subordinate private interest to the common good, etc. ADDU must therefore find its actual role in the creation of these leaders, first, from among its own faculty and students, and then from among the many publics with which it interacts and exerts influence.
May these conversations lead to great desires, and great desires to discernment, and discernment to carrying out God’s will!