Giving Sustainability a Home at AJCUAP?


[Welcome Address: Annual Meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Asia Pacific (AJCU-AP), Sanata Dharma University, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, 11-12 August, 2016.]

As chair of AJCU-AP it is my privilege once again to welcome you to the annual meeting of our association. With Fr. Mark Raper, President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP), I thank Dr. Johannes Eka Priyatma, President of Sanata Dharma University and Fr. Sunu Hardiayanjta, Provincial of the Indonesian Province, for your warm welcome – enriched by the performances of the Grishada and the Cantus Firmus. Already now, I wish to greet and thank all the members of the SDU staff and the gracious volunteers who are doing so much to make our meeting pleasant and fruitful.

We come together, as we always do, in fellowship and shared mission in higher education. We rejoice in meeting one another again, and welcome those who are here for the first time.

Since our last meeting in Melbourne, which immediately followed the Melbourne Summit of Jesuit Higher Education, we have not only continued to operate our higher educational institutions in our different countries, but we have sought to collaborate with the global mission of the Society of Jesus through the various platforms that were presented during the Melbourne Summit. Among these platforms were the Jesuit Digital Network, the Healing Earth E-Textbook and the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins Platform. A Status Report, albeit incomplete, of our collaboration here appears in the booklet you have received. Another report describes the status of our ongoing collaboration in Service Learning which was handled in 2015 by Sogang University with the theme, “Social Engagement Based on Justice.”

Slowly we are learning that it belongs to the character of our AJCU-AP Colleges and Universities not only to collaborate with other Jesuit universities but also with other Jesuit apostolates.

This was experienced wonderfully in the just concluded three-day JCAP Sustainability for Human Life Conference also here in Sanata Dharma University – which was a celebration in collaboration of the JCAP Clusters of Reconciliation with Creation, Migration, Inter-Religious Dialogue, Higher Education, Basic Education, Spirituality and Formation coming together under the theme of Sustainability for Human Life. The actual pursuit of “Sustainability” was experienced variously among the poor, within families, in civil society organizations, in credit unions, in farmers’ cooperatives and the like. Its concept was examined against the backdrop of ASEAN’s unsustainable model of development; it was then examined in the light of a sustainable use of environmental resources  and a sustainable culture of human living which consumes those resources responsibly toward an optimum realization of human flourishing which excludes no person; it was examined in terms of how people today must convert themselves and their lifestyles to the demands of this sustainability, which themselves must be discussed and negotiated.

Towards the end of the seminar, it was noted and recognized that the pursuit of sustainability in these terms is the pursuit of the common good which we reflected on with Fr. Patrick Riordan in our last meeting in Melbourne.

It was also noted that while the JCAP Sustainability Conference was a wonderful experience of the Jesuit Conference from below, with Jesuit and lay collaborators experiencing one another horizontally in pursuing sustainability as a heuristic, that is, as a common good that needs to be further clarified and achieved through cooperation and negotiation, what the pursuit of sustainability at this point needs is a home. How can the insight, passion, resolve, and dedication to sustainability experienced in the JCAP conference find an institutional home – lest the commitment to sustainability itself not be sustained?

I believe the AJCU-AP ought offer itself to give this JCAP multi-sectoral apostolic movement towards sustainability a home. As universities we are Jesuit because we appropriate the Jesuit mission – the commitment to the faith, the promotion of justice, cultural sensitivity, inter-religious dialogue and reconciliation with creation.

In faith, we see the mandate to sustainability as a response to God’s love in his gift of creation  and to his compassion in working out our redemption from our sins, even from our sins against nature. In justice, we see sustainability as the call of social justice to the common good for all human beings sharing and preserving the same common home. In sensitivity to cultures and in interreligious dialogue, we see sustainability as a recognition of the multiplicity of cultures and religions sustaining and enriching each other in diversity or diminishing and destroying humanity in its absence. In reconciliation with creation we see sustainability as the condition that must be achieved for the preservation of the planet for future generations.

In this spirit, the Jesuit universities search or research for the theoretical and practical requirements of sustainability, instruct in this truth, and serve communities transformatively in its urgency. Being university in this sense, in Fr. Adolfo Nicolas’ sense of proyekto social, is today only possible through the active collaboration of the university with apostolic partners in faith, in the pursuit of social justice, the strengthening of human communities, in inter-religious dialogue, and in genuine commitment for the renewal of our common home.

In this context, AJCU-AP may wish to consider during this annual meeting whether it might offer itself as a home of the JCAP sustainability movement. We ought consider this well. For the urgency of the sustainability challenge will demand that the JCAP apostolic clusters rely on us for actual collaboration.   It will not do just to formulate and approve a resolution then abandon it in the year’s operations. We would have to consider whether we can really welcome them home to our colleges and universities in solidarity and shared commitment.

Considering the urgency of achieving a sustainable world and culture, perhaps it would be more than worth our taking up this question during this conference.

I am certain that the keynote address of Fr. Mark Raper shall not be irrelevant to this consideration.


Finally, before we begin our CEO sharing, let me announce – as I already announced last year – that my last term of service as chair of our Association comes to an end tomorrow. After talking to Fr. Mark and my Provincial, I will no longer stand for re-election. I have been very privileged over the last thirteen years to serve this association as its chair; we have moved from an old boys’ club to an association serious about collaboration on substantial issues; it is now time to pass the leadership to another.

Once again, welcome to you all! We look forward to a fruitful meeting.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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