[Address. Ignacianidad 20/21 – Ateneo Leaders Summit]
From the Ateneo de Davao it is my privilege to greet the organizers and participants of this year’s summit of Ateneo leaders, Ignacianidad, with its theme, “New Approaches to a Better, Different, Human Future for a World in Crisis.” Happily, you draw inspiration from Pope Francis’ talk, “A Crisis Reveals What is in Our Hearts.”[i]
With Francis, you ask yourselves, what the disruption of this COVID crisis – or any crisis – is revealing about what needs to be changed in yourselves or in our society: like your lack of internal freedom, your lack of self-control; like the idols that we may serve, power, wealth, pleasure; like the ideologies that take possession of our lives, consumerism, materialism, racism; like the relationships we have neglected, like the persons in our lives we quietly despise, like the people in the peripheries of our society we have discarded, or thrown away, and no longer see, because we have built our walls thick and high so that we don’t have to see them.
The crisis allows us to encounter people who suddenly jolt us with the simple dedication of their knowledge, competencies, skills and compassion; they help people; they save lives, quietly, generously, not thinking about the costs to their own lives, leading them sometimes to lay down their own that others may live. They are not in the spotlight of celebrities but are simple “saints next door” who have awakened something important in our hearts, your hearts: like, it is better to live a shorter life serving others than a longer life resisting that call, or like the quiet consideration, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
Your summit gives you opportunity in this light to envision a better future for a world in crisis: a crisis of many crises we have meanwhile grown numb to: wars, weapons, hunger, violence, genocide, refugees, manipulation, human trafficking, drugs, extra-judicial killings, the hurricanes, raging fires, melting glaciers and threatening oceans of human-induced climate change. Their images are omnipresent in our social and mainstream media, so present we often don’t see them, or don’t care to see them, preferring pleasure to pain, isolation to engagement, denial to truth.
Unless, of course, by insight that may come like a rushing wind or like a gentle breeze, by insight that some may call extraordinary but others only fitting, insight graced and reasoned, one can imagine a future of a better humanity; insight that combines vision with commitment, and enthusiasm with patience, and fire with peace. Francis calls it here “solidarity,” where we are “bound by bonds of reciprocity”, human beings bonding by exchanging creative humaneness with inspired humaneness reciprocally, not just exchange of wares with wares. Solidarity breaks down barriers which separate and alienate, crushing structures which reduce human beings to isolated individualists, addict them to things, reduce them to things, make them cogs in a mammoth machine of voracious consumers that favors some with opulence, enslaves others in mediocrity, and discards those that are irrelevant.[ii] In another document, Francis calls global solidarity “fraternity” and the commitment to break down barriers until fraternity be achieved “social friendship.” Why? Because “Fratelli Tutti”[iii], he says, because we are all sisters and brothers in the Father’s Creation, because we are sisters and brothers in redemption through Jesus, because we are sisters and brothers in humanity.
For this Ignacianidad, this insight, this challenge, this calling, this commitment to Fraternity through social friendship, not alone but with others, putting organized human power (politics) over a dehumanizing and ecologically destructive consumerist economy, might be called leadership.[iv] It might be a way to a better, different and human future for our world in crisis. Unto this leadership, I wish you, Ateneans, humility, wisdom, courage and strength in solidarity.
[i] NY Times. Nov. 26, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/26/opinion/pope-francis-covid.html
[ii] Cf. the Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm, a major contribution of Francis’ Laudato Si’, Nos. 106-114. 2015
[iii] Francis. Fratelli Tutti: On Fraternity and Social Friendship. 2020. Cf. esp. “A Better Kind of Politics” Nos. 154-197.
[iv] Ibid. Ateneo leadership should consider Francis’ challenge towards “Good Politics” – politics in social friendship unto Fraternity.