Ignatian Spirituality and the Migrants

Ignatius was a restless man to do ever more and ever better. His moving from place to place (Pomplona – Monserrat – Manresa – Jerusalem – Barcelona – Alcala – Paris – Venice – Rome) as a pilgrim and his begging for his needs in Flanders during his studies in Paris have greater impact on him towards the service for the poor and the marginalized. When he was describing the types of Jesuit houses, he indicates road as a home. For the Jesuits road should make them feel at home as they are sent where there is greater need (FI 3). St Ignatius of Loyola writes in his letter to the Jesuits at Paduva (1547): Friendship with the poor makes us friends of the eternal King.Ignatius who has been once on the road seeking for enlightenment, would like his sons to address the needs of those who are on the roads seeking for safety and dignity.

In the Spiritual Exercises, at the end of the very first exercise (SpEx 53), one is asked to reflect, in the presence of the Crucified Jesus. And today we have the crucified people amidst us as the focus of our mission! Jon Sobrino (CfWitnesses to the Kingdom) reflects on the ‘crucified people’ who are the people dying innocently and defenselessly as a result of injustice. The refugees, the internally displaced, the migrants, and those at the margins are crucified every day as the most vulnerable.

Over the period of time, the call of GC 32 for ‘faith that does justice’ has evolved as ‘faith and reconciliation’ in GC 36. Looking at the world today we see how abject poverty, injustice, discrimination, and suppression result in systematic violence against the dignity of men, women, and children. The end result from the world of conflict and suppression, persecution, violence, natural disaster and the scourge of poverty is refugees, migrants, internally displaced, economically, socially, and religiously marginalized.  This end result needs response as a testament to the innate desire for happiness and dignity of every human being.

Over the past two decades, the global population of forcibly displaced people has grown substantially from 33.9 million in 1997 to 65.6 million (22.5 million refugees, 40.3 million internally displaced people, 2.8 million asylum seekers) in 2016, and it continues to increase in number at present especially with the Syrian refugee influx. 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day.

What do we do for these of our brethren? As JRS is offering humanitarian help as well as post secondary education, Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL – www.jwl.org) is seeking to empower them through higher education. Since 2010, over 5,000 forcibly displaced and marginalized people have benefited from JWL’s higher education programs, 50% of whom are women. JWL offers in effect three types of programs:

  1. Global English Language – It is a Cambridge program of six levels with the final exam and certificate from the Cambridge University.
  2. Professional program that lasts (online) 6 to 12 months – It is mainly to help the refugees and the displaced to do social work, teaching in the school, health service etc.
  3. Academic program of 45-credits – Certificates are from Regis University, Denver.

Now JWL is moving forward offering AA (Associate Degree) with 60 credits and BA degree with 120 credits.

JWL has made progress with new centers and we could reach out to the refugees and the marginalized in nearly 30 learning centers around the world. Right now the JWL centers are effective in:

Africa (Kenya, Malawi, Chad, Mali, Zambia);

South Asia (Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Afghanistan);

Middle East (Iraq, Jordan); and

The Caribbean (Haiti, Dominican Republic); and South America (Paraguay).

In Kerala JWL Learning centers are around Trivandrum: Poovar, Thumba, and Anjengo.

In the true Ignatian spirit JWL goes ahead in the true spirit of magis, to do ever more. And we are invited to give our best to the least in the society, especially the migrants:

To serve the poor as they deserve the best service:

To give (the best) without counting the cost;

To fight (for their cause of dignity and liberation) heedless of wounds;

To labour (all the time in all corners of the world) without seeking rest;

To sacrifice (all our resources and efforts) without thought of any reward –

except the freedom and fullness of life of the refugees, displaced, marginalized.

We seek the greater glory of God in the empowering service of the needy, especially the forcibly displaced and the migrants.

Francis P Xavier SJ, Email: francisx@vsnl.com

Gasson Professor, Boston College, USA

Vice President for Academics and Research, JWL, Geneva

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