22 February 2017 : A newsletter of the Australian Jesuits

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Fr General visits Haiti and Mexico


Jesuit Father General Adolfo Nicolás has visited the earthquake-stricken country of Haiti, viewing the reconstruction efforts and expressing his concern for the vulnerable populace as they wait for the tropical rains to arrive.


The Haiti visit was part of a two-week journey to Latin America in April that took in Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.


Visiting the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, on 29 April, Fr Nicolás said the city looked like a ‘Museum of Disasters'.


‘I did not see much evidence that reconstruction is taking place. Most of the work I saw was done by NGOs (non-government organisations) or religious groups', he said. 


The earthquake struck the country on 29 January, but Fr Nicolás said damaged buildings such as the President's Palace and the airport were yet to be repaired. The damage done to residential houses means that many of the people in the city are still living in camps.


‘I wonder what will happen to the poor people living in those camps when the tropical rains come very soon', he said. ‘No solutions appear in view, and I am afraid that people might be living in their present horrible conditions for a long while to come. Seeing so many little children among them, one shivers at the prospect of their growing up in such conditions.'


Fr Nicolás said the Jesuits in Haiti were focused on the right priorities and perspectives. After first working on emergency relief, their focus has begun to turn to the reconstruction of the country.


‘This is an enormous task, and they could begin cooperating with others, without losing the vision of transforming the present crisis into a creative time to work and build for the good of the country and with Haitian eyes, not simply following the dictates of other countries', said Fr Nicolás.


He said some of the workers were tired and exhausted from responding to the disaster over many months. But he was greatly inspired and encouraged by their generosity and desire to rebuild.


‘It was also encouraging to meet Jesuit novices and lay volunteers who are offering all kinds of help in different areas: medical, technical, structural etc. Disasters have a way of attracting the best of humanity, and one can find such goodness in Haiti right now.'


Fr Nicolás was also a keynote speaker at the Jesuit Higher Education Conference in Mexico City from 21 to 25 April.


Addressing nearly 200 participants representing more than 102 institutions across the globe (including Fr Frank Brennan SJ from Australia), Fr Nicolás spoke about the challenges globalisation presented to Jesuit universities and institutions of learning.


He highlighted the need to combat superficiality by studying the emerging cultural world of students more deeply in order to find creative ways of promoting depths of thought and imagination. He also invited Jesuit universities to renew their commitment to be mediators between faith and culture as a response to the global spread of secularism and fundamentalism.


Education offers a path for a better future for young people, he said.


‘We are looking for a better way to live more humanly, a way to live that involves less injustice, one that is less exclusive', he said.


‘We all want to be part of that change. We wish to be part of this process. The solutions, today, necessarily involve everyone who is part of the problem.'


Source: SJ News


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