22 February 2017 : A newsletter of the Australian Jesuits

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Questions for the General #4: Refugees


Associate Professor Marie Joyce is an academic and clinical psychologist, and a Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society. She is an Honorary Fellow in the Quality of Life and Social Justice Research Centre at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. With Father Michael Smith SJ and others, she was a founding member of the Refugee Tertiary Education Committee (RTEC) which works to advocate for refugees to bring free tertiary education to overseas camp-based refugees. Marie is a Director of the Board of the Lighthouse Foundation which cares for homeless young people in Victoria using a therapeutic model of care. She is also a member of the Colloquium on Violence and Religion (COV&R) and a member of the Australian Girard Seminar (AGS). Marie was a Consultant to the Provincials of the Society of Jesus, and the Jesuit Province Consult from 1994-2002. Marie and Gerry Joyce entertained Fr Nicolás and Fr Raper for dinner at their home in Melbourne on Fr Nicolás’ last visit to Australia.


Marie’s question: Since 2000, the group in Melbourne known as the Refugee Tertiary Education Committee (RTEC), in collaboration with universities in Australia and overseas, has been working to bring free higher education online to camp-based Burmese refugees on the Thai-Burma border. A major issue for many refugees to confront is the matter of transitional justice in the post-conflict context when they are able to return to their countries, for example to Burma/Myanmar. How can RTEC and the universities advance and expand this educational work to foster peace-building and reconciliation in post-conflict settings?


I have to say that the first time I heard about an online tertiary education project was here in Australia when I visited Australian Catholic University, and some of the priests here were involved. Since then I have admired very much what has happened and the number of refugees supported by this program, so I think it is an excellent initiative, a magnificent initiative. My hope is that the number of countries that are going to use this is going to increase.


I am very positive about the project. At the same time I think that this is a very specialised kind of project that requires a lot of expertise and thinking and reflection. I am sure that you have thought about this much more than I have and, therefore, I feel unable to say more than the admiration I have felt.  I know that Jesuit Refugee Service is very keen on continuing this kind of service and we have in the Society now what they call Jesuit Commons which is a way of continuing with these kinds of projects and offering them to different parts of the world. I hope that this will continue because the possibilities are enormous.


The questions of transitional justice, and then reconciliation and peace, in these educational environments are obviously primary concerns, and they are being reflected upon by the different institutions and networks.  Not only JRS, but the universities are also thinking about creating a network on precisely these topics. The Jesuits in Africa consider that this is one of the priorities that they have to bring forth. Because on the one hand they have a great need to cover all the conflicts that have occurred in Africa, and on the other hand they feel that they can help other provinces in the world with their experience of reconciliation.


When we had the meeting in Mexico of Jesuit universities the idea and the concern for creating meaningful networks was strongly raised, and I know that it's being followed up. There is going to be a meeting in Boston to apply the same visions and the same perspectives. So my hope is that this is coming to fruition, but the specifics require professional thinking, and I think you're more equipped than I am. 


Fr General fielded questions from six people at his address on 25 January. In this edition of Province Express, we feature the second three questions. The other three questions were featured in the last edition.


Questions for the General #6: Social Justice

What do you see is the role of the Jesuits and the Society's works in promoting a more just society? 

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Questions for the General #5: Communications

Since the time of the early companions, it has been a special mission of the Jesuits to confront atheism. How much of a priority is this currently, and what exactly is the Society doing about it? 

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