Indian activists from the right-wing Bajrang Dal organisation shout anti-Pakistan slogans during a protest to condemn an attack on pilgrims during the annual Amarnath Yatra in Mumbai on July 11, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
South Asian Jesuits are seeking collaboration with secular groups and marginalized people to make the region more tolerant and peaceful. 'Collaboration and network for harmony' was the theme that 112 leaders of Jesuits in Social Action (JESA) discussed Oct. 13-15 in Pune, western India. Program organizer and JESA secretary Father Stanislaus Jebamalai told ucanews.com the meeting focused on the ideals of freedom, justice and tolerance. JESA was started in 1973 to coordinate the work of Jesuit social workers in South Asia. The Pune gathering came two months after the Jesuit Conference of South Asia circulated a document that stressed South Asian nations were struggling against economic inequalities, caste discrimination and cultural hegemony.
The statement noted that in India and Pakistan fundamentalist forces threatened religious minorities as well as progressive individuals and organizations. Bangladesh faced Islamic fundamentalism and Sri Lanka had not recovered from a self-inflicted civil war. After a long Marxist uprising, Nepal remained unstable and in Bhutan tensions remained between Buddhists and Hindus, the statement noted. Father George Pattery, Jesuit Provincial of South Asia, at the JESA gathering in Pune cited a need for "active listening and intentional speaking." Father John Messi, a Pune Jesuit working with the Jesuit Refugee Service, called for united action by more than 100 non-governmental organizations in the region, spearheaded by Jesuits, to build a "prophetic movement." This incuded giving a voice to the most vulnerable in rural India, not least by instilling awareness of their rights and responsibilities for nation building. Secular leaders in India leaders complain about increased violence against religious minorities, particularly since 2014 when the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the capital, New Delhi. Groups trying to make India a Hindu-only nation took the BJP victory as a mandate, they say. Anand Patwardhan, the noted Indian film maker who addressed the Jesuits, said the "need of the hour" was to spread a message of peace to heart broken people. "Talking and listening to the victims of mob violence is necessary to preserve India’s rich heritage of secularism," Patwardhan said.
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