The Venice Faith and Politics Workshop

The biennial Venice Faith and Politics Workshop invites young people from across Europe to come together to explore the fascinating link between faith and politics.

A network of Jesuit centres and associates has been organising the workshops since 2006, drawing inspiration from European history and the wisdom of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.

During the workshops, participants get the opportunity to explore Christian engagement in public life. The ultimate aim is to encourage them to engage for the common good in a world of contradictions.

Promoting the common good involves:

- Public service: justice depends on people who generously respond to a personal call to work with and for others as stewards of creation.

- Discernment: service calls for shared attention to other people’s lives and to the complexity of human motivation.

- Hope:  in a world damaged by sin, reconciliation and forgiveness are a source of power.

Link to Faith and Politics workshop site: venicefaithandpolitics.wordpress.com

Le Groupe des Deux Rives’ meeting 2016. Le Groupe des Deux Rives (Two Shores’ Group) held its annual meeting on 27th-30st December 2016 in Granada (Spain). Surrounded by the finest examples of Moorish architecture, the group had to visit   the Alhambra and other buildings of the Islamic historical legacy in Andalucia. The history and the dream of Al-Andalus, as well as Christian-Muslim relations weigh a lot, for there has been as much violence as dialogue and living together. The visit to a local Islamic community, whose president chairs the Union of Islamic Communities in Andalucía, allowed us to better understand the spiritual life of Muslims, issues related to Spanish identity of both Islamic communities and several kinds of worshippers (immigrants, their children and Spanish-born Muslims), and the institutional challenges they face. The visit to the Jesuit Faculty of Theology, whose theological reflection is intended to be done in dialogue with Islamic thought, lead us to a common priority for the Society of Jesus in Europe: the need to build solid alliances among Jesuit institutions. As usual, a big part of the meeting consisted of sharing about our lives and missions. As friends in the Lord, we didn’t just speak about topics of common interest, but on our current discernments, our joys and our sorrows. Conversations among the members of the group focused on different topics, such as the difficulties to bring together the dialogue with Muslims and catechumenal work. There was also a profound reflection on conditions for dialogue: dialogue and truth, truth framed by tradition, etc. The fragility of our presence in Maghreb and Turkey underscores the need to constantly place ourselves in the hands of Providence, whilst searching for new companions ready to share in this mission. The group also organises some common activities throughout the year, as the “Inner discovery of Algeria”, a programme aimed at college students and young professionals in Algiers, from 6th to 27th August (convenor: Christophe Ravanel). The next meeting of the Group is foreseen in Turkey (Istanbul) on 26th-30th December 2017 (convenor: Jean-Marc Balhan). The members attending the meeting were: Jean-Marc Balan (Ankara, Turkey), Christophe Ravanel (Algiers-Algeria), Damien de Préville (Constantine-Algeria), Jaume Flaquer (Barcelona-Spain), Jesús León (Constantine-Algeria), Josep Buades (Sevilla-Spain) and Gabriel Pigache (Lyon-France). Two other Jesuits were invited: Maged-William Readany from Egypt, at present studying at the Gregorian University, and Ángel Benítez-Donoso from Madrid, who has been working for two years at JRS-Lebanon as part of his regency. Unfortunately, some others couldn’t participate this time: Sylvain Cariou-Charton (Vanves-France), Jack Germanos (Beirut-Lebanon), Ricardo Jiménez (Algiers-Algeria) and Álvaro Dorantes (Beirut-Lebanon). Juan Carlos Pallardel, who is working in Pakistan, has sent a long message to the group, sharing his experience and asking for help to the Church in Pakistan with retreats and lectures in summer 2017.
Belvedere College SJ has just won the Global High School category of the prestigious Zayed Future Energy Prize in Abu Dhabi – the first Irish school to win the award. Their project to create an ‘off-grid’ urban farm in Dublin city centre will receive $100,000 in funding to allow for the expansion of their current urban farm project on the roof-top space in Belvedere College. Students Barry Heneghan (see photo) and Lorcan O’Kelly travelled to Abu Dhabi with urban farm co-ordinator Simon O’Donnell to enter their eco-farm project for the competition. Students had constructed a 6 kWp solar photovoltaic system along with rainwater harvesting systems to irrigate the farm on the roof. Their plan for the development of the farm project includes maximising sustainability by only using water and energy that can be harvested on-site. In a bold plan for recycling, the nutrient requirements of the farm will be provided by a closed loop aquaponics system. This means that the effluent waste from fish tanks will be pumped on to beds housing crops such as salads, tomatoes and strawberries. In order to minimise inputs, students will experiment with growing phytoplankton and zooplankton to feed the tilapia fish that can also be harvested as a food source.   The Zayed Future Energy is an annual award celebrating achievements that reflect impact, innovation, long-term vision and leadership in renewable energy and sustainability. There are five award categories – Lifetime Achievement, Large Corporation, Small and Medium Enterprise, Non-Profit Organisation and Global High Schools. Currently in its ninth year, previous winners include individuals such as former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and companies such as Panasonic and Siemens.
Ignatian support for the appeal. The Jesuits in Spain, along with its institutions, joined this petition signed by 430 Spanish organizations working for human rights, migration and refuge, in support of the appeal “Do not die of cold ". The appeal requests an European urgent response to protect people on the borders this winter. More than 100 institutions of the Ignatian family have been part of these 430 organization list, some of them social institutions, educational and pastoral centers, lay communities, youth centers, parishes and several university centers. The last images of thousands of refugees enduring the current wave of polar cold without a roof, as well as freezing and death of several of them, have prompted these organizations to request to the European Commission and to the Spanish Government an effective operation that provides the necessary emergency measures in order to guarantee the minimum conditions for these people. More information 
Zagreb, 08 December 2016 – “Paths” is the title of the new newspaper created by asylum seekers and refugees that was launched at the 36th anniversary celebration of JRS in mid-November. Covering a range of inter-cultural issues, the newspaper contains articles in Arabic, Croatian, Farsi and English. Director of JRS South-East Europe Croatia, Tvrtko Barun SJ, said that the newspaper grew from the idea of providing a platform for people who are seeking asylum in Croatia and who have received international protection for expressing their opinions and attitudes and transferring their refugee and integration experiences. “Through this project we want to encourage the encounter between cultures. Among the refugees themselves, but also between our culture and the refugee cultures. We want this project to be the intersection of refugee views, experiences, problems, longings but also future plans on their paths to safety and freedom,” said Barun. He adds that "Paths" will be published with articles in several languages and that it will be issued once a month. The first issue of "Paths" covers issues such as the integration experiences of persons who have been granted asylum in Croatia, the situation of women in Iran, the importance of learning Croatian language in order to facilitate understanding of the culture and comparison between Croatian culture and different cultures. All articles have been written by asylum seekers and refugees in Croatia. “We believe that these newspapers are important for establishing a deeper mutual trust and a confirmation of our sincere intention to offer hospitality to people who, for different reasons, have been forced to flee their homes,” said director Barun.
The Irish Centre for Faith and Justice has responded to a Special Report from Jesuit Secretariat in Rome on global economics and justice. In the opening article, Professor James Wickham, Director of the think-tank TASC, writes that economic growth does not automatically create more and better jobs, and the changing nature of work – a key theme in the Secretariat’s Report – is resulting in increasingly precarious work that militates directly against social justice and equality. In early 2016, a Special Report of Promotio Iustitiae called ‘Justice in the Global Economy – Building Sustainable and Inclusive Communities’ was published by the Jesuit Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology and for Higher Education in Rome. The Report is part of the thrust of the pontificate of Pope Francis on the need for action in the face of ongoing poverty and growing inequality, and severe environmental decline. It specifically focuses on economic conditions, recognising that “the global human community stands at a critical junction”. Bringing a Gospel perspective to important economic and public policy questions, the Report asks: “Will the economic development advancements we are clearly capable of making benefit all people, or will they be reserved for a privileged few?” Following the publication of the Report, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice was invited to reflect and respond to this important document. This response is documented in a new issue of Working Notes (Issue 79, December 2016), the Centre’s journal. The issue gives serious consideration to some of the major social, economic, and environmental justice challenges presented in the Report. Catherine Devitt, environmental justice officer with the Jesuit Centre, focuses on the Report’s theme of the unattended fragility of our common home. In her article, Devitt argues that although economic globalisation has generated considerable benefits for humanity, these same processes are pushing the planetary system towards breaking point. Gerry O’Hanlon SJ responds to the Report’s invitation to identify and explore particular challenges arising in ‘different regions and local situations.’ Providing a theological reflection, he argues that one of the key problems in contemporary Irish society is the difficulty in linking challenging issues with an operative grasp of faith and spirituality. O’Hanlon SJ concludes his article by outlining steps towards a renewed theology. Finally, Brian Flannery, Education Delegate with the Irish Jesuit Province, explains how the promotion of justice is integral to a Jesuit education. In responding to the Report’s call for Jesuit institutions to work for economic justice, Flannery raises the challenging question of whether or not our fee-paying school system is part of the problem. The article concludes by highlighting the importance of reflecting on how Jesuit works challenge social, economic and environmental injustice.   All the articles from this issue of Working Notes can be read online and hard copies are available from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The Special Report Justice in the Global Economy is available online from the website of the Jesuit Curia in Rome.
or we face hell, pleads Syrian Jesuit. Fr Ziad Hilal SJ, the Jesuit priest from Syria who spoke at Farm Street Church in London last year, has just returned from the eastern part of Aleppo – his first visit there for five years. He was able to assess the situation, specifically in the Christian quarter of Al-Midan, and describe what he witnessed to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN): “All you see is total destruction,” he told the international charity. Fr Hilal, who oversees projects in Syria for ACN, gave a talk in July 2015 on the current situation in Syria as part of Farm Street Church's Aid for Syria initiative and revisited the parish when he passed through London earlier this year. He works for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria and, over the weekend, he appealed to the parties in the conflict in Syria and western nations to cease provocation and commit themselves to reconciliation. His call comes less than a week after a ceasefire agreement came into effect for the Syrian city – with only limited effect, according to Fr Hilal. “We hear bombs and missile fire relatively close by,” he told ACN by phone. “Not far from us there are two areas where the rebels are holed up and refuse to surrender. Up to now we’ve only heard fighting.” History and civilisation destroyed At the end of December, the Jesuit residence in Aleppo was shelled, but luckily no one was killed. The community should have been celebrating Mass at the same time that it was bombed, but on that particular Saturday, they were elsewhere on a retreat with a community of Franciscan Sisters. Fr Hilal is urging politicians to seek reconciliation in Syria, otherwise, he says, it will be hell for those living there. “We’ve destroyed the city because we haven’t yet managed to come together in a dialogue,” he insists. “We’ve lost our civilisation and destroyed our history. What for? It’s a tragedy.” Despite the bitter fighting, which has completely destroyed Aleppo, Fr Hilal says that people need to keep hope alive. “Call on the politicians to exercise reason and to seek moderate talks and reconciliation,” he said at the weekend. “The Middle East must become a peaceful region where all live in peace together. Otherwise it will become hell for us.” Read also: Aleppo Diary December 2016