Annual Meeting of AJCU-AP held in Davao, Philippines

“Every Jesuit academy of higher learning is called to live in a social reality… and to live for that social reality, to shed university intelligence upon it and to use university influence to transform it.Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ

The Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City, Southern Philippines, hosted the Annual Meeting of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities in Asia Pacific (AJCU-AP), chaired by Fr. Joel Tabora, last 26-27 August.  Fr. Patxi Alvarez, Asst. to Fr. General for Social Justice and Ecology addressed the gathering “On the Role of Jesuit Universities and Social Justice,”  with Ateneo de Davao’s very own Datu Mussolini Lidasan sharing on “The Bangsamoro Accord and the Mindanao Struggle for Peace.”

Present in the meeting were the presidents and representatives of the different Jesuit Higher Education Institutions (HEI) in the Asia Pacific region: Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin, Ateneo de Manila University, Fr. Primitivo Viray, Jr. and Fr. Wilfredo Samson, Ateneo de Zamboanga University, Fr. Adriano Tapiador, Loyola College of Culion, Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, Loyola School of Theology, Fr. Roberto Yap, Xavier University, (PHI); Fr. Agus Sriyono, Politeknik ATMI-Surakarta, Fr. Patrisius Andalas, Sanata Dharma University, (IDN); Fr. Gerard Healy, Intellectual Apostolate of the Province of Australia, (AUS); Fr. Louis Gendron, Faculty of Theology of St. Robert Bellarmine in Fu Jen Catholic University, Fr. David Yen, Fu Jen Catholic University (TWN); Fr. Julio Giulietti, Loyola Vietnam Center, (VNM); Fr. Kim Yonghae, Sogang University, (KOR); Br. Mike Milward, Sophia University, (JPN); Fr. Wongvarn Manasan (THA).  Thailand is planning a tertiary-level school in the near future.

At the festive opening dinner, Fr. Dan McNamara (ADDU Jesuit Community) and Fr. Eric Velandria (Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific) welcomed all the participants to the Annual Meeting. The cultural troupe from Davao, Kaliwat Artists Collective, did not fail to get the Jesuit fathers  dancing to the ethnic rhythms, music and songs of Mindanao.

The usual exchanges of experiences among the university educators took place after the opening dinner. Some of the matters shared were about the new programs and endeavors of the member-institutions, and highlighted the diversity of contexts among the member-institutions. Among those who shared: Fr. Gendron regarding the operations of the Faculty of St. Robert Bellarmine of Theology, a Theologate in Fu Jen Catholic University (TWN). He shared that half of his students are religious from the different congregations in mainland China. Fr. Agus of Politeknik ATMI-Surakarta (IND) shared of his experiences in setting up several vocational schools in Indonesia. Fr. Viray of Ateneo de Naga University (PHL) brought to light the challenges of the educational reforms in the Philippines, especially with the addition of two years in basic education. He also highlighted the need to improve the Bikol region’s economy which can be done by assisting the government and private sector in tourism and other areas.
Fr. Giulietti of Loyola Center in Vietnam (VNM) talked about the situation in Vietnam and the context of communism and Marxist-Leninist philosophy in the country.

After the usual opportunity for the HEI CEO’s to share their experiences and bond, the keynote addresses were delivered this year from Fr. Patxi Alvarez, SJ, Asst. to Fr. General for Justice and the Ecology on “Jesuit Universities and Social Justice,” and from Datu Mussolini Lidasan, director of ADDU’s Al Qalam Institute, on “The Bangsamoro Accord and the Mindanao Struggle for Peace.”

Fr. Alvarez shared on the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat’s (SJES) project to publish a document on “The Promotion of Justice in the Universities of the Society of Jesus”. Part of this document  states that the raison d’être of Jesuit universities today is to respond to the Jesuit mission and to be inside the Church, as well as to bring forth an education characterized by utilitas, iustitia, humanitas et fides. He also mentions that the promotion of justice in universities will be in four areas: student promotion, university research, social projection (the university as a transformative institution), and a university community that promotes justice.

Datu Mussolini Lidasan discussed about the ongoing peace process between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). He shared on the historical contexts of the conflict and the recently-signed peace accord – the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. In his effort to define the Moro problem, he tried to analyze the situation through the interrelated settings of multi-cultures and multiple identities in the Bangsamoro society. He said “We need to widen our analysis to understand that the complexities of these identities may be classified into a political (Moro) or cultural identity (which may be a Maranao, Tausug, or Maguindanaon ) – each having its importance in their own ways.”

A lively interaction and sharing of insights followed. The speakers were asked questions, and possible ways were shared to discuss the issues and to raise awareness in the different member-institutions. The three Ateneos in Mindanao, for instance, have already formed a network to collaborate on peacebuilding efforts in their communities.

After the addresses, Fr. Viray of Ateneo de Naga University then gave a report on last year’s Service Learning Program (SLP). The 6th SLP was hosted by Ateneo de Naga University with the theme “Love for the Poor” from August 5 to 24. 40 students participated in the SLP, from Sogang University, Ateneo de Naga University, Ateneo de Davao University, Elisabeth University of Music, Xavier University, and Ateneo de Zamboanga University. The participants were introduced to the peculiarly religious culture in Bikol Region, Philippines and its poverty, and also constructed a house powered by solar energy, for a poor family of Calabanga, Camarines Sur, Bikol Region.

During the Business Meeting, it was decided that the 2015 Service Learning Program will be hosted by Sogang University in Seoul, South Korea. It was also discussed how to improve networking among the members of the AJCU-AP with bilateral and multilateral projects to be coordinated by its secretary. The data from the ongoing survey of all the researchers from the member-institutions will be shared to facilitate better mobility and exchange of its researchers. It was also discussed during the business meeting that the system of reporting for the International Committee for Jesuit Higher Education (ICJHE) will be improved to include basic statistics relative to institutions, leadership structures, etc.The AJCU-AP participation in the forthcoming World Convention of Jesuit Colleges and Universities was also resolved. There was lively discussion on what the theme of this convention should be. Among the suggestions were: “Reinventing Jesuit Education in a Troubled World.”

The AJCU-AP will meet in Melbourne, Australia next year.

Romulo Vinci Bueza
September 15, 2014

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