Jesuit Mission Australia

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Jesuit Mission Australia is the international human development effort of the Society of Jesus in Australia and New Zealand.[1] It began in 1951 lending educational and other assistance to the adivasis in Hazaribagh, India. Sixty years later its outreach had extended to Southeast Asia and Africa, responding to emergencies and sustaining continuing efforts in Cambodia, Timor-Leste. Myanmar, and Thailand. Besides a basic commitment to education for the poorest sectors of society, the emphasis now is on environmental sustainability and social development, along with financial support of centers for refugees and migrants. The Australian Jesuits' development efforts within Australia are conducted through another office, Jesuit Social Services.

Historical Background

Austrian Jesuits established the Jesuit presence in Australia in 1851, and they were followed by Jesuits from Ireland. Such were the beginnings of the Australian Province of the Society of Jesus, encompassing Australia and New Zealand. In 1951 this province began sending missionaries to Hazaribagh, Bihar State, India, to work among the adivasis there. Jesuit efforts spread rapidly in India and by the second decade of the 21st century there were around 3600 Indian Jesuits running 80 schools and over 90 Jesuit social service and development centres.[2]

Jesuit Mission Australia had gradually redirected its efforts to newer mission fields. The focus remains on education and lifting marginalized people out of poverty and powerlessness, along with a newer emphasis on ecology and sustainable development. Building rural schools and teacher training are primary emphases, while responding to catastrophic needs, from Africa and the Middle East to Asia, remains a commitment.[3]

Education programmes

Jesuit Mission Australia continues to invest heavily in educational efforts, often in close collaboration with other Jesuits.[4]

Timor-Leste

St. Ignatius of Loyola College, Kasait, Ulmera, Timor-Leste, is a joint program together with the Japanese and Philippine provinces of Jesuits,[5] responding to congestion in schools especially in rural areas of the country. It opened in 2013 with three seventh-grade classes and by 2018 will be offering 6 years of education to disadvantaged students, drawing also on surrounding provinces.

St. John de Britto Institute, situated next to Loyola College, was opened in 2015 to educate 210 teachers annually for secondary, technical, and vocational schools. Languages taught include English, Portuguese, and the local Tetum.

Cambodia

Xavier School, Sisophon, improves educational opportunities in a poor, rural area of Banteay Meanchey Province. It opened in 2016, providing a community learning centre to assist primary and secondary students, a secondary school, and a primary school to prepare those who will enter the secondary school. There is also a teacher resource centre to assist Cambodian teachers at the various levels of education.

Battambang Education Project, under the Jesuit apostolic prefect of this area of Cambodia, Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzalez, receives financial support from JMA for scholarships, student housing, and child services. A restored sense of community and cultural preservation, including its traditional dance, are key elements of concern, after the disruption produced by the Cambodian Civil War.

Thailand

Arrupe Education Project in Chiang Mai began by funding the needy, tertiary level students from the minority Hill tribes of Karen, Hmong, and Akha in Thailand who experience systematic exclusion. It since has offered 700 scholarships for primary and secondary school children and refugees from Myanmar. In rural, ethnic areas where schools are not supported by the government, teachers are paid salaries to keep the schools open. A special facility in the mountains offers Thai and English classes to Myanmar refugees.

Myanmar

Campion Institute in Yangon, with financial support from JMA, gives English-language training to 285 students. In this very poor country, facility in English opens the door to opportunities for disadvantaged youth from rural areas.

St Aloysius Gonzaga Institute in Taunggyi has had its undergraduate college program accredited by several Asian universities. Centrally located, it draws students from several of Myanmar's ethnic states, In 2015 it was educating over 400 students with a program that included English, the humanities, and social sciences.[4]

Funding

Refugee and relief services

Jesuit Mission Australia supplies funding and personnel for programs founded by Jesuit Refugee Service, currently throughout Southern Africa and in Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia.[6] With a flood of refugees into Australia, in January 2015 JRS opened a total service facility in Sydney, Arrupe House, which within nine months had received first place in the Australian Psychological Society's Community Wellbeing Award.[7] Also, through Jesuit Foundation Thailand, JMA supplies funds for Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok, Thailand.[8]

JMA funding extends to emergency relief work after natural disasters. It also furnishes a range of services to prisoners across the provinces of Thailand, including many who are foreigners cut off from their families.[9]

Ecology, health, livelihood

JMA has lent its support to the ecology program of Jesuit Service Cambodia, with reforestation of hardwood trees and public education as its main goals.

Also included in JMA's funding are: Light of Mercy Home in Phnom Penh, for children with disabilities; Metta Karuna Projects in Cambodia; Jesuit Hakimani Centre in Nairobi; and Holy Cross Institute for AIDS/HIV care throughout India.[10]

References

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