Replacing Global Indifference with Solidarity through Jesuit Education

Responding to: Catholic, Jesuit Higher Education and the Future of Global Development

By: François Kaboré

April 6, 2015

Could universities in general, and Jesuit universities in particular, replace global indifference with “global empathy” or solidarity? If so, how? Could universities build bridges between communities, countries, and cultures to promote peace?

In 1963, John XXII's Pacem in Terris strongly mentioned that development is the new name for peace. More than half a century later, at Easter 2015, Pope Francis asserted that he who has the strength, love, and justice from God does not need to use violence. The recent events of mass killing in the name of God in Kenya and in other parts of the world show that there is a need to suggest a different way to understand human differences, whatever they may be. Building a more empathic world through networking for peace could be a new way to advance development in the very best tradition of the Catholic social teaching. More importantly, focusing on the youth, i.e., on university students, insures a long lasting impact of such a commitment for generations to come.

With respect to development, the strength of a university, especially a Jesuit one that combines reflection and action, is that it can think globally but act locally. In that regard, Jesuit universities could be more creative in the areas they already excel in, i.e., networking. Is it feasible to think about a type of collaboration among universities whereby cultural and religious understanding would be boldly addressed? Since such collaborations would happen in an academic context, they should benefit from prior and rigorous reflection and be grounded in empirical facts.

Next, the field of development goes beyond economic issues to embrace values, expectations, beliefs, and freedoms. Universities, as “temples of knowledge,” could come together to create a place where students meet through cross cultural exchange programs, with the clear and explicit goal to know one another and understand the hopes and desires of each other, because most violence is often rooted in the fear and the lack of knowledge of one another.

So new actions would include strengthening intercultural exchange programs for students, developing a cross-cultural course that could be made compulsory in Jesuit universities, or for those who would like to take a certificate in Catholic social teaching. The development of research groups across universities around visions and insights into development, not from the researcher point of view but from the bottom of the pyramid, could be done through interviews and surveys whose results could be shared and disseminated. There is a need for a change in “mental models” to advance development; there might also be a need for a “change in mental models” about development.

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Replacing Global Indifference with Solidarity through Jesuit Education