The crisis in Syria was high on the agenda of a meeting of representatives from European Jesuit academic institutions, social research centres and advocacy groups when they met in Antwerp last week to share concerns about social issues. Eoin Carroll attended as the representative of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. Under the umbrella of what is called the Scribani Network and hosted by the University Centre of St. Ignatius Antwerp (UCSIA) in Belgium, members shared with each other details of their work while also attending a public seminar.
The guest speaker at the seminar was Tony Atkinson, author of Inequality: What can be done?, world leading economist and researcher in inequality and poverty. Atkinson presented a challenging demand for European nation states; something that the Jesuit institutions and centres also need to take note of, “If we want and are serious about reducing inequality it is going to cost a lot and require radical action. This is not a case of moving from a dystopia to utopia, rather aiming to reduce, not necessarily eliminate.” He outlined both an intrinsic moral argument against inequality as well as instrumentalist reasons, it is bad for: business, health and other social indicators, as well as national economic growth. Tony Atkinson spoke recently (19th June 2015) at the TASC Annual Conference in Dublin you can access his similar presentation here.
A daylong meeting of the Scribani Network followed the seminar. There it emerged that among network members there is a real desire to explore how they can collectively and with other Jesuit institutions in Europe work more closely together, share resources and have a unified response to European crises. The motivation for this is a desire to be more effective and a realisation that the sum is greater than each individual part. That together they could achieve more.
During the meeting a view was expressed that if a structure existed among all the Jesuit offices in Europe (between service providers, policy advocates and academia) they would be able to make a greater and more responsive contribution to European crises such as the current tragedy in Syria. To develop such a level of co-operation and put in place the necessary structures may require more financial and human resources but long term a more socially just Europe will emerge.
Members agreed that the next step was to write to the President of the Conference of European (Jesuit) Provincials, John Dardis SJ asking him that a process be started to discern a renewed mission and vision for the Jesuit ‘social centres’ in Europe (‘social centres’ include academic, research, advocacy, and cultural offices).
The network of 17 Jesuit research, academic, cultural and social justice centres come together annually to share information, explore issues of mutual concern. Each year one of the centres outlines their proposal for the biennial Scribani Conference. The Human Rights Institute in the University of Deusto, Bilbao will host the next conference entitled International Migration, Integration and Social Justice in Europe: Sharing Perspectives between Academia and Civil Society, which has been in gestation for the past year, but is most relevant to current issues in Europe today.
In 2012 the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice hosted the Scribani conference Re-imagining Imprisonment in Europe which took place in Trinity College, proceedings from the conference are available here.
Marie Drique (Ceras), Petro Oiarzabal (IHR Deusto), Bertrand Hériard SJ (Ceras), Eoin Carroll (JCFJ), Michael Kirwan SJ (Heythrop)