Friday 3 March 2017

Towards Social Justice

During the week, the School Assembly in Ramsay Hall profiled two key causes, both of which related to the primacy of social justice in the life of a Jesuit school. The first relates to the 20×20 Cricket Bash for Jarjum, which is a primary school in Redfern that educates 20 Indigenous children who have very significant needs. Monday 13th March is the date for the contest which will take place on the hallowed turf of 1st Field. A line up of celebrities will be part of the All Stars, which among others, include former AFL legend and Australian of the Year – Adam Goodes, Test Opening Batsman – Simon Katich and Australian Wallabies star – Phil Waugh. This perennial event is one of the many highlights of the school year, not only because some of the nation’s finest sportsmen give generously of their time to support local Indigenous children, but because the proceeds of the game yield appreciable gains for Jarjum. One of the ways that funds are raised is through the sale of raffle tickets, and emails were sent out to all families with the details this week. Please support this worthy cause as it responds to the acute needs of Indigenous boys and girls whose lives can be transformed through the quality of education that they receive in the foundational years.

The second aspect of the Assembly was addressed by John Bryant, who focussed on the most recent campaign of the A T Thomas Advocacy Group to challenge the Australian Government over the contested maritime boundary between East Timor and Australia, which houses the Greater Sunrise oil fields. Through various machinations over a decade ago, including spying on the East Timorese Cabinet, the Australian government exploited the poverty and naivety of a nation which had been devastated by Indonesian occupation and was not in a position to protect its own natural reserves of oil and gas. While the dispute is currently in the International Court of Justice, it is abundantly clear that Australia has violated the sovereignty of its neighbour. One of the poorest countries in the world, East Timor threatens to lose some $20 billion to a country that is already the third richest in the world. And, one of the biggest needs in East Timor is education, as over 95% of schools and educational resources have been destroyed.

Looking at the human face of this is disturbing. Attached is a photo of a young boy, Danny, who was befriended by Sam Hunter on his immersion to Railaco last year. Danny entered school in 2016 at 14 years of age as he no longer had to carry water from the coast to his village due to a well that was built by Jesuit Mission. He now walks four hours to school each week and boards in a very humble corrugated structure with four other boys who are fortunate to attend the same school. If the wealth that is contained in the Greater Sunrise oil fields can be quarantined for East Timor, it will make a massive difference to the educational provision over the coming decades and enable a whole generation of young people to have a much better life than they otherwise would. And, it will enable a quantum leap in all manner of services to be provided to a country that is in such desperate need – from roads and water to electricity and communications.

Two Reflection Evenings were held during the week for the boys who spent the summer break in different regions of Nepal. It was instructive to listen to the boys publicly attest to the richness of the Faith in Service program, particularly the strength of relationships that were forged and the personal gains that accrued for all who were involved. And, it was striking to compare and contrast the physical nature of the environment to which the boys were exposed – from the relatively flat and sun-drenched landscape of Australia to the snow encrusted peaks of the Himalayas. There is little doubt that immersions to the Third World are life changing experiences as the boys see their own circumstances of life in Sydney more clearly through the eyes of those who have so very little. The boys who volunteer to place themselves in unfamiliar settings for their own formation and for the greater good of the communities they serve is truly commendable, and the staff who accompany the boys deserve our sincere thanks for journeying with them along the way.

Wednesday signalled the beginning of the Lenten period and preparations for Easter. A major school liturgy was held in the Gartlan to acknowledge and to commemorate this important liturgical event. Lent is a time of fasting, renewal and cleansing in preparation for the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a timely reminder of our individual and collective frailty, and a time to look at the brokenness of the self and the broader world. May these coming 40 days provide us all with the courage and commitment that is needed to make our own individual response to injustice, poverty and violence in our community and our world.

Today is the veritable hump of the term and how quickly the first five weeks have elapsed. Many of the early events – the School Mass, the Laureate Assembly, the Launch of the Kircher Collection, together with House Masses and the many parent evenings and dinners, seem something of a distant memory as the momentum of the term is now in full swing. Tests and assignments dominate the learning program as courses consolidate on core concepts and skills. As we move towards the latter stages of the term, the boys are encouraged to maintain the very purposeful and committed approach to their work as they work towards the intense stages of the first assessment period.

Best wishes for the week ahead.

Dr Paul Hine