Friendship, solidarity and a commitment to the Jesuit mission of justice and peace are at the root of the relationship between Canadian Jesuits International (CJI) and its international Jesuit partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Together, we stand strong, and with your continued support we can bring change to my country, South Sudan. —Lydia Tabu Casmiro, Jesuit Refugee Service of South Sudan
CJI is an apostolate of the Jesuits of Canada. “CJI’s mission has always been to foster right relations with marginalized people in the Global South,” explains Jenny Cafiso, CJI Executive Director. “Together with local Jesuit partners, CJI responds in solidarity, through awareness raising and advocacy in Canada and supporting partnerships in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Its history goes back to 1946, when several Canadian Jesuits responded to an invitation by the local Church to serve in Darjeeling, India. Initially known as the Darjeeling Mission Service, it would later become Canadian Jesuits International. The name change reflected a new missiology, the strength of the local Church, and the social apostolate’s focus on reciprocity, mutual commitment and social justice.
At its root, the focus has always remained a commitment to people living in poverty and exclusion in the Global South.
Today it shares with its global partners a commitment to the Four Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAP) chosen by the Society of Jesus in 2019: Showing the way to God; walking with the excluded; journeying with youth; and caring for our common home.
Building Solidarity with the Global South
CJI supports several projects of the Darjeeling Jesuit Province in West Bengal, India, including the Human Life Development and Research Centre (HLDRC). HLDRC accompanies poor and marginalized tea plantation labourers and their families. These workers, most of whom are Adivasis (Indigenous people), are frequently deprived of their rights and subjected to exploitation by government agencies and plantation managers.
Fr. Pascal Xalxo, SJ, Director of HLDRC, says that thanks to CJI, HLDRC was able to support many tea garden families through their sustainable livelihood programs in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Fr. Xalxo writes:
“This was a time for good leadership to respond to global situations that affect the poor and marginalized. My sincere thanks to the entire CJI team for creating such an innovative space in this time of the pandemic.”
CJI also works in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of Chiapas, Mexico. Fr. Luis Gerardo Moro Madrid, SJ, provincial of Mexico, points out “that because of CJI’s support, the Jesuit Centro de Derechos lndigenas AC (CEDIAC) will be able to participate in the reconstruction of the region’s social fabric and fulfill their mission.” He adds:
“The defence and exercise of Indigenous rights is a fundamental and ongoing concern that we want to address through our pastoral work.”
In Honduras, CJI supports the human rights defenders of Radio Progreso and the Reflection, Research and Communications Team (ERIC). They accompany marginalized people who are victims of violence and repression. Fr. Ismael Moreno (Padre Melo), SJ, Director of Radio Progreso-ERIC, notes that these apostolates have established a relationship of cooperation, and above all, of solidarity, closeness and friendship with CJI.
“We have grown in trust and in a common vision of commitment to social justice and the world of the poor. CJI is a true companion from the North that embraces us and walks with us. We have broken the vertical relationship of cooperation and have established a horizontal relationship of fraternity.”
CJI also responds to humanitarian emergencies by supporting the work of organizations such as the Jesuit Refugee Service or Jesuit provinces affected by complex emergencies such as the war in Syria or the earthquake that struck Haiti in August 2021.
Thus, the organization supports projects and initiatives that defend human rights and dignity and promote economic justice and social transformation based on equity, inclusiveness, peace, sustainability and the integrity of creation. They focus on education; health; accompanying forcibly displaced people; human rights defence and community organizing; and sustainable agriculture and livelihood support. CJI also works collaboratively with other Jesuit organizations such as the Xavier Network, which brings together solidarity agencies and mission offices globally.
Building Solidarity in Canada
CJI knows that the roots of inequality and marginalization can be found in our own country and our own hearts. It is engaged in building a movement of solidarity in Canada through awareness-raising and outreach in schools, parishes and the broader public.
They organize workshops, retreats, webinars and cross Canada tours of international speakers, as well as use publications and social media, to bring the voice and lived experience of international partners to a Canadian audience.
CJI: Rooted in Ignatian Spirituality
CJI’s work and identity are rooted in Ignatian spirituality and the UAPs. Cafiso states, “For CJI, the UAPs are both an affirmation of who we are and what we do and a source of inspiration to go deeper in our understanding of our reality, in our commitment to the universal good and in the way we work and live.”
She explains, “We are more than just an agency that sends money to the Global South. Our real work is about making people aware that the roots of inequality, oppression and marginalization are found in sociopolitical and economic systems, many of which originate in the Global North. International solidarity is about changing these systems. Canadians need to become aware of these issues and engage in social change.
It’s a challenge because it’s easier to donate 10 dollars to sponsor a child than to engage in civic action to change a system that excludes and marginalizes people and communities.”
This is where the UAPs play an integral role in CJI’s work. Cafiso says that “when discernment is rooted in the day-to-day lives of people who are relegated to the margins of society, it deepens our understanding of the role we play in enacting change. We at CJI take our inspiration from our partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America. They continue to share with us how to make the four UAPs a source of personal and institutional renewal, so that we can respond to the call for a deeper conversion, a greater commitment to justice and peace, and a bolder response to the cry of the earth and its people.”
How to support CJI
You can CJI’s website to learn more about their educational events, projects they support and the people behind the organization.
You can also subscribe to their newsletter, Bridging Borders, or visit their office in Toronto to get to know their friendly staff.