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Ideally, each human being, or each people, should feel like a part of humanity, and be aware of their own culture (enculturation), without making it absolute.  They should do so critically, joyfully acknowledging the existence of other human beings with different cultures (multiculturality), and establishing relationships of equality with them, enriching themselves with a diversity of cultures that includes their own (interculturality)”.  A Living Tradition n.232, n.233)

Over the past number of years, the Secretariat for Education and Educate Magis have been promoting and encouraging Global Citizenship Education. In 2019 the Secretariat Global Taskforce published an Ignatian Definition of Global Citizenship: Global Citizens are those who continuously seek to deepen their awareness of their place and responsibility in an increasingly interconnected world, both locally and globally; those who stand in solidarity with others in the pursuit of a sustainable earth and a more humane world as true companions in the mission of reconciliation and justice.

Jesuit schools around the world have been doing incredible work to deepen the global dimension of their work both in the classroom and outside it. Schools have been training their faculty in global citizenship, appointing a global citizenship coordinator, including it as a specific subject in the curriculum, engaging more in global work and approaching work in the classroom from a more global perspective. It is truly heart-warming and inspiring to see how you all are embracing this global dimension of our Ignatian identity and educating Ignatian Global Citizens.

One of the questions we get asked a lot is what the skills of Global Citizenship are, how can Global Citizenship be taught? There are of course many answers to this question. One of them is Intercultural Communication, a skill which is becoming increasingly important in the wake of political and religious divides in many parts of the world. If we want to engage in global collaboration and build meaningful relationships with others we must learn to communicate effectively within and across cultures. Fr. General speaks about the importance of interculturality and it is indeed listed as one of the 10 Global Identifiers of a Jesuit School in A Living Tradition. How then can we teach Intercultural Communication? How can we increase our cultural awareness?

Building on from the Global Citizenship work carried out by the Secretariat Taskforce last year, Educate Magis and the Secretariat together with a global group of Ignatian educators put together an Ignatian Intercultural Communication Training Module for educators which we piloted in November and December 2020 with 30 participants from the 6 Jesuit conferences of the world.

The training module was presented as a series of 5 virtual training sessions spread out over 5 weeks. Each session was an hour long and included a mixture of personal reflection, group sharing modelled on Ignatian Spiritual Conversations and written worksheets. The sessions began by looking at one’s own identity, reflecting on personal circumstances and experiences which have helped to shape the way we view and interact with the world around us. An image which was shared to help frame the Ignatian approach to Intercultural Communication was that of a tree – the extent to which a tree’s branches can grow upward and outward is dependent on the depth and breadth of its own roots.  We can reach out to understand other groups and cultures most effectively when we do the inward work of understanding our own experiences and biases.

Throughout the sessions we moved from understanding our own identity, examining possible biases, misunderstandings, or stereotypes and how these might influence our interaction with others to looking at our identities as Jesuit schools or organizations, at the similarities and difference in schools across the world, the challenges we all face and how we can respond to these challenges in a meaningful way. We realised that although we were coming from very different contexts and backgrounds, the challenges we face are in many ways very similar and we are all working towards a shared Jesuit mission to be companions of reconciliation and justice. We identified how and with whom Intercultural Communication could be practiced and brainstormed ways in which we could work together in the future to provide more Intercultural experiences both for faculty and students.

The interactive nature of the training sessions meant participants had the chance to practice the skills presented with their counterparts in other Jesuit schools across the world through deep and meaningful conversations. The core skills we practiced were those of Active Listening and Intentional Speaking using the model of Ignatian Spiritual Conversations.

The workshop was designed using the Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm and with the three domains in mind which are quoted by many researchers in the area of Global Citizenship or International Mindedness: the cognitive, the behavioural and the affective domains. The table below shows a summary of how we used both the IPP and the 3 domains of Global Citizenship to frame these training sessions. More materials available here.

INTERCULTUAL COMMUNICATION: AN IGNATIAN APPROACH 

Throughout this pilot training module, we collected feedback to help inform our next steps in providing more intercultural experiences to our global community and practicing these fundamental skills of global citizenship. We look forward to sharing more on this with you in the new year.

Insights from participants

“When we get to know ourselves, we get to know the world. We start to see others as brothers and sisters. We are all truly connected”.

“Today’s session gives so much clarity to the fact that each person is unique, each has his or her own context, each has his or her identity that is as important as anyone’s. And so because of this, I am invited (or even compelled) to communicate and interact with others with genuine interest and respect — there is always something to hear if and when we truly listen. And I might be surprised that in doing so, I might hear my own thoughts or see my own experiences or connect my own uniqueness with the other”.

“Our cultural diversity and Jesuit Identity allows us to journey and genuinely accompany others in whatever ministry we are called to”.

“It was so beautiful that coming from different countries, regions, and cultures there was so much common ground. There are many Ignatian elements that unite us”.

If you would be interested in learning more about Intercultural Communication or have any questions, please leave a comment below.