With the different narratives we read and engage in these days, how can we authentically educate for depth and reconciliation?
As newly appointed Senior High School Principal of Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU) here in Zamboanga City, Philippines, is quite challenging. It was challenging due to the volition and uncertainty of time brought about by the pandemic and the diverse context of our students and teachers in the school. AdZU is situated in the Southern part of the Philippines, where we have many non-Catholic students. The school is still predominantly Catholic, but we have many teachers and students who are Muslims and Protestants. The city had seen the horror of war when the Moro Islamic Liberation Front clashed with the Government troops in 2013 here in Zamboanga City. It left a painful and traumatic mark in the psyche of the people. It’s a consolation, though, to see the people moving towards the healing process.
Last July 8, 2021, we ended our Annual Faculty and Staff Retreat with a mass with our University President, Fr. Karel San Juan, SJ. Fr. Karel, in his homily, reminded our educators and formators to be salt and the light of the earth. Salt provides taste and flavor; salt preserves; heals.
Providing flavor and taste in the mission as Jesuit educators mean more openness to grow and adapt, deeper care for our students, and renewed mission to foster depth and reconciliation. The right amount of salt in us can also make us active agents for healing and restoration in our relationships here and in the greater community. To be the light of the world is to create pathways that allow us to adapt to a changing environment. Light can be in the form of depth of our search for the truth, to see through the lens of our colorful and vivid past with our Ignatian values and our common aspiration for peace and harmony.
Among the different Keynote addresses in our II Colloquium JESEDU-Global 2021, what struck me the most was the presentation of Elias Lopez, SJ, on Educating for Reconciliation. Given our context here in AdZU, where we have different narratives in the society which creates a cacophony of voices, I was able to resonate with him when he said that Educating is done effectively when we articulate three principles in learning: Reconciliation is learned, our approach to education is holistic in nature and can be taught through our Ignatian Pedagogy.
I was consoled that my reflection was affirmed in our Discernment Circle where people felt safe and engaged during the sharing. Though we come from different contexts, we were united in minds and hearts. We resonate with our mission to educate the interiority of our students. Developing the interiority of our students entails developing the cognitive aspect of our students and the affective as well. As such, we can educate our students to be discerning and loving for them to be the salt and light of the world.
Creating spaces where the different narratives of reconciliation is heard and discussed is important. Still, it is equally essential when our students and teachers are prepared to engage with those narratives. When one can discern according to Ignatian tradition, one can be perfectly disposed for authentic dialogue. Educating for Reconciliation goes hand in hand with Educating for Depth. What better way to train our students and faculty for depth and reconciliation than our very own Ignatian Pedagogical Paradigm.
I am very grateful that I joined the colloquium. It made me realize that we come from different contexts and backgrounds, but we speak one language…our Ignatian language.