Posted by: sociopastoral | September 18, 2010

SPI hosts ACISCA Workshop

SPI, a member of the Association of Christian Institutes for Social Concerns in Asia or ACISCA, recently hosted the workshop entitled “The Role of Christian Spirituality in the Empowerment of the Poor” here in Manila at the CICM Missionaries and at the Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay.

The workshop ran from Sept. 10-15, 2010 with participants coming from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. The workshop included immersion in SHEC or the St. Hannibal Empowerment Center in Pasay and in CKUP or Christ, King of the Universe Parish in Novaliches.

ACISCA Chairperson Dr. John Zechariah provided the Keynote Address while the two main speakers for the workshop were Edicio dela Torre, a popular Pilipino educator and Fr. Roland Tuazon, rector of the St. Vincent Seminary and Santuario de San Vincent de Paul in Tandang Sora.

Some of the key insights of the workshop regarding faith inspired organizations and their programs are:

  1. The actions of faith inspired organizations involved in social concerns are no longer limited to traditionally “religious” interventions like pastoral care or teaching of scriptures but have now embraced what used to be  considered “secular” development initiatives like adult literacy, micro-finance, housing, advocacy, etc.
  2. All faith inspired organizations in ACISCA who attended, professed a focused concern for the poor that comes from faith. This concern is often operationally translated as not only providing services to the poor but more importantly providing space for the participation of the poor in the development, implementation and evaluation of the programs for their communities.
  3. Faith inspired organizations in ACISCA have a sense of the complexity of development work therefore they develop a wide mix of actions and programs which they offer depending on the need and context of their partner communities. Also, in recognition that development is a long haul, faith inspired organizations  are into long term partnerships rather than quick fixes.

The key insight regarding the link between spirituality and empowerment of the poor is that not all Christian spirituality will result in commitment to the empowerment of the poor.

Some of the factors identified in the workshop necessary for the disciple’s adoption of the mission to empower the poor are:

1. Image of Jesus as herald of the Kingdom

It is only when one accepts Jesus as the herald and builder of the Kingdom of God – a new world order characterized by justice, peace and integrity of creation –  that one takes seriously the mission to empower the poor.

The other images of Jesus such as Jesus as Redeemer, Jesus as Friend, etc. were also recognized in the workshop as important and that they sometimes lead to disciples who love the poor but rarely to disciples who are committed to the empowerment of the poor.

2. Engagement with the poor

Even if one adopts the image of Jesus as one who announces the Kingdom and denounces the structural evils of society, without deep engagement with the poor to convert our hearts, few faith inspired people will still seriously adopt the mission for the empowerment of the marginalized. Hence the understanding that it is only when we are engaged, in solidarity and evangelized by the ones we profess to serve -the poor, can we be energized and emboldened to commit to their empowerment.

3. Ability to confront conflict

Because empowerment of the poor will involve confronting unjust power structures and relations, even if one were a disciple of the Jesus who opts for the poor, one might still back out of this difficult mission because one does not have the stomach for conflict.

4. Community development perspectives and community organizing skills

One could be a genuine Jesus disciple but without the requisite skills in community development and organizing, it would still be very difficult to bring about the empowerment of the poor.


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