The University of San Francisco: Center for Global Education
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USF students crossing Turk Street from Lomo

Methodology

There are three fundamental steps that root this methodology: Contemplation (Experience/Context), Reinterpretation (Reflection and Analysis), and Praxis (Concrete Result/Action).

Contemplation

Experience

The global reality shows us that not few, but a big sector of the population are being oppressed. The situation of oppression is unbearable, rejects any kind of dignifying life, and denies the basic human right to existence and the reign of life.

These poor and marginalized live these conditions not because they are not able to do things by themselves, but because the social system is oppressing them and not giving them the necessary opportunities to meet their basic needs.

Therefore, the approach of our work as part of the Arrupe Justice Immersion consists in paying special attention to the root causes of the situation and considering them from a historical perspective. This is going beyond a simple, emotional description, but focusing on an attendant accumulation of data and statistics and through establishing steps towards a more developed society. This approach would be influenced by the social sciences that we are using to see the issue and rooted on the appropriation of a new world with and for others in just institutions.

Seeing the world from other's perspective, listening, and validating someone's experience is the beginning for developing a steady faith in human dignity and worth. Its complementation with spiritual contemplation would help everyone to recognize that we all come from the same source: a higher life that recognizes everyone’s divine origin.

Reinterpretation

Combining intellect and compassion would be the platform to move from the generalized research toward a research focusing on the realistic living conditions of the poor. Our students need to become conscious of the inequalities in the world, be able to identify the historical forces of division and antagonism, and see the new divisions that are being created to separate people from attaining their basic human and civil rights.

Reflection

All people are not alike from the point of view of varying physical power and the diversity of intellectual and moral resources. Nevertheless, every type of discrimination is to be overcome and eradicated. Our students should be able to raise questions about the current trend of the world, about their own place and role in the universe, about the meaning of his or her individual and collective strivings, and about the ultimate destiny of reality and of humanity.

An absolute demand for justice, a recognition of the dignity and rights of the people that we are visiting, is attained when our students reach in the depths of their conscience and detect the voice of their heart.

It is about discovering the deeper changes that can take place in the human person, of the search for a different kind of human being, of liberation in its multiple dimension and not just in the economic and political dimension, although, of course, all these aspects are closely connected.

Analysis

Once the situation of poverty and marginalization comes to play a part in our reflections, an analysis of that situation becomes important, and requires relevant disciplines. Theory’s grasp of societal contradictions should not merely name the concrete historical situation, but rather acts as a force within it to initiate concrete social change.

Connecting theory and praxis are at the center of the Arrupe Justice Immersion since they are linked in the practical, critical activity of human consciousness and engaged in the process of social change. It is at this stage that connecting the experience with the social sciences becomes relevant. This connection is the means for gaining a more accurate knowledge of society as it really is and so articulate with greater precision the challenges and possibilities it poses for the construction of a dignifying world for all.

We would need to re-interpret society away from the monopoly that power and elites had- into the reality of the poor. This would probably imply, among other things, personal transformation and the search for a qualitatively different society: participate in the construction of a system that objects misery and injustice, where all people can assume control of his or her own destiny, and where we can imagine a qualitatively new kind of human person and a new kind of human society.

Jesuit Catholic Tradition

Our Jesuit Catholic Tradition would show the presence of relationship to God and the rupture of the relationship with God at the very core of the historical, political, and economic situation of the area that we are visiting. This is something that no social analysis can ever bring to light. Seeing that sin- the breaking of the relationship with God and therefore with others as well - is at the very heart of any unjust situation, is something that we all need to keep reflecting constantly. The new experiences will make us rethink our Theology, values, beliefs, and Social Sciences (ideological suspicion).

Praxis

Act

At this stage, we need to engage in solidarity and fashion a better world according to social justice, human rights, and the fulfillment of God’s design. This would be possible because we would be able to place ourselves in the perspective of the poor, participate in the struggle for their liberation, and witness people and communities being agents of their own destiny.

Example

Monsignor Romero work began when he started seeing and analyzing life from the point of view of the poor. He took a social location because a social location determines perspective. The poor are not morally or spiritually superior to others, but they see reality from a different angle or location. This is what gave him a different perspective, and understood the suffering of some people. Romero could not live seeing people suffering, so he used his position in the Church to report all the injustices he was witnessing. Romero contemplated the reality of the poor, he reinterpreted the word of God from the point of view of the poor, and he was an advocate for them. Bearing witness is not, primarily, an individual matter, but a collective adventure that moves us to testify, communicate, and share what we see.