A Province of Society of Jesus in South Asia Assistancy
The Virtual Inauguration of the Academic Year 2020-21 & The Schola Brevis
Posted on: 4 Aug, 2020 Modified on: 4 Aug, 2020
By Vinod Sushil Soreng
Satya Nilayam, Chennai: August 03, 2020 Much awaited virtual inauguration of the academic year 2020-21 for M.A. Philosophy, delayed due to the relentless pandemic, Covid-19 and suffering it inflicted on the humanity across the world, finally took place here at Satya Nilayam, Chennai (also known to many as Department of Philosophy, Loyola College) on August 03, 2020. Fr. Boniface Panna, SJ, the Rector of this national centre for formation, presided over the Eucharist and invoked the Holy Spirit and its guidance on each one of us, throughout the academic year. The small congregation gathered on this occasion prayed in unison for the outpouring and overshadowing of the Holy spirit on the entire creation, for the healing it needs, for renewal and for its reinvigoration of life, as the entire cosmos is reeling under the threat of Covid-19. Fr. Lawrence Fernandes, SJ, the Head of the Department, broke the word of God and re-emphasized the importance of Godís intervention into the lives of suffering humanity, through the spirit of risen Christ. As seekers of truth and lovers of wisdom, we are always in need of Godís spirit because it is Godís spirit that helps us to realize wisdom and to seek knowledge with much greater depth; rather than treating the academia as a mere collection of information and reading resources leading one to passing the exams and securing marks, which can in fact, be achieved in any platform including the virtual ones. Our take and our usage of knowledge and wisdom is service-oriented, the other-oriented and meaning-oriented. To achieve and realize the knowledge of highest degree and class, based on truth and wisdom, we need the wisdom of God, which only the spirit of risen Christ can give. The sacred liturgy and the singing was very well anchored by our international students, who have been with us in the community ever since different phases of lock downs dealing with the pandemic were announced.
Schola Brevis: ďOur Philosophical Response to Subaltern Empowerment in todayís ContextĒ
Schola Brevis, which is generally a very short talk highlighting the theme of the academic year and a framework within which an institution of higher learning could focus its attention on, was delivered by none other than Rev. Dr. Fr. Jebamalai Irudayaraj, SJ, the Jesuit provincial of Chennai Jesuit Society, who is a renowned scholar, a philosopher, a social activist and a very progressive thinker. His talk was powerful, inspiring, thought-provoking and highly philosophical. He divided his talk in two sections. In the first section, he underlined the context in which we live today; the context of a divided and distorted world, the domination of the darker side, the recent happenings in the context of Covid-19 including the recent happenings in political circle; and the killing of George Floyd in the US and Jayraj and Bennicks in India. He situated and defined who the subaltern sections of people are, and also included Covid-19 patients under the subaltern because of the stigma and discrimination that is being attached to them. Making a very clear distinction between Equality and Equity, he said that equality is based on basic human needs, whereas equity is based on human rights, fairness and justice. He gave examples of stalwarts like Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Jyotiba Phule, Gautam Buddha, Guru Nanak and Periyar, who championed the cause of the subalterns and worked for their uplift.
In the second section, which was more engaging and highly philosophical, he gave us his insight into the philosophical discourse on subaltern empowerment. In this section he spelled out our philosophical responses and responsibilities to the issues that affect the subaltern society. Speaking on the subaltern empowerment, he said that it is the power of the oppressed people moving towards equal status, participation and power of decision making, having access to literacy skills and government jobs and positions; freedom to travel and have voice of their own, awareness of their identity as groups, and increased socio-political and economic awareness. Responding to the question as to why should a Jesuit philosopher choose to respond to subaltern issues and why we should have subaltern perspective, he said that our basic orientation to life and mission is subaltern, our history is subaltern and our origin is subaltern. Beside this, we must learn to choose a perspective that will help us to attain the mission and vision of Jesus Christ, whose company we belong to. It is a must to have subaltern perspective in order to understand the world, philosophize the issues that affect human existence of our time and move forward towards making a just human society. Decoding the dominant theory is mandatory, for reconstructing a renewed society that has been distorted and divided based on religion, culture, language, ethnicity, caste, class, and nationality. As far as the subaltern world is concerned, it has been constructed by the rich, powerful and the elite; it needs to be deconstructed. Fr. Jebamalai signed off in style saying that the Jesuit philosophers should not stop with interpreting the world, but they should labour towards re-making the world, and deconstructing the socio-political and economic constructs that are oppressive and alienating.
The virtual platform which relayed live, both the mass of the Holy Spirit and the Scholas Brevis, was created, anchored and championed by Fr. Valerian Mendonca, SJ, the associate professor, the department of Philosophy, Loyola College, Chennai. Fr. Vinod Sushil Soreng, SJ moderated the session and proposed the vote of thanks.