JRS wants competent people with conscience and compassion

Frido Pflüger SJ
Former JRS Eastern Africa Regional Director
Monday, March 21, 2011

Refugees in Kakuma refugee camp (Kenya) now have access to higher education, after JRS launched its latest education initiative, the so called Jesuit Commons – Higher Education at the Margins project. In his speech during the launch in Kakuma, JRS Eastern Africa Director, Frido Pflueger SJ, talked about the qualities Jesuit education aims to develop in each student. 

First of all, I would like to thank the students and the JRS staff for being here with us today. It is a big opportunity and it is a great chance for you and for all of us to do something very new and very important. 

And it is a big challenge. We have never done something like this before. So for you as students it is new and for us, who are planning and doing everything to ensure the programme works, it is also new.

I am happy that it has started so well. Therefore, I would like to thank all those who have been involved in developing the programme so far. Chris Lowney and Mary McFarland from the Jesuit Commons in the US - thank you so much for all the effort and energy you put into this process. And I would like to thank the JRS team here in Kakuma. (…) This was a huge challenge for you. We just entrusted you with the implementation even though nobody knew how it was supposed to look like in the end. It was new to all of you but as a team, with the support of the country office in Nairobi, you have taken the challenge in a wonderful way. I am incredibly grateful and it is great to see what has happened so far.

There is still a lot of work ahead of us. As you have heard from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) we are already in the process of looking into more opportunities to increase the impact of the programme and enable more students to participate in this wonderful opportunity. 

No dead end after secondary education anymore

You might have heard that I was in Adjumani, northern Uganda, before. For over 15 years, Adjumani was host to a huge number of Sudanese refugees. At the time I was there we had about 30,000 students in nursery, primary and secondary schools. And especially for the secondary school students, the questions what they would do after they finished school was always a pain because our programme stopped after secondary education. 

There was no perspective for those who had finished secondary school. Somehow, it was like a dead end. Now we have overcome that challenge here in Kakuma. Secondary education is not anymore a dead end because there is a chance to go on, to go further. While in Adjumani it was more by accident that somebody got accepted into a scholarship programme, in Kakuma you now have a reliable chance to continue your tertiary education. I am really very happy about that. 

A world of justice and love

But why are we doing this? Why do we make such an effort to give you the possibility to study? There is a lot of money involved and many donations from various people support this programme. Why do they do this? 

The District Education Officer has mentioned one reason: quality education. The second reason is that the Jesuits have been involved in education for more than 500 years, on all levels. Again, why? Because we are convinced that we can develop this world into a world of justice and love with people who are able to make a change, who are knowledgeable and who have studied the problems of this world. 

Competence, conscience and compassion

For this reason, we have the principles of Ignatian pedagogy. What is Ignatian pedagogy about? There are four things to say in regard to this. The first is competence. We need people who are competent. People who know the subjects they are speaking about, who know the problems of this world, who know how to solve them or who, at least, are interested in solving them. Sometimes we do not know how to solve them and sometimes the problems are too big. But we cannot leave these problems in the hands of stupid and incompetent people! 

However, knowledge is not enough. We have so many educated people in this world who really are criminals. They use their knowledge to steal from others or to suppress and plunder their own countries. We have enough of them, we do not need them and we do not want them anymore. Instead, we need people who have knowledge but who, at the same time, have a good conscience. They know how to distinguish good and bad and they have decided for the good and not for the bad. We need competent people with a good conscience. But even that is not enough. 

St. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, without love everything is useless. Therefore we have to add a third “C” which is compassion. We need compassionate people with a big heart, who use their competence and conscience for the benefit of others. That is what we mean by compassion: a heart full of love for the people around us.

Sometimes I think this is the most difficult point; that my life is not just for myself but that it is always meant to be lived in the service of others. And through serving the others, through compassion, my life finds its deepest meaning. 

Men and women for others

Therefore now the fourth point: we want to educate men and women for others. As you have just seen in the video message from Regis University, they follow the same approach. It is not just us; all over the world we try to educate people of competence, conscience and compassion to be men and women for others. 

You have started in this direction and I wish you all the best and God’s blessing for the road ahead of you. From our side, we will contribute all you need for your studies. But remember these words: We will never be happy if you are only good or even excellent in your subject; that is not the only thing we want you to achieve. We want you to be good people with a good heart who are dedicated to the people around them, in the camp or where you go back to, or wherever you will go. God bless you all.