Asian Church has a lot to offer says new Jesuit head

The newly elected Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr Adolfo Nicolas told an Australian Jesuit publication last year that the Church in Asia has much to offer the whole Church and that it ''had not taken the risks'' that it should have.

In an interview with the Province Express, Fr Nicolas said ''the West does not have a monopoly on meaning and spirituality, and can learn a lot from the experience of Asian cultures.''

''Asia has a lot yet to offer to the Church, to the whole Church, but we have not done it yet. Maybe we have not been courageous enough, or we have not taken the risks that we should.''

The five decade veteran in the Asian Church and more recently the President of the Jesuit Conference of South East Asia is a body which represents the order from China and Myanmar in the west, to Korea in the north, Australia in the south, and Micronesia in the east. It brings together an incredibly diverse group of cultures and societies. From countries where Christianity has been strong in the past, but is on the wane, to places where Christians make up a small but vibrant minority.

Fr Nicolas said peoples experiences of Christianity differed through the region.

''I think the real experience of the Japanese is different. And it should be different. But the formulation continues to be very much a Western formulation'', he told Province Express.

The former head of the Japanese province said while some work has been done comparing the Ignatian experience with that of Hindus in India, there had not been a lot of work on finding similarities in Japan, China or Korean cultures. He said this was partly because the East Asians have a strong respect for tradition, and hence a respect for Christianity's European traditions. However, the region's remoteness also gives it more freedom to be creative.

''There is more space for experimenting, for trying, for thinking and exchanging'', he said.

''Those who enter into the lives of the people, they begin to question their own positions very radically', he said. ''Because they see genuine humanity in the simple people, and yet they see that this genuine humanity is finding a depth of simplicity, of honesty, of goodness that does not come from our sources.''

''That conversation must continue, if we are to learn from Asia and Asia is to learn from us.

''That is a tremendous challenge, and I think it's a challenge that we have to face. We do not have a monopoly, and we have a lot to learn.''

21 Jan 2008