The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection is a research, education and advocacy team that promotes study and action on issues linking Christian Faith and social justice in Zambia and Malawi. JCTR began in 1988 as a project of the Zambia-Malawi Province of the Society of Jesus and is similar in orientation to other Jesuit social centers around the world.
To foster from a faith-inspired perspective a critical understanding of current issues. Guided by the the Church's Social Teaching that emphasises dignity in community, our mission is to generate activities for the promotion of the fullness of human life through research, education, advocacy and consultation. Cooperating widely with other groups, our Jesuit sponsorship directs us to a special concern for the poor and assures an international linkage to our efforts. We aim to promote an inculturated faith, gender equality and empowerment of local communities in the work of justice and peace and the integrity of creation.
What do we do?
The Centre engages in research on key social issues like cost of living, social implications of debt servicing, accessibility of healthcare and education, and integrity of local democracy. We put forward our findings in publications, workshops and conferences, and media presentations. We join in advocacy campaigns by mobilising the public through local-based teams around Zambia and by cooperating with other civil society groups. Our current programmes include:
- Meeting Basic Needs: For several years, JCTR has carried out in Lusaka a monthly survey of prices of basic family necessities (e.g. food housing, etc.) comparing the finding with take-home wages. The survey now includes urban areas of Livingstone, Kabwe, Ndola, Luanshya, Kitwe, Kasama, Mongu, Solwezi, Monze, Chipata and just recently Mpika and Mansa . The survey has further expanded to include six rural areas which are Mufumbwe, Masaiti, Malama, Shangombo, Kazungula, and Chongwe. This "Basic Needs Basket" is widely used by civil society organisations, labour unions, etc., to promote better living conditions. It is now done in 12 other towns and 5 rural areas. We have also done studies on the working conditions of teachers, cost sharing in education and accessibility of health services
- Managing Public Debt: The JCTR hosted Jubilee-Zambia,- which aimed at securing total debt cancellation and a just international trade system in order to facilitate poverty reduction. There has been significant debt cancellation for Zambia, as such our focus is now on ensuring use of freed resources for equitable poverty eradication, but also strong legal reform of the debt management process. The campaign has strong links and networks at community, national and international levels, including a very active provincial outreach programme.
- Promoting Churches' Social Teaching: The JCTR builds awareness and more effective utilization of the riches of the social teaching of the church. Our aim is to link faith and justice in a way that focuses the energies of various communities on transforming society. Through the value added dimension of equal participation, integral development, solidarity, common good, love, justice and a special concern for the poor. We promote political ethics and constitutional respect for Human rights.
- Partnering for Change: The JCTR manages two task forces that involve interested individuals beyond our own staff. The first addresses issues on inculturation, and the second deals with the integrity of creation/environmental issues.
- Building Awareness: The JCTR presents its research and educational materials through a quarterly Bulletin, a quarterly Policy Brief, a regular updated website, special reports, wide spread media coverage in local newspapers, radio and television and articles in popular and scholarly publications. These are distributed widely across the country through the the JCTR Outreach teams.
The Context in which we work
JCTR serves two African countries, Malawi and Zambia, though most of our current projects are located in Zambia. Both are peaceful countries, rich in natural and human resources and united by a strong desire to improve the living conditions of all.
However, both Malawi and Zambia are poor countries, heavily indebted and ranking low on the Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
The JCTR works with other civil society groups to improve the situations in these countries by "promoting faith and justice". In doing so, we face a challenging landscape characterised by issues such as the following:
- The Living Conditions keep deteriorating with many Zambians unable to receive good social services such as Health, Clean and safe Water and Education. The cost of living is high as shown by the "Basic Needs Basket" averaging K2,223,697 (US$487)PER month including the cost of a decent three bed roomed house. The take home pay for teachers however ranges from K1, 145, 300 to K1, 831, 600 (US$250- US$401) by January 2010.
- Zambia has benefited from Debt Relief Initiatives which reduced external debt by over 80%. These benefits need to be supported by reform of institutions, policies and laws which govern debt management in order to avoid another possible debt trap and ensure that new debts contribute to sustainable human development.
- The rules of international trade continue to hamper development as they favour the rich and developed countries. Presently, Zambia is part of the on-going negotiations with European Union on Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).However, lack of capacity and adequate Knowledge of the consequences or alternatives to current trade arrangements continue to be major threats to Zambia's promising economy.
- The literacy rate of women is much lower than that of men, and girls are more likely to drop our of school than boys.
- The social teaching of the Catholic Church is a rich resource for empowering people to work for social justice, but it still is in too many instances "our best kept secret".
- Approximately 14 to 15 percent of adult Zambians are infected by HIV/ AIDS, but 100% are affected. The rapid spread of the diseases is closely linked to the fact that more than 60 to 65 percent of the people live below the poverty line and are unable to afford the cost of basic needs including adequate nutrition.
- Feeding people through the development of an agricultural sector that can sustain periodic droughts and floods is now Zambia's number one priority especially since close to 80 percent of the rural population is poor.
- Environmental degradation in Zambia is undermining future sustainable development, an issue that especially hurts the poor.
- From a population of approximately twelve million, it is estimated that only seven hundred thousand people are in formal employment.