Eoghan Keogh is the Chaplain in Belvedere College. He has run Lenten fundraising and awareness programmes in Belvedere for South Sudan for several years. Events include a sponsored silence for students, in solidarity with the unheard voices of their fellow students of Jesuit schools in less privileged parts of the world, and a five-a-side football tournament called The African Nations.
“I have always been inspired by Jesuits like Pedro Arrupe and the idea that to live an authentic faith life we must be concerned with those who are marginalised or materially poor. Arrupe said “Today’s prime educational objective must be to form men and woman for others who cannot even conceive of the love of God which does not include love for the least of our neighbours”.
When I was growing up, we had a Trócaire box and the image of the children on it really moved me. At that age, I had never really connected with the fact that the only difference between me and those children is I came into the world in a different place. Had I been born where they are or even in Ireland at the time of the famine it could be my face on a box in another country. Therefore, my life and position in this world is a gift, leaving me with the opportunity to use my position of privilege to share and respond in whatever way I can. I feel a sense of responsibility. This is God’s gift to me and to not respond in some way would be for me to deny the God I feel has shown me so much love in my life.
Belvedere College’s connection with South Sudan was in the school when I arrived. I decided to try to engage my students in a way that enabled them to connect more and to sow seeds of a commitment to people at the margins that may stay with them for life.
Through reflection and actions, we establish a need and try to respond. In terms of structural change unfortunately we make little difference but it challenges my students, and me, to consider our place in the world. My hope is that they might want to respond more and more as they grow up.
I have not visited South Sudan but I am inspired by the work of my friend, Tony O’Riordan SJ who works closely with refugees and displaced communities there. I have experienced life in a refugee camp from a visit to Malawi a few years ago, and the memory of that has solidified my desire to try to respond to the needs of people at the margins in whatever way I can.
I am learning more all the time and, if the truth be told, I get more than I give in terms of gratitude. To be in a position to give is a privilege and an opportunity to find a deep happiness and connection with humanity that many have but few realise sometimes. Connection with South Sudan has had a real impact on my life and my attitude and I am grateful to have it in my life.”