Walking with Refugee for 40 years

04 February 2023

The suffering of Vietnamese people fleeing their country in outrageous conditions in 1980, moved the heart of Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ and made him follow God’s call to assist these people on their journey and ease their excruciating suffering. This particular campaign – prompting the foundation of JRS – was expected to be short, but subsequent comparable humanitarian
disasters have continued to show that today, 40 years later, Jesuit
accompaniment is more urgent than ever.

JRS accompanying, serving, and advocating for any kind of forcibly displaced persons has been through challenging times, pains and sorrows, but has experienced profound joy and consolation also. Its journey, after taking it through the tragedies of the Vietnamese people, has led it across the destruction of the wars in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iraq and Syria, mass
persecution of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, expulsion of the Bhutanese refugees and many more man-made humanitarian crises worldwide.

JRS South Asia marked the commemoration of 40 years of accompaniment through various events to honor the endurance and resilience of refugees and displaced people and the commitment of benefactors, staff , volunteers and partner organizations during this long journey

New Delhi

The story of the journey of JRS South Asia with the Bhutanese refugees, Sri Lankan refugees and IDPs, Chin and Afghan refugees in Delhi, IDPs in Afghanistan was narrated through the Photo Exhibition with the theme, ‘40 Years of Accompaniment’ at the Indian Social Institute, New Delhi.
Fr Jerome D’Souza, President of Jesuit Conference of South Asia, inaugurated the exhibition in the presence of representatives of the Chin and Afghan refugee community, and other invited guests.

Th e JRS AFG Impact Assessment fourth booklet ‘Testimonies of Hope’ highlights the journey of accompaniment by the JRS of the Internally Displaced Persons in Afghanistan to bring back hope to this war-torn country. The video presentation ‘Down the Decades’ documented the rare moments of JRS accompaniment, which were reiterated through the testimonies of the Chin and Afghan refugees present at the commemoration.

The scintillating cultural performance of the children and the traditional cuisine from the Chin and Afghan community enthralled everyone and enriched the event.

“JRS has given me back the lost hope”
– Kip Thluai, Baking course student

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the students of Herat expressed their sentiments about the commemoration of JRS’s 40 years of accompaniment through their artwork and handicrafts, and by communicating messages of peace in the violent environment. Th e students’ performances on promotion of peace, portraying the accompaniment of JRS through peace education took the centre stage of the day. The event provided a platform for the students to express their feelings regarding the accompaniment which they experienced personally and the positive changes the common journey brought to their communities. The students also used their computer skills to communicate their experiences to their communities. The release of the book ‘Introduction to the Principles of Social Work’ written by a teacher of Kabul University Social Work Department and supported by JRS illustrated one aspect of JRS accompaniment in Higher Education.

“JRS support of the vulnerable sections of society has been towards empowering the people.”

– Prof. Omid Husham

 

Tamil Nadu

Alverna Retreat Centre, Dindigul witnessed the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). The Provincials of Chennai and Madurai Jesuit provinces along with various other collaborators of JRS in Tamil Nadu and refugees from Sri Lankan refugee camps joined in the commemoration through a Eucharistic celebration and an event expressing gratitude through folk dances, songs and sharing of the testimonies of accompaniment.

JRS TN Director, through a video presentation highlighted the journey of JRS accompaniment. The continuation of the journey of accompaniment by JRS of the Sri Lankan refugees was reiterated through the release of ‘Amaithi Vazhi Akilam Vella’, a Peace Education Manual in Tamil and Local Integration as a Durable Solution for Sri Lankan Tamil Refugee.

“Transformation of refugees’ brokenness into wholeness is the hallmark of JRS accompaniment.”
– Jebamalai Raja SJ, Provincial of Chennai Jesuit Province

“Working with JRS and accompanying refugees was an enriching, empowering and memorable experience.”
– Sr Soundari, Provincial (former JRS TN team member)

Bangladesh

JRS Bangladesh in collaboration with Caritas Bangladesh commemorated 40 Years of JRS accompaniment through the presentation ‘A Tribute of Gratitude to JRS by the Rohingya Refugee Children’ at the Multi-purpose Child and Adolescent Centers (MCAC) in Rohingya Camps Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh in smaller groups. The presentation provided the participants
with a ray of hope through the stories of accompaniment of various refugee groups by JRS over 40 years.

“We too escaped on boat like the Vietnamese people in the video. It also made me feel sad that people have been suffering like this down the history. But there are others like the JRS who stand by us.”
Ms. Asma, Rohingya Refugee, Cox’s Bazaar.

“JRS treats others as human beings and comes forward to help without any discrimination. I, as a humanitarian worker, felt happy to be a part of JRS’s journey at the Rohingya camps.”
-Md. Shahab Uddin, MCAC staff.