On 14th November, the Jesuit Refugee Service will be celebrating its Founder’s Day, marking 43 years of serving, accompanying and advocating on behalf of refugees across the world.
At the end of 2022, more than 108 million people were forcibly displaced, because of persecution, conflict, poverty, environmental disasters, and other challenges.
Globally the Jesuit Refugee Service served more the 1,500,000, a small proportion of whom are seeking sanctuary here in the UK.
They are on the very human search for survival, refuge, and family life. Yet once arriving here there are so many obstacles to overcome. In an increasingly hostile climate, people also face months or years of waiting for their asylum case to be processed.
JRS UK works with people made destitute by the asylum system, who have no recourse to public funds, and nowhere else to go in the world. During the past 40 years, they have also worked with people held in immigration detention centres.
A major part of the support offered to refugees by JRS UK is stable and secure accommodation. Many families and religious communities have opened up their homes to people who would otherwise find themselves sleeping on the streets or the night bus.
One example is Emilie House in Stockwell, South London, where, thanks to the generosity of the Sisters of St Emilie, JRS UK is offering women refugees the safety and stability they need to improve their situation and focus on their asylum application. One such female refugee, Michelle, said: “I really enjoy living in Emilie House. Before I was homeless and sick and needed lots of support. Now I am safe living in Emilie House with its big garden. I love gardening, whether as part of a workshop or by myself it is my favourite thing to do there. I am growing some tomatoes, spicy chillies and herbs.”
JRS UK supporters have responded to efforts that are made to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf refugee friends. This cannot be done without collaboration and generosity – which is so beautiful, and like joy, seems to be contagious.
Fr. Pedro Arrupe established JRS in 1980 as an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.
He also encouraged us to be close to refugees, to listen to their stories, to learn from their cultures, and to be witnesses of God’s love.
“The aim of the Jesuit Refugee Service is to be present among refugees, to accompany them in their trials, to share their joys and sorrows, to help them as far as possible to improve their situation, and to keep alive their hope of a better future,” Fr. Pedro said.
“The Jesuit Refugee Service is not only a work of charity, but also of justice. It is a way of making the refugees’ voice heard, of being their advocates before the world, of making known their needs and their rights, of denouncing the injustices they suffer.”
Picture: Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe (CNS photo/courtesy Jesuits Global)