Jesuit Refugee Service: accompany, serve, and advocate for refugees

As representatives from the Society of Jesus gather in Rome from all over the world for their General Congregation, there is a relatively new ministry that they can be very proud of — the Jesuit Refugee Service.

This program was initiated by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the Jesuit superior general, who had seen the devastating impact of war on people in Japan where he cared for the victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. The initiative was even more remarkable because it occurred at a time when the Jesuits were being forced to cut back because of declining numbers.

It was 1980 and the victims of war this time were refugees fleeing Vietnam.

“He didn’t have any great ideas beyond walking with them to see what would happen,” explains Jesuit Fr. Thomas Smolich, international director of Jesuit Refugee Service. “Being Jesuits, we can’t just stop with walking with people, so we began very quickly to train people, to prepare people for their relocation, often times in English-speaking countries like the States, Canada or Australia.”

Today Jesuit Refugee Service works in 45 countries serving 724,000 people, 55 percent of whom are Muslim. It has a staff of 1,800 people and a budget of about $50 million.

It is quite small in comparison with Catholic Relief Services, Caritas International, Doctors without Borders, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which also work with refugees.

Jesuit Refugee Service’s motto is to accompany, serve, and advocate for and with refugees.

“It’s very Ignatian,” explains Smolich. “It’s very consistent with who we are. We listen to people’s stories, we walk with people, we hear who they are, we hear what they want, and we do our best to provide services that meet those needs. More than anything, we help people find a voice, a voice to express what has happened to them, what they want, and what they can do in their future.” Continue reading


Additional reading

News category: Features.

Tags: , ,