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"…Struck by the plight of thousands of boat people and refugees, I felt it my duty to send cable messages to some 20 Major Superiors [of the Society of Jesus] around the world. Sharing my distress with them, I asked what they could do in their countries to bring at least some relief to such a tragic situation…” Fr Pedro Arrupe wrote 14 November 1980 when he officially started the Jesuit Refugee Service. Arrupe, then the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, noticed the ability of Jesuits around the world to assist in refugee work.

Arrupe in India. Even when Fr Arrupe was almost paralysed after a stroke in 1981, he drew a map of India with Sri Lanka below it, and with his left hand pointing towards the droplet, he asked Mark Raper SJ, then director of JRS Asia Pacific, "What is JRS doing to help the people of Sri Lanka?" Following his direction, three decades ago, a small Jesuit team with the same zeal maintained a strong pastoral presence in Mandapam, the transit camp for Sri Lankan refugees arriving to the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, a boat trip away from Sri Lanka. 

In 1995, JRS grew in South Asia; a regional office opened and two Jesuits went to northern Sri Lanka under the JRS banner in the midst of political turmoil. The following year, JRS started to provide education and community development in myriad small camps for Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu.

Modern-day service. The work of JRS has expanded towards a longer-term commitment. It is reported that refugees around the world spend an estimated 17 years in camps. This is what has mobilized JRS workers around the world, and most recently in South Asia, to prepare online learning programmes, to provide war-affected youth and refugees with the same quality tertiary education that students at American and Indian universities receive. Recently JRS South Asia has prepared a five-year e-learning programme entitled; "A quality online tertiary education for war-affected youth in the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka.” (with context-sensitive learning content to facilitate the process of learning). It is planned for IDPs who are deprived of access of higher quality education in the areas most affected by the war.

Another startling statistic shows that more than half of the world's refugees now live in cities, rather than in camps, which offers new challenges to NGOs trying to assist refugees who live invisibly in urban areas. When the regional office moved to India's capital of New Delhi in 2011, JRS staff soon took note of the needs of the urban refugee community, especially of persons who fled Burma's Chin State. Without legal status, language skills or access to education, they were left to survive in Delhi's unskilled labour market, rife with exploitation. JRS now supports refugees unable to access other Delhi NGOs by providing English, computer and tailoring courses.

The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, those internally displaced by conflict or disaster (IDPs), and those returning home after years seeking refuge abroad. 

Our work started in 1984 in India and grew to support refugees and IDPs in Nepal and Sri Lanka before setting up a regional office in Bangalore in the early 1990s. JRS moved to New Delhi in 2011 to be better connected with other human rights and governmental organizations. Once established here, the JRS team witnessed the great need of refugees who had fled Burma's Chin State.

Another long-running programme has guaranteed quality education for thousands of Bhutanese refugees in camps in Nepal. JRS works with Caritas to provide education in the Bhutanese refugee camps. While over 76,000 have been resettled in a global initiative, more than 8,000 students remain.

Seven years ago, JRS moved to Afghanistan, supporting war-affected youth and returnees through education, healthcare and livelihood activities. JRS serves by providing education at various levels, teacher training, vocational training, and livelihoods programmes to build up human and material resources for the sustainable development of vulnerable groups, who have returned to Afghanistan after years of seeking refuge abroad.

JRS is still expanding to assist other forcibly displaced communities in great need. We are actively building our Chin refugee project in Delhi to support more vulnerable groups with livelihood opportunities in small refugee communities on the outskirts of the city by adding more training programmes to the English, computers, teacher training, and tailoring courses offered.


  • Jesuits in South Asia
  • Jesuits in India
  • Jesuits in Afghanistan
  • Jesuits in Sri Lanka
  • Jesuits in Nepal
Jesuits in South Asia

The South Asia Assistancy of the Society of Jesus is made up of 20 provinces (including some regions). To see more on the work of the assistancy or of individual provinces, visit www.jcsaweb.org or click the tabs for brief histories of the Jesuits in the places JRS now serves.

To read more about the work of JRS in South Asia, including  news updates, voices of refugees, and opportunities to support our work, click here.
Jesuits in India

Francis Xavier, a close companion of Ignatius Loyola was the first Jesuit sent to India, and arrived at Goa 6 May 1542, the year of Akbar's birth. Because of his interest in comparative religions, Akbar invited a Jesuit mission to his court in 1580. This led to the establishment of a church and a Jesuit mission in Agra which continued until 1803.

In Goa, the Jesuits established St. Paul's College, which became their headquarters in Asia. The college had classes on a variety of subjects taught there free of charge. In the early 1600s, the College had 3000 students, from all the missions of Asia. Its library was one of the biggest in Asia, and the first printing press in Asia was mounted there.

Today, there are 3,828 Jesuits in India, in 17 provinces and one region.

The Delhi Jesuit Province, established as a region of the Patna Province in 1988, had 43 Jesuits. The Delhi Province has quietly but steadily grown to 118, with 13 young men in the novitiate and 44 scholastics in the various stages of formation, 57 priests and four brothers. The Delhi Province is impressively large, extending from Himachal Pradesh in the north through Punjab, Haryana and Uttrakhand to Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in the south.

For more information on the Delhi Province, visit www.delhijesuits.org.

For more information on the work of JRS in Delhi, click here.

The Jesuit presence in Tamil Nadu, in southern India, began with St Francis Xavier. Four months after he arrived in Goa, he travelled to Tamil Nadu and worked in Manapad, Tuticorin, Madurai and Madras-Mylapore. After Francis Xavier came Antony Criminali (1520 – 1549) who was later killed by the Badagas in a raid near Vedalai, Ramnad District, Tamil Nadu. Henri Henriques (1520 –1600), Goncalo Fernandez (1541–1621), Robert de Nobili (1577 –1656) and others were sent from Goa to the Tamil region to continue the Madurai mission.
Madurai Mission was raised to the status of a vice–province in 1929, dependent on the French Toulouse Province. In the year 1952, when the Toulouse Province celebrated its centenary, the Madurai Vice-Province was raised to the status of an independent province.

All the well-known Jesuit institutions in Tamil Nadu are the fruits of the vision, tireless efforts and heroic sacrifices of the French Jesuits: St. Joseph's School and College, Tiruchy (1844), St. Mary's School, Dindigul (1850), St. Mary's School, Madurai (1855), St. Xavier's School (1880) and College (1923), Playamkottai, St. Francis Xavier School, Tuticorin (1884), Loyola College, Chennai (1925), De Britto School, Devakottai (1943) and St. Xavier's College of Education, Palayamkottai (1950).

For more information on the Madurai Province, visit www.maduraijesuits.org.

For more information on the work of JRS in Tamil Nadu click here.

Jesuits in Afghanistan

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This is taken from an article "The Jesuits of Afghanistan". Read the complete PDF document above.

Dr. Henry Heras, a Jesuit priest and professor visited Afghanistan in 1934 to study the land and the culture. His work was much appreciated, receiving accolades from Al-Muttawakkal A. Mohd. Zahir, King of Afghanistan, for his literacy service. His discourse on "The Jesuits in Afghanistan” tells the tale of the travels, the struggles and hardships the Jesuits encountered in Afghanistan.

Fr. Antonio Monserrate, a Spaniard, was the first Jesuit to enter Afghanistan. He had arrived at the court of Akbar, at Fatehpur, with Father Rudolfo Aquaviva in February 1580.  He was assigned the task of tutoring Prince Murad, the son of Akbar, traveling with him to Kabul in 1582.

Fr. Monserrate describes the Khyber Pass, the gateway to Afghanistan from Pakistan, as, '…a difficult, steep and narrow pass over a high range...”. He gave detailed geographic descriptions of the path, especially of triangular shaped caves, which are entered from the top, on the western side of the country. It led him to suppose that those caves had been inhabited by Christian hermits, especially since the Fathers of the Church have recorded that St. Bartholomew preached in the region.

The myth of the Christians of Cathay was heard of from Fr. Monserrate's time. Later as more was heard about them, the Jesuits grew interested. Fr. Jerome Xavier, writing from Lahore, India, advised an expedition to Cathay and selected Br. Bento de Goes from Portugal. He travelled from Agra on October 29th 1602 and the account of his journey, that took him through Afghanistan, is embodied in the work of Fr. Matteo Ricci, the famous Jesuit pioneer in China.

The next Jesuit was Fr. Joseph de Castro, native of Turin, who was a great friend of the Emperor Jahangir, and accompanied him in his travels through the empire. Fr. Castro said in a letter, "…we came to a kingdom called Kabul, which is in Tartary, …where we have a public church and a house, It is a royal city much larger than Milan, and very well provided with everything.” Fr. Henry Roth (Roa), was on his way home to Bavaria from India in 1654. In a letter, he mentioned he had met some Christians who undoubtedly were the younger generations of the converts influenced by St. Thomas the Apostle. This documentary evidence was of the utmost importance as there was no prior indication of where the Afghan Christians were residing.

Fr. Stan D'Souza came to Afghanistan in 1971 for a two-year stay, as a Johns Hopkins University statistical advisor for the Afghan Department of Demography in the Central Statistics Office. His main his work consisted of preparing the Afghan population census: Afghan town's nomenclatures, study of the different components of the Afghan society from a demographic viewpoint, and setting up representative samples.

Frs. Tom Kunnunkal, Paul Jackson, Aloysius Fonseca and Dionysius Lobo came to Kabul in August 2003 to make concrete plans for a Jesuit service in Afghanistan. Fr. Aloysius stayed, spending time in Herat to learn the local language and make preparations to return for a long-term assignment. He, however, died in Kabul on February 8th, 2004, the night before he was to return to Delhi.

Fr. Anthony Santiago and Br. Noel Oliver arrived in Kabul in early 2005, then moving to Herat to begin education initiatives. In September 2005, the Jesuit Refugee Service was registered officially with the NGO Department of the Ministry of Economy in Kabul, and now serves in Herat, Kabul, Bamiyan, and Daikundi Provinces. 

For more information on the work of JRS in Afghanistan, click here.

Jesuits in Sri Lanka

Fr. S. G. Perera, a well-known Jesuit historian of the Church of Sri Lanka, was the first to record the arrival of the Jesuits there during the time of St Francis Xavier, one of he first Jesuits and friend of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). The Jesuits in Sri Lanka began as part of the Indian Province, in Mannar in 1561, until 1608. They later moved to Colombo in 1602.

Much later, in 1893 Pope Leo XIII founded the Papal Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka, and founded the two Dioceses of Trincomalee-Batticaloa and Galle. The responsibility of administering the two newly founded Dioceses and the seminary was entrusted to the Society of Jesus of Champagne-France and Belgium. However, these two provinces, with the responsibility of the newly-founded dioceses, opted for the same names to identify themselves, such as, the Jesuits of the Trincomalee - Batticaloa mission and the Jesuits of the Galle mission. These two mission provinces, though, later handed over their work to the New Orleans-USA and Naples-Italy Jesuits until 1962 when Sri Lanka was established as an independent province.

For more information on the history and current ministries of the Jesuits in Sri Lanka, visit www.srilankajesuits.org

For more information on the work of JRS in Sri Lanka, click here.

Jesuits in Nepal

Jesuits began serving in Nepal in 1951, when Fr M. D. Moran, Fr Edward Saton, and Fr Frank Murphy established St. Xavier's Godavari School. In response to the invitation by the Nepal government, the school expanded to Jawalakhel in 1954. In 1959, Fr. Edward Niesen began pastoral services from the east of Biratnagar to Damak. The Jesuits established St. Xavier's College in 1988, currently educating about 3,000 young men and women.

Fr Niesen, with help from Fr Ludwig, Fr Stiller, and Fr Thomas Gafney, began to support the school's alumni, which became the Godavari Alumni Association, who continue to serve Nepal's poor. Fr Stiller, Fr John Locke, and Fr Casper Miller jointly established a research centre and its library in Siena and continue to serve Nepal.

Fr Gafney began serving orphans in 1970, which developed into the St. Xavier's Social Service Centre, which continues to offer services to orphans, handicapped and those in need of drug rehabilitation.

In 1979 Fr Akijiro Ooki began service in Pokhara, caring for the deaf and mentally challenged, and providing care for the Catholics in the area. In 1999, Fr. Victor Beck started St. Xavier's School at Deonia and Moran Memorial School and St. Francis Xavier's Parish at Maheshpur in Jhapa district, east Nepal.

For more information on the history and current ministries of the Jesuits in Nepal, visit www.nepaljesuits.com.

For more information on the work of JRS in Nepal, click here.