Celebrating 35 years of accompaniment and service all over the world
14 November 2015

Father Pedro Arrupe SJ, founder of the Jesuit Refugee Service

I joined JRS in 2005 when JRS was celebrating 25 years of service among the refugees.  In my welcome speech as the JRS country director of Tamil Nadu, India, I said, ‘The most joyful celebration for JRS would be the day when there is no need for JRS, the day there are no refugees in the world.’  10 years have passed and the number of refugees is on the increase… 

UNHCR's annual Global Trends Report: World at War, released on June 18, 2015, said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It pointed out that the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago. The increase represents the biggest leap ever seen in a single year. Moreover, the report states that the situation is likely to worsen still further. Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. If this were the population of a country, it would be the world's 24th biggest.

What makes it inspiring to work with JRS is that JRS has grasped the plight of the refugees and does its best to alleviate their suffering through its triple mission: accompaniment, service and advocacy.  Witnessing the brutal death of one’s own kith and kin and leaving them behind in their country of origin has a devastating effect on the life of every refugee. In such circumstances, they need to be accompanied. When the refugees land on foreign soil, they have almost nothing - no home, not enough clothing and no food. Their life starts from scratch, and so they need services for their existence and wellbeing.  Also in a foreign land, especially in countries which have not signed the UN convention on refugees, they have become voiceless. To help them lead a life with dignity, they need someone to advocate their cause. 

JRS knows well that it can do nothing on its own. And so it joins hands with UN agencies especially UNHCR, Governments, Catholic Church, Religious congregations, like-minded NGOs and the refugees themselves to achieve its triple mission. Most of the JRS staff are refugees themselves. 

On this 35th anniversary, JRS expresses its gratitude to refugees first for welcoming JRS to walk with them. JRS is grateful to all our donors, UNHCR, other UN agencies, like-minded NGOs, civil society groups and the entire family for their generosity and dedication. JRS pleads with the international community to stop wars, the production of weapons as a profit making business, and the illegal transfer of weapons to terrorist groups.  JRS also encourages the countries especially in the first world to welcome refugees. Burden sharing of refugees needs to be reflected globally and a global response is essential to combat the causes of forced displacement worldwide. May Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, the founder of JRS,  inspire all of us. 

A. Premkumar SJ, JRS assistant director in South Asia

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