Jesuit Refugee Service
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The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is an international Catholic organization that aids refugees, forcibly displaced peoples, and asylum seekers. JRS operates at national and regional levels. Founded in November 1980 as a work of the Society of Jesus, JRS was officially registered on 19 March 2000 in Vatican City as a foundation. The impetus to found JRS came from the then father general of the Jesuits, Pedro Arrupe, who was inspired to action by the plight of Vietnamese boat people. JRS's international headquarters are located in Rome.
JRS has programs in 51 countries. The areas of work are in the field of Education, Emergency Assistance, Health and Nutrition, Income-Generating Activities, and Social Services. In total, more than 600,000 individuals have been beneficiaries of JRS projects.
Over 1,400 workers contribute to the work of JRS, the majority of whom work on a voluntary basis, including about 78 Jesuit priests, brothers and scholastics, 66 religious from other congregations, and more than 1,000 lay people. These figures do not include the large number of refugees recruited to take part in programs as teachers, health, workers and others.
JRS is also involved in advocacy and human rights work. This involves ensuring that refugees are afforded their full rights as guaranteed by the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and working to strengthen the protection afforded to Internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In the late 1970s, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was moved by the perilous journeys to exile of the Vietnamese boat people. Although the Vietnam War had ended in 1975, it was not until 1979 that great numbers of people began to leave the country and seek refuge elsewhere through risky journeys by sea. At that time Fr. Arrupe appealed to Jesuit major superiors for practical assistance. The generous "first wave of action" provoked him to reflect on how much more the Society of Jesus could do if its responses to this, and to other contemporary crises of forced human displacement, were planned and coordinated. From that initial sentiment has grown a world-wide service to forcibly displaced people. On 14 November 1980, Fr. Arrupe announced the birth of the Jesuit Refugee Service.
As an international humanitarian NGO, JRS strives to implement the magis ideal of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. One of the key messages of the 35th Jesuit General Congregation (2008) was to reach new physical, cultural, religious and social frontiers, to those who are estranged, a task confirmed by two Popes. The search for new frontiers has taken JRS to places where refugees face deprivation and abuse of their basic rights: traditional refugee camps, detention centres and prisons, conflict zones, border areas, and in the heart of big cities, including Iraq and Syria.
In deciding with whom to work, JRS feels that the scope of existing international conventions is too restrictive. It therefore applies the expression 'de facto refugee' to all "persons persecuted because of race, religion, membership of social or political groups"; to "the victims of armed conflicts, erroneous economic policy or natural disasters"; and, for "humanitarian reasons", to internally displaced persons, that is, civilians who "are forcibly uprooted from their homes by the same type of violence as refugees but who do not cross national frontiers ."
Since the above definition refers only to individuals in fear of persecution, regional organisations in both Africa (African Union 1969) and Latin America (Organisation for American States 1984) have developed wider definitions which include mass displacements which occur as a result of social and economic collapse in the context of conflict. JRS strives by "accompaniment" to respect the human dignity of all refugees throughout their ordeal.
Internally displaced persons in Syria
Mercy in Motion
In 2009, JRS provided education services to approximately 285,000 young people in 25 countries worldwide. This part of its operation is called "Mercy in Motion", whose website includes numerous videos depicting its works.
On the website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, detailed recent reports are given of JRS work under the following categories: Country Reports, Fact Finding Reports, Handbooks/Manuals, Legal Articles/Analyses/Commentaries, Policy/Position Papers, Regional Reports, and Thematic Reports.
- Map of regional offices. Accessed 20 May 2016.
- Pope Francis. Accessed 21 May 2016.
- UNHCR website. Accessed 9 June 2016.
- IDPs on JRS website. Accessed 9 June 2016.
- Pedro Arrupe, SJ: Twenty-eighth General of the Society of Jesus. England: Gracewing. 2007. p. 290. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- General Congregaton 35, Decree 1. Accessed 20 May 2016.
- Address of Benedict XVI to GC 35. Accessed 20 May 2016.
- NCR news. Accessed 20 May 2016.
- Oxford Public International Law on de facto refugees. Accessed 9 June 2016.
- ReliefWeb statement. Accessed 20 May 2016.
- Accompaniment. Accessed 20 May 2016.
- Fuchs, Christian. "Let Us Not Celebrate a Fifth Anniversary of the Syrian Conflict". Huffington Post. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- News on education from countries. Accessed 20 May 2016.
- Illustrative videos, accessed 9 June 2016.