Jesuit Refugee Service

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Jesuit Refugee Service
Abbreviation JRS
Established 1980; 38 years ago (1980)
Region served
50 countries
Main organ
Servir (3x annually)
Affiliations Jesuit, Catholic
Website JRS
Remarks JRS has branch 11
regional offices[1]

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.[2] 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 700,000 individuals have been beneficiaries of JRS projects.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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[3] and working to strengthen the protection afforded to Internally displaced persons (IDPs).[4]


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.[5]


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,[6] a task confirmed by two Popes.[7] 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.[3][8]


In deciding with whom to work, JRS feels that the scope of existing international conventions is too restrictive.[9] 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 ."[10]

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.[11]

Internally displaced persons in Syria[edit]

In 2016 JRS marked its sixth year serving internally displaced persons in Syria.[12]

Mercy in Motion[edit]

Coinciding with the declaration of Pope Francis' Holy Year of Mercy, the Jesuit Refugee Service launched the Mercy in Motion Campaign. The goal of this campaign is to provide more than 100,000 children across the world access to education. Pope Francis blessed the campaign on November 14, 2015 in a private audience with refugees, and the staff of the JRS.


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.[3]

Ignatian Spirituality[edit]

Ignatian spirituality drives us to recognize that God is present in all things, and inspires us to find him on a daily basis. It is guided by keen discernment and an unwavering dedication of becoming a person for others through service. The JRS, together with the people they work with strive to continuously embody this, therefore actively servicing hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters across the globe. Keeping the tenets of Ignatian Spirituality in mind, JRS focuses on seven values within which they pattern the organization's mission — compassion, hope, dignity, solidarity, hospitality, justice and participation. The organization continues to work in various unfortunate areas of the world in a mission to find God in all things.

“By prayerfully accompanying Jesus on his way of suffering and death, our gratitude for God’s gift of redemption grows stronger. And in this gratitude, we become more interested in assisting our sisters and brothers who suffer so terribly today,” said Fr. Kevin White, SJ, coordinator of Mission and Identity for JRS/USA.


  1. ^ Map of regional offices. Accessed 20 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Pope Francis meets with Jesuit Refugee Service". Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  3. ^ a b c Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. "Refworld | Jesuit Refugee Service". Refworld. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  4. ^ "Google Translate". Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  5. ^ Pedro Arrupe, SJ: Twenty-eighth General of the Society of Jesus. England: Gracewing. 2007. p. 290. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
  6. ^ General Congregation 35, Decree 1. Accessed 20 May 2016.
  7. ^ "To the Fathers of the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus (February 21, 2008) | BENEDICT XVI". Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  8. ^ "Jesuit Refugee Service brings help to a Syria in crisis". National Catholic Reporter. 2015-06-04. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  9. ^ "Refugees". doi:10.1093/law:epil/9780199231690/law-9780199231690-e866.
  10. ^ "Expert Statement on Internally Displaced Persons". ReliefWeb. 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  11. ^ jrsusa. "Jesuit Refugee Service | North America | JRS Accompanies". Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  12. ^ Fuchs, Christian. "Let Us Not Celebrate a Fifth Anniversary of the Syrian Conflict". Huffington Post. Retrieved 31 May 2015.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°54′4.94″N 12°27′38″E / 41.9013722°N 12.46056°E / 41.9013722; 12.46056