- Our presence is a clear message that we as free people are voluntarily and faithfully willing to accompany those whose liberty is taken away and who cannot choose what happens next with their lives. It is this presence that provides comfort and a way of exhorting hope in their better tomorrow.
The cornerstone of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is to show humanity and help forcibly displaced persons. We are aware that all the subsidies in the world will never be able to replace the warmth of human presence which is experienced when we feel a person helps another person on his or her own accord. The JRS recognizes the importance of human dignity of displaced persons through the process of accompanying.
This direct and personal approach to human beings and co-operation is what empowers both refugees and migrants as well as JRS staff by accompanying them at difficult times while they are going through refugee camps, fleeing from their homes in war zones or living in reception detention centres. JRS staff understand how to take a stand for them.
“Our close and direct contact with people, our presence among them is what helps us understand what their real needs are”, said Bernard Arputhasamy SJ, former JRS Director for the Asia-Pacific Region.
To accompany means being someone’s friend. We are Jesus’ friends and companions, and that is why we want to be the companions of those whom he would like to be connected with, the poor and the outcasts. Our action is very practical and efficient. Frequently, accompanying is a way of providing protection and “internationalizing” the situation where some of our “proteges” find themselves in. The presence of an international team can often prevent attacks on refugees and migrants. Even more so, our presence is a clear message that we as free people are willing to voluntarily and faithfully accompany those to whom liberty is taken away and who cannot choose what happens next with their lives. It is this presence that provides comfort and a way of exhorting hope in their better tomorrow.
Our companionship is only a confirmation that God is present in every segment of human history and even in those most tragic moments. We want them to be able to experience His presence, and know they He has not abandoned them. As pastoral workers we are focused on prosperity, we are not burdened by political interests, religious and ethnic divisions, either among the people we help or among the institutions and governments that decide on their destiny.
As members of JRS we are internationally recognized for our connection with the people we help: in reception centres, refugee camps, war zones, post-war circumstances…
Being with those in need is the essence of JRS. It is a permanent ideal, both personally and pastorally, which was best defined by the JRS leaders in 1985: “The JRS really brings a special dimension to its work… we are trying to emphasize how it is more important to be present with someone rather than to do something for him. We want our presence among refugees to be the presence of sharing, accompanying and moving in the same direction.”