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Jesuit response to refugee crisis

The Irish Jesuit Refugee Service JRS is currently developing an evidenced based policy response to the current refugee crisis. The document, entitled ‘Sharing Responsibility, Saving Lives: JRS Ireland Response to European Refugee Crisis’, analyses the structural causes of the present crisis and helps inform where the need is greatest, how those needs can best be served and where the greatest resources can be mobilised to respond.

John Dardis SJ, former Irish Jesuit Provincial and now President of the Conference of European Jesuit Provincials, has called for concrete actions in response to the crisis, including advocating within local political structures for a policy that is humane, in solidarity and open.

Across Europe the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is present at the pressure points of the current refugee crisis providing much needed humanitarian relief to refugees in Italy and Macedonia and intensifying efforts in Greece and Hungry. This work by JRS in these hot spots is currently being supported by JRS International’s Warm Welcome in Europe appeal.

Thousands of men, women and children, are risking their lives on a daily basis on unsafe boats primarily because they have no other choice.  More than 350,000 people have put their lives at risk to cross the Mediterranean Sea so far this year. More than 2,800 people did not survive the journey.

According to Eugene Quinn, Director of JRS Ireland, “At least 34 people, including 15 babies and children, drowned yesterday after their overcrowded boat capsized off the coast of one of the Greek islands. And images recently of the lifeless body of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Greek shore provided a tragic human reminder of the cost of inaction. We are called to respond as individuals, as communities and as states.  Pope Francis urged the faithful to open their hearts and their homes to people seeking refuge and protection in Europe. His words bear repeating: ‘There needs to be a united response to the question of migration. We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery.’”

Eugene Quinn noted that in 1980 a similar plight of the Vietnamese boat people forced to undertake hazardous sea crossings in flimsy vessels. That inspired Father Pedro Arrupe to found the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) as a response from the Society of Jesus. “The mission to accompany, to advocate and to serve displaced persons has an enduring relevance to the current refugee crisis in Europe and demands a coordinated response on two fronts: meeting the immediate humanitarian need of thousands of refugees and addressing the structural causes of the crisis.”

At the regional level, JRS Europe is calling on the President of the European Union, Donald Tusk, to lead member states in the creation of safe and legal pathways to protection for refugees affected by the crisis.

In Ireland, fundraising initiatives are already planned in some of the Society of Jesus schools and all national efforts will be coordinated by the Irish Jesuit Missions Office. Eugene Quinn says he knows that many people would like to play some part in alleviating this humanitarian crisis and hi-lights  a number of things they can do to help.

•    Donate:  Support projects on the frontiers of this crisis by contacting the Irish Jesuit Missions Office at 01-8366509 or by visiting the Irish Jesuit Mission’s website
•    Raise Awareness: Use the Irish Jesuit Missions Office new development education resource, Refugee Crisis 2015, to help students, families and friends understand the issues.
•    Advocate: Call JRS Ireland at 01-8148644, to find out how your local representative or other personal contacts in government can be part of the solution to this crisis.