Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach Coordinator Laura Gaspo speaks to students in Worcester, Mass. (JRS)
During the first week of November, I had the opportunity to speak to several Jesuit communities across Massachusetts.
I started on Sunday morning at Saint Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill. Members of the parish, including those from the Arrupe Social Justice Club and Ignatian Spirituality group, examined how their own faith calls them to serve refugees.
By sharing how JRS/USA responds to God’s call to work for those most vulnerable in our society, parishioners were moved to question how they could incorporate the needs of refugees into their own lives. They came to understand that it may be as simple as praying for those forced to flee their homes, keeping them present in their thoughts and prayers, or by donating to JRS/USA to support our work in countries like Syria and Colombia.
Next I visited the College of the Holy Cross. Students participated in a presentation that briefly overviewed the history, mission, and works of JRS around the world. I led the students in a simple exercise to demonstrate how most refugees begin their journeys. I asked the students to choose just one item from their home to bring with them if forced to flee without warning. Like refugees who flee without any ability to plan ahead, the students chose without knowing when or if they would ever return. Many students found the exercise to be informative, providing a snapshot of refugee stories that are already difficult to imagine.
The student social justice club SPUD (Student Programs for Urban Development), co-hosted the event. Many students participating asked how to work with resettled refugees in their own community of Worcester, Massachusetts. They felt motivated to continue working with JRS/USA, and specifically to work with refugees in their area.
I also spoke to students at Boston College High School. Many of these students attended the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s annual Teach-In for Justice last weekend in Washington, D.C.
The students asked insightful questions about how regional conflicts affect refugee camps in Darfur and how JRS works to ensure refugees can someday return home. I explained that JRS stays committed to regions of conflict, serving refugee populations until they can successfully and safely return home or begin a new life in their host communities. I told the students about our educational programs in South Sudan. JRS worked closely with communities there to build a sustainable education system. As JRS begins to leave South Sudan, communities have the foundation for a successful school system that will continue to grow without the presences of JRS.
By Laura Gaspo
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach Coordinator
Through the JRS Action Network, concerned individuals such as yourself are invited to support our mission by advocating, educating, and serving in your local communities, so we may effect global social change. As a member of the JRS Action Network, you will be linked in to JRS/USA's nationwide network of advocates through specially tailored emails, conference calls and special events. Whether you are an individual or are representing a school or parish, this is your chance to raise your voice for refugees and displaced people worldwide.
If you are a member of a school or parish, you may also request a visit by a representative of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA to share more about how we accompany refugees and forced migrants around the world.