|Students in a community which had been displaced for a year by violence along the rivers Calima and Choco outside of Buenaventura, Colombia. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)|
|"Concern for refugees must lead us to reaffirm and highlight universally recognized human rights, and to ask that the effective recognition of these rights be guaranteed to refugees. Thus it is a matter of guaranteeing to refugees the right to establish a family or to be reunited with their families: to have a stable, dignified occupation and a just wage; to live in dwellings fit for human beings; to receive adequate health care..." ~ Pope John Paul II|
(Washington, D.C.) December 11, 2012 — Jesuit Refugee Service will participate in the United Nations High Commissioner's Dialogue on Protection Challenges, which begins Wednesday in Geneva. The theme — Faith and Protection — highlights the important role local religious communities play in protecting asylum seekers, refugees and other persons of concern.
Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Fr. Peter Balleis, S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Director for Policy Mitzi Schroeder and Fr. Michael Gallagher, S.J. of JRS will take part in the meetings, which aim to explore how humanitarian organizations can better engage with religious communities to improve the protection of forcibly displaced and stateless people.
This year's dialogue has the following objectives:
• to explore how the right to seek and enjoy asylum, and the protection of stateless persons and internally displaced persons (IDPs), are reflected in religious values and traditions;
• identify practical ways for UNHCR and other humanitarian actors to better engage with FBOs in order to help protect and assist refugees, IDPs and stateless persons, and to improve protection space; and
• examine principles of partnership to deepen cooperation between UNHCR and humanitarian partners with FBOs, including those whose primary activity is to support the religious life and holistic development of its adherents.
In preparation for the Dialogue, the Vatican representative to the UN in Geneva took the opportunity to convene major Catholic Church-inspired organizations engaged in the service of refugees, stateless, and internally displaced persons — including Jesuit Refugee Service — to reflect on their ongoing engagement in actions related to "Faith and Protection." (see attached PDF, Faith and Protection: Key Elements in the Catholic Response to Refugees)
UNHCR notes: "Around the globe, local religious communities are on the front lines of conflict and acute displacement crises, often being the first providers of life-saving protection and assistance. They are strong advocates for respecting human dignity and empowering vulnerable people who are in the margins of our societies. Moreover, they often play a key role in initiating or supporting efforts to resolve disputes and consolidating peace from the community to the national level. In summary, they are hands-on local actors and respected members of civil society."
In his 1990 Lenten Message, Pope John Paul II said: "Concern for refugees must lead us to reaffirm and highlight universally recognized human rights, and to ask that the effective recognition of these rights be guaranteed to refugees. Thus it is a matter of guaranteeing to refugees the right to establish a family or to be reunited with their families: to have a stable, dignified occupation and a just wage; to live in dwellings fit for human beings; to receive adequate health care..."
To that end, Jesuit Refugee Service has long accompanied, served and advocated for refugees and forcibly displaced migrants. Working with partners in UNHCR, secular organizations and other faith-based groups, JRS aspires to be hospitality in action. We walk alongside, accompany and offer hospitality to the most vulnerable, those "at the frontiers of humanity," giving priority to situations of great need, in places where a more universal good may be achieved, and to needs to which others are not attending.
Theology, spirituality and ethics, a basis of the JRS mission