JRS’s 40th Anniversary Year

JRS joined other international agencies to work with the survivors of the massacre in Rwanda, with projects in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zaire (DR Congo)

November 14, 2020 Jesuit Refugee Service will mark 40 years of accompaniment, advocacy, and service to refugees.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe saw them on boats, risking their lives, crossing dangerous waters in small, unstable vessels – his brothers and sisters who had no choice but to flee. His heart was moved by these “boat people” fleeing from war in Vietnam and he felt compelled to respond. Fr. Arrupe, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), called on his Jesuit brothers around the world to respond to all refugees and forcibly displaced people. This was the start of Jesuit Refugee Service in 1980.

Since 1980, JRS has been accompanying, serving, and advocating for refugees and displaced people. It has been a journey through the tears of the boat people of Vietnam, the killing fields of Cambodia, the silent march of millions in Africa, the war and destruction in Iraq and Syria, the unrest and instability in Colombia and then Venezuela, the gang violence in the Northern Triangle of Central America, and the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean. It has been a road filled with shared sorrow and pain, but also reconciliation and joy.

As we recognize these 40 years and the journey we have been on, we want to honor those who’ve been our companions – beneficiaries, benefactors, volunteers, staff, leaders, and partners in countries around the world.

Unfortunately, the journey is not over after 40 years. In fact, the needs continue to grow, with more than 70 million people forcibly displaced in this world. We’d like to honor all of those along the journey and respond to these growing needs by setting an ambitious goal to raise $4.4 million in private contributions. The funds raised will help us to continue to respond to the needs of displaced people around the world.

You can help us get there:

  • Save the Date – Join JRS for our Anniversary dinner, November 4 – Walking with Refugees for 40 Years – featuring United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi  in New York City or participate in your local community on JRS Day, November 14, a day for Jesuit organizations to recognize refugees, recently announced by Father General Arturo Sosa.
  • Follow along – Learn more about the lives of refugees and displaced people, and discover the companions we’ve met along our journey through profiles we’ll be sharing over the next 40 weeks. Click here to meet one of the companions we’ve met in the last 40 years of accompaniment and follow along throughout the year.
  • Get Involved – You can help us reach our goal by raising awareness or funds for refugees around the world. Visit our “Take Action” page to learn about ways you can help or contact outreach@jrsusa.org for more information.

 

JRS Throughout the Years

Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (seated, left) at Centro Astalli, Rome. Jesuit Father General between 1965-1983, Fr Arrupe set up the Jesuit Refugee Service in 1980.
Pierre Ceyrac S.J. with Cambodian refugees in Site Two camp, Thai Cambodian border, 1986. Fr. Ceyrac worked between 1980 and 1993 in the Thai-Cambodia border camps. He has devoted all his life to the service of the poor. For this reason he received the “Legion d’Honneur” from the French Government.
JRS was established in Liberia in 1993 when people were fleeing civil war. Myriam O'Brien SSL served as Director under the coordination of the International Office. JRS closed its work with Liberian refugees at the end of 1999. Ongoing programs were handed over to a new local NGO. JRS accompanied Liberian refugees in exile for five years, returning with them to Liberia in 1998.
Mark Raper, S.J., former JRS International Director, with survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, 1995
Between 1980 and 1982, one million Guatemalans were displaced and 50,000 killed in a brutal war waged against the civilian population by the armed forces. It is estimated that 200,000 Guatemalans fled to Mexico. In 1991 JRS officially starts working in Mexico to assist Guatemalan refugees in Chiapas, Campeche and Quintana Roo.