Happy New Year from JRS/USA: Hope Lives

02 January 2020

As we start a new year, we want to thank all of our friends and supporters. 2019 was an impactful year for JRS/USA. In 2020 we will continue to witness remarkable hope and resilience as we accompany, serve, and advocate for hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people around the world.

Where did JRS/USA make an impact in 2019?

  • We sent over $2.2 million to our projects with direct impacts on the lives of refugees. Click here to see where we serve.
  • JRS responded to some of the most pressing displacement issues of our time, providing services to some of more than 4 million Venezuelans who have been forced to flee. Check out our report, Los Desplazados.
  • Our supporters sent more than 8,169 emails to U.S. policymakers in support of refugees. Learn more about refugee policy issues.
  • JRS accompanied hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people. Check out the Letter and reflection on hope below from Fr. Tom Smolich, SJ, JRS International Director.


Hope Lives: A New Year’s Letter from Fr Thomas H. Smolich SJ, JRS International Director

Looking over 2019, people I have met this year come to mind. Forcibly displaced women and men who remind me of God’s presence, staff who accompany and serve in ways beyond telling, and the JRS extended family whose spiritual and financial support sustains our mission—all are with me as we prepare for 2020.

I often hear the word resilient in reference to forcibly displaced people. Resilient individuals can absorb and overcome adversity in its many forms, and this quality describes many refugees I met this year. Yet it is a term that can keep refugees at a distance; the cedars of Lebanon and stone walls are also resilient.

The distinctly human word for resilience is hope. Hope is a virtue and perspective, a grace that allows us to live today believing in a future neither clear nor certain.

The distinctly human word for resilience is hope. Hope is a virtue and perspective, a grace that allows us to live today believing in a future neither clear nor certain. Hope is not optimism, the dubious thinking that tomorrow will be better. Hope is born of suffering; it gives strength to the weary and brings people together to form a future known only in God’s love. To quote former JRS International Director Mark Raper SJ, “hope is a promise that takes root in the heart… (hope) enables us to live fully in the present moment.”

I was blessed to experience hope in many forms this year. I witnessed a Rohingya refugee testify how training to become a classroom leader was the catalyst to discovering her voice as a woman. She finds hope where more than one million Rohingya in camps have no obvious solution to their displacement, and the world seems indifferent.

In Maban, South Sudan I heard educators speak of the importance of the teacher training they offer for refugees, the local community, and internally displaced South Sudanese. Many of them were educated as children by JRS in Ugandan refugee camps twenty years ago; their hope continues to inspire and impel.

In Soacha, Colombia, I met a Venezuelan mother who left home with her husband and baby because they could not find medicine for their epileptic older son. “When we arrived, he was curled up in a ball; now he is walking again.” Hope lives and gives thanks.

Hope, of course, is grounded in the faith of refugees and in our faith as a ministry of the Society of Jesus. Hope remains empty without love, and, as St. Ignatius reminds us, love is better shown in deeds than in words. Yet in the face of opposition, trauma, and suffering, hope abounds—spears become pruning hooks.

May this holiday season be filled with hope for all, and may 2020 bring a future built on hope—as well as love that is shown in deeds—for forcibly displaced people around the world.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.