JRS: The Legacy of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe
13 November 2013
The history of Jesuit Refugee Service is about the lives and hopes of people we know personally. This personal knowledge constantly transforms our understanding. JRS opens a door — beyond transitory and shocking images — into the inspiring lives of people struggling to defend their rights, protect their families and give their children a future.
In the late 1970s, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was moved by the perilous journeys to exile of the Vietnamese boat people. Although the Vietnam War had ended in 1975, it was not until 1979 that great numbers of people began to leave the country and seek refugee elsewhere through clandestine, risky journeys by sea.
At that time Fr. Arrupe appealed to Jesuit major superiors for practical assistance. The spontaneous and generous ‘first wave of action’ provoked him to reflect on how much more the Society of Jesus could do if its responses to this, and to other contemporary crises of forced human displacement, were planned and coordinated. From that initial sentiment has grown a world-wide service to forcibly displaced people. On November 14, 1980, Fr. Arrupe announced the birth of Jesuit Refugee Service.
For the past 33 years, JRS has walked with forcibly displaced persons; accompanying them, serving them humbly, and advocating for justice and their rights to protection.
The mission of Jesuit Refugee Service is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons.
To accompany means to be a companion. We are companions of Jesus, so we wish to be companions of those with whom he preferred to be associated, the poor and the outcast. JRS services are made available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs. JRS advocates for just and generous policies and programs for the benefit of victims of forced displacement, so that those made vulnerable by exile can receive support and protection and durable solution to their plight can be achieved.
As one of the ten geographic regions of Jesuit Refugee Service, JRS/USA serves as the major refugee outreach arm of U.S. Jesuits and their institutional ministries, mobilizing their response to refugee situations in the U.S. and abroad. Through our advocacy and fund raising efforts, JRS/USA provides support for the work of JRS throughout the world.
JRS/USA witnesses to God’s presence in vulnerable and often forgotten people driven from their homes by conflict, natural disaster, economic injustice, or violation of their human rights.
JRS/USA gives help, hope, ear and voice to vulnerable people on the move by being present to and bearing witness to their plight; by relieving their human suffering and restoring hope; by addressing the root causes of their displacement and improving international responses to refugee situations.
In addition, JRS/USA inspires the Ignatian family and others to respond together to the needs of refugees and displaced persons worldwide and forges strong partnerships with like-minded institutions and agencies devoted to the cause of refugees and displaced persons.
JRS works in more than 50 countries worldwide to meet the educational, health, social and other needs of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs. Our main areas of work are in the fields of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services. At the end of 2012, more than 600,000 individuals were direct beneficiaries of JRS projects.
Approximately 280,000 children, young people and adults receive primary, secondary, tertiary and vocational education services each year. JRS places the highest priority on ensuring a better future for refugees by investing heavily in education and training. Further, JRS undertakes advocacy to ensure all displaced children be provided with access to quality education. JRS services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.
We believe that education, learning together, and sharing knowledge are vital ingredients to nourish hope in people. Our dream is a world free from frontiers, divisions and forcible displacement, where people can move freely and securely — a world where the value of hospitality is extended to everyone.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.