Over the last two weeks, JRS/USA has traveled to five cities across the country to share a new book JRS co-published, Dying to Live: Stories from Refugees on the Road to Freedom. Author, Danielle Vella, JRS International Director of Reconciliation Programs, brought the stories from her book to St. Louis University, Regis University, Creighton University, Seattle University, and Georgetown University, as well as St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Baltimore, MD and Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, DC.
“All over the world there are increasing stereotypes about refugees, about who they are, about why they turn up, about the risks they supposedly pose to life as we know it,” Danielle explained to audiences. “So, refugees welcome the chance to set the record straight and to say ‘no, this is my story, this is my country, this is why I left it, and this is my journey.”
She shared some of these stories from her book, including that of Martin, a refugee from South Sudan who, after his mother was killed in front of him, was forced into becoming a child soldier. Today, no longer a soldier, Martin dreams of becoming a lawyer, advocating for the poor and lonely.
Though the refugees who shared their story through the book had to flee from great danger and had perilous journeys, Danielle’s message was not without hope. “We live in a world that both creates and rejects refugees,” she explained. “But, even though that is a reality, I see there is also a counter witness to that. I see it mainly in the extraordinary resilience in refugees.”
Danielle’s presentation highlighted that though there is negativity towards refugees, there is also hospitality and kindness throughout the world, and that a single gesture can have a great impact on refugees. “I always asked refugees, ‘was there anyone who helped you along the way?’ But, there was not one who said no.”
Here are three small gestures you can make to help refugees:
1. Read Dying to Live. If you haven’t purchased your copy, you can find Dying to Live on Amazon (consider using Amazon Smile and designating Jesuit Refugee Service/USA as your charity of choice). Read it with your Parish or School and download our discussion guide to help get the conversation about the book started.
2.Send a Message to Your Elected Officials expressing your support for refugees here in the United States and around the world.
3. Support JRS. A gift to JRS/USA helps meet the educational, psychosocial, economic, protection, and emergency needs of refugees and forcibly displaced persons in more than 56 countries around the world.