World Refugee Day 2016: Open Minds, Unlock Potential

Apou Charlotte has welcomed dozens of refugees into her home who have fled from Central African Republic to her community in Cameroon. "Refugees," she says, "bring gifts to our communities.” (Denis Bosnic / Jesuit Refugee Service).

Rome, 20 June 2016 – As human beings, we are at the mercy of nature, at the mercy of governments, at the mercy of leaders, at the mercy of war. We are at the mercy of forces beyond our control. These forces have caused an unprecedented 60 million people  – mothers, fathers, sisters and children – to flee their homes. Imagine the entire country of Italy in motion: taking trucks, rafts, footpaths and trains; taking children, blankets, clothing and, most often, taking nothing.

This World Refugee Day, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) urges you to remember we must not only provide refugees with a safe place to stay, but with opportunities to grow and contribute to society. To truly protect means keeping people safe from all evils, including poverty, isolation, exploitation, misconception and neglect.

Refugees in motion eventually must stop, and when they do, they change. As the fabrics of society change, host communities change too. So many people are forced to flee from war, persecution and oppression. But we as humanity also seem to be fleeing from each other. Content with a comfortable sense of normalcy, we fear change. However, change does not mean carelessly tossing ourselves into the unknown. It rather means choosing how we want to positively reshape our societies through positive encounter with our neighbours.

“We need to reinvent our way of being together. We must show mercy to and accept one another, and this act of mercy must be mutual and concrete. Opening doors is not enough; we must open ourselves and our minds to unlock our potential as a society,” said JRS International Director Fr Thomas H Smolich SJ.

Access to quality education allows refugees better to fulfil their own potential and fully contribute to the growth, strength and stability of communities. Knowledge is the one thing that no war or disaster can seize.

“I ask everyone to be educated for not only themselves, but for the betterment of their nation. To say it simply: no education, no life,” said Seda Abdalllah Abakar, a refugee and teacher at the JRS school in Goz Amir camp in Chad.

Host communities across the globe must guarantee that refugees do not lose their fundamental right to learn. Let’s educate ourselves in the highest sense and learn from one another. We must genuinely open ourselves, our minds and our communities to unlock our potential as a society. This World Refugee Day, let’s take the opportunity to mobilise our compassion and put our Mercy in Motion.

For more information

Jacquelyn Pavilon, JRS International Communications Coordinator, Jacquelyn.Pavilon@jrs.net; +39 06 698 68 609 / +39 348 993 1544; Skype: jacquelyn.pavilon

Note to editors 

The Jesuit Refugee Service programmes are found in nearly 50 countries, providing assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and those held in detention centres. The main areas of work are in the field of education, psychosocial support,emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services. www.jrs.net

The JRS Mercy in Motion campaign aims to provide 100,000 additional refugee children and youth with access to education by the year 2020. The campaign, launched on 8 December 2015 with the Holy Year of Mercy, will continue through the end of 2016. www.mercy-in-motion.org


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