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Jesuit leader encourages 'hospitality on the frontiers'
November 27, 2014

Jesuit leader encourages 'hospitality on the frontiers'
Fr Adolfo Nicolás S.J., right, speaks on the issue of mutual respect between host and strangerwith Fr Lombardi in the Aula della Congregazione at the Jesuit Curia in Rome. (Fr Roy Sebastian)
"All of us have to be welcomed, not because we are members of a specific family, race or faith community, but simply because we are human beings who deserve respect," Fr Adolfo Nicolás S.J.

(Rome) November 27, 2014 — Last week, to mark the 34th anniversary of Jesuit Refugee Service, more than 250 people gathered to hear Fr Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, discuss Hospitality on the Frontiers. In his conversation with the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Frederico Lombardi, Fr Nicolás encouraged governments and citizens to open their doors to refugees, recognizing service to refugees as "Gospel hospitality in action." 

Hospitality is "a momentum that engenders mutual respect between host and stranger, pushing us to open the door to share food, space and knowledge, both in good times, and times that stretch us to the limit," Fr Nicolás acknowledged.

Opening our doors. Many developing countries bear disproportionate responsibility for hosting refugees, which is unjust, dangerous and potentially destabilizing for these states. Furthermore, European governments have still not adopted measures to allow safe access to the continent. Many European leaders prioritize the protection of borders over the protection of human life. Fr Nicolás called the leaders of industrialized nations to do their part to welcome refugees, saying true security is based on justice, not border control.

In an increasingly globalized world where national borders are becoming less relevant, people can better understand how others live and offer their help. "All of us have to be welcomed, not because we are members of a specific family, race or faith community, but simply because we are human beings who deserve respect," Fr Nicolás said. 

"The role of personal encounter is important in overcoming stereotypes," Fr Nicolás continued. "Our encounter with refugees is a horizontal one, not vertical. We are on the same level."

Reconciliation. Fr Nicolás furthermore called the work of reconciliation an urgent matter. Reconciliation is about building bridges and recreating just relationships. JRS works for reconciliation in line with the mission of the 35th General Congregation, which invites Jesuits to reconcile divisions, especially on the edge of humanity. 

Fr Nicolás noted that the word "frontier" is derived from the Latin word frons, meaning "face". He explained that reconciliation on the frontiers means "restoring a human face to those who have been dehumanized by violent exclusions … it is a work that has no end."

Education. Speaking on the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Fr Nicolás discussed education as a priority, an emergency. Even in states like Italy, where education is a right, many refugee children fall through the gap between the law and the reality. In emergency situations, such as in Syria, entire generations risk missing out on an education. "This is dangerous," Fr General noted since "Ignorance breeds violence which in turn becomes a vicious circle."

Education instills a sense of normalcy in children's lives. It allows generations of children to build communities build on peace and respect for difference. Fr Nicolás concluded with, "education and training are key ways out of true poverty, which is cultural and human, rather than economic."

by Jacquelyn Pavilon,  JRS International Communications Assistant

Jesuit Refugee Service is an international Catholic non-governmental organization whose mission 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. 

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.  

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 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 approximately 950,000 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.

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.

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. 

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