|A young beneficiary of a project sponsored by Jesuit Refugee Service/USA through JRS Dominican Republic to bring fresh drinking water to the community of Los Cacaos, Haiti, December 13, 2011. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)|
|"Our ability to continue this great work in 2012 and face a myriad of new challenges is dependent on the continued generous support of people like you. On behalf of the many refugees, internally displaced and migrants that we strive to serve, I thank you for this continued support."|
(Washington, D.C.) January 1, 2012 — Dear Friends of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA: The year 2011 was a momentous one for refugees, internally displaced people and migrants — especially, but not only, in Africa. Let me reflect upon a few of them with you.
One of the world's longest and most protracted civil wars in Sudan finally came to end with the creation in July of the Republic of South Sudan, the world's 195th country. The violence between North and South, which is threatening to rear its ugly head again, spanned nearly thirty years. Millions lost their lives and many more millions became refugees and internally displaced.
I shared with you strong examples of hope as we watched primary schools sponsored by JRS/USA in partnership with U.S. State Department funding from the Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migrants (PRM) in Nimule, Pajok, and Lobone, South Sudan, in full operation, and new ones breaking ground. Programs in women’s promotion, animal husbandry, agricultural development, water/sanitation aimed at returnees, were matched by more traditional projects promoting pastoral care. The excitement of the former refugees and displaced was truly something that I could feel, and I felt blessed by the experience.
At the same time, political and social unrest in Ivory Coast, West Africa sent hundreds of thousands of refugees into neighboring countries; a similar number became internally displaced. While the political fighting has ended, it will take some time for these people to return to lives of peace and normalcy.
I shared with you the joy that I experienced of parents in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as they watched as we opened two primary schools. The children had all been born in exile in refugee camps in Zambia. These people had returned with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a few meager possessions — and they were returning to some of the finest rural schools that I had ever seen built in Africa. The parents had contributed labor and local materials (sand from riverbeds, some locally quarried stones, and some timber). The exuberate dancing was to thank JRS/USA — but also to celebrate their freedom and the future of their children.
We also shared with you the ongoing tragedy of the drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, exacerbating the war and violence in Somalia, and spilling into Kenya and Ethiopia. I shared our experiences in Kakuma Refugee Camp in N. Kenya. JRS/USA has partnered with others worldwide to respond to this emergency, and to boost the work in Kenya and expand the work in Ethiopia.
Other key persistent challenges remain with us. JRS/USA has shared with you over the last year about the largest case of displacement in the world — the situation in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela. I was able to see the work with some of the displaced in the large development of Soacha, near Bogota, Colombia. There, in partnership with the local Church, JRS is involved in humanitarian assistance, as well as pastoral care, women's promotion, training/income generation, and the work with youth. Hope, like seeds planted on a rocky hillside, was sprouting in desperate and difficult situations.
I encourage you to read our Annual Report, found on our website, which describes a great number of other projects and activities of JRS/USA, including Haiti and the Caribbean, Southeast and South Asia, as well as the work of JRS/USA Advocacy and Communication, including our work with urban refugees, sexual and gender based violence, the protection of vulnerable groups, and the campaigns to end land mines, cluster bombs, and child soldiers.
All of this is rounded out by our pastoral care work with immigrant detainees in detentions centers, those migrants who are being deported; and our advocacy about immigration issues and reform. Our Outreach Program seeks to share our message with the numerous Jesuit schools, universities and colleges, parishes, retreat houses and other apostolates. I think that you will see that 2011 was, indeed, a full and momentous year for us, and we look forward with hope and enthusiasm for the New Year.
Our ability to continue this great work in 2012 and face a myriad of new challenges is dependent on the continued generous support of people like you. On behalf of the many refugees, internally displaced and migrants that we strive to serve, I thank you for this continued support.
With every good wish and blessing,
Fr. Mike Evans, S.J.
National Director — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
202-462-0400 ext. 5946