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JRS directors received by Pope Francis
June 03, 2013

JRS directors received by Pope Francis
Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Peter Balleis S.J. (left) meeting with Pope Francis and Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants. (L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO/Vatican City)
"I would like to invite everyone to see and take to heart the experiences and the rays of hope of refugees and forcibly displaced persons. This hope is expressed in their expectations for the future, desire for friendship, to participate in their host societies, including through language learning, access to employment and education for their children." ~ Pope Francis.

(Rome) June 3, 2013 — Pope Francis made the plea to extend hospitality and pursue justice for refugees during the final plenary session of the assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

Jesuit Refugee Service International Director, Peter Balleis S.J. and JRS Middle East and North Africa Director Nawras Sammour S.J. attended the final session of the three-day assembly promoting the theme of welcoming displaced people under the title, "The Church's pastoral care in the context of forced migration," and was attended by a conglomerate of church leaders, migration experts and pastoral workers.

The meeting fostered discussion about ways the Catholic community can best respond to the injustices causing forced migration for millions globally while also keeping the dignity of each individual person intact.

In Pope Francis' address he said one of the Church's roles is to be aware of the hardship faced by refugees and prepare to respond to the "wounds that mark their existence" such as the abuse of power, violence, traumatic events and anxiety about their futures.

These factors all dehumanize refugees. As such they should push every Christian and the entire community to a concrete attention, said Pope Francis.

Syria represents one of the places worldwide where people find themselves repeatedly traumatized, separated from their families and indefinitely trapped in a violent power struggle. Since the war erupted in 2011, nearly six million people have been displaced either within Syria or across the border into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

"Despite the tragedy in Syria, JRS has witnessed time and again the resilience of displaced communities. Throughout the ongoing insecurity more than 500 Syrian volunteers help with JRS projects of food distribution and educational projects in Aleppo, Homs and Damascus," said JRS International Director Peter Balleis S.J.

Perseverance. The Holy Father expressed his admiration for those who persevere through displacement.

"I would like to invite everyone to see and take to heart the experiences and the rays of hope of refugees and forcibly displaced persons. This hope is expressed in their expectations for the future, desire for friendship, to participate in their host societies, including through language learning, access to employment and education for their children," said Pope Francis.

This hope and enthusiasm has been exemplified not only in Syria, but throughout the world. In war-torn Afghanistan young students eagerly take part in the JRS and JC:HEM (Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins) online tertiary education program. In northern Thailand, Burmese refugees previously marginalized from the marketplace have learned skills allowing them to be hired by local businesses.

"We believe the work of JRS strongly reflects the call of Pope Francis to be a voice for the displaced, to advocate against unjust policies and to serve refugees in the most perilous times of their lives. In return, we have witnessed the hope the Holy Father mentions; hope for a more peaceful future and more hospitable communities," said Peter Balleis S.J.



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Mr Christian Fuchs
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202-629-5946