Curriculum for Secondary Schools
A curricular module based on an innovative approach to learning that is built on five important steps in the student's learning cycle: Context, Experience, Reflection, Action and Evaluation. Please click the tabs below to explore and use the information.
- Unit One
- Unit Two
- Unit Three
- Unit Four
- Appendix 1
- Appendix 2
- Appendix 3
- Appendix 4
- Appendix 5
- Appendix 6
- Appendix 7
- Appendix 8
- Appendix 9
- Appendix 10
- Suggested Reading
Forced Displacement in the Modern Era
One of the greatest tragedies of the 21st Century is the explosive increase in the number of our world’s refugees, internally displaced people, and vulnerable migrants.
Since 1980 Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has committed itself to accompanying, serving and defending the rights of these forcibly displaced people. While this curricular module focuses largely on areas of the world where JRS serves vulnerable and forgotten people, it also tries to address global issues of refugee protection and assistance.
The following curricular module is based on an innovative approach to learning that is built on five important steps in the student’s learning cycle: Context, Experience, Reflection, Action and Evaluation.Some Thoughts As You Begin
"The spiritual as well as material need of nearly 16 million refugees throughout the world today could scarcely be greater. God is calling us through these helpless people." Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Founder of Jesuit Refugee Service, 1980.
"When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." Leviticus 19:33-34.
"…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me….” Matthew 25:31-46.
"In our world there are millions of people who have been forcibly uprooted from their homes or native lands and cannot return due to persecution, war, or generalized disorder. . . . The situation of all such people is, in the words of John Paul II, "a shameful wound of our time." Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants, 2000.
"Those who have worked with refugees are in the best position to know that when people have been stripped of all their material supports only their cultural values and spiritual inheritance remain to sustain them." Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Aung San Suu Kyi, Towards a True Refuge, 1993.
"Indeed the foreigner, isolated from his fellow countrymen and his family, should be the subject of greater love on the part of men and of the gods. So all precautions must be taken in order that no wrong be committed against foreigners." Plato, The Laws.
photo: Melkadida refugee camp in Ethiopia, home to 41,500 refugees from Somalia. June, 2012. Melkadida is about 67 kilometers from Dollo Ado. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
Why Are People Forcibly Displaced From Their Homes?
Objectives — Students will be able to:
1. Explain the causes for forced displacement of people.
What causes people to become refugees?
What difficulties are faced by refugees?• loss of legal status and protection.
• loss of community and family members.
• loss of property and possessions.
• loss of livelihood, resulting in impoverishment.
• loss of freedom of movement.
Specific examples of refugees
"This is what I would like to stress, a more personal approach in our work with refugees and a deeper understanding of the fact that the world refugee problem is the story of millions of individual lives: their suffering, but also their indomitable courage, resilience, and determination to survive and live..." ~ Dieter B. Scholz, S.J., Jesuit Refugee Service International Director 1980-1990• More than 12,500 refugees from Congo flee to Rwanda (June 2012)
• Tan Le - a TED Talk on her experiences as a Vietnamese refugee (2012)
• Bayisa - Ethiopian refugee who lost everything (June 2012)
• Misal Khan (Pakistan, 2012)
• Lena (Sri Lanka, 2012)
• Roberto (Colombia, 2012)
• Hawa (Kenya, 2012)
• Thang (Thailand, 2012)
• Hussani (Greece, 2012)
• John Dau – God Grew Tired of Us (Netflix, 2006)
• Daniel Mabut Garang – South Sudanese boy (Appendix I)
• Sri – thirteen-year old Achenese girl (Appendix II)
• Burmese widow (Appendix III)
• Rodi Alvarado (Appendix IV)
• Abdul Sheikh (Appendix VII)
Groups that help refugees and IDPs
• UNHCR – United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
• War Has Changed Our Life, Not Our Spirit — Experiences of Forcibly Displaced Women (JRS Publications, 1999)
• The Quake - a PBS Frontline documentary exposing the earthquake in Haiti in 2010
ReflectionWhy do we care about refugees? • Compassion for those who suffer even if they're not one of 'us.'
• Understanding of common human rights and dignity of the person.
• Common religious tradition.
• Christian biblical tradition: e.g., story of the Good Samaritan, and Leviticus 19.
• Catholic Social Teaching on Solidarity: Gaudium et Spes, their hopes are our hopes, etc.
• U.S. State Department's refugee admission policies.
Consider why women and children refugees outnumber men by a ratio of four to one.• Is it possible to provide adequate protection and care for women and children in their homelands?
• What does it mean to be a child soldier?
Action• Bookmark the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA website and visit once per week for new material.
• Bookmark Child Soldiers website and visit monthly.
• Bookmark Women's Refugee Commission website and visit monthly.
• Contact local interest group on refugees in community.
• Learn local congressional representative’s or senator’s position on refugees.
• Write articles for either school or local newspapers.
• What have you learned? What do you think should be done?
• Perform volunteer work.
• Seek to help migrant families through local parish.
Who Is a Refugee?
Objectives: Students will be able to:
1. Express the UN's definition of a refugee as delineated in the 1951 Geneva Convention and 1967 Protocol in their own words.
ContextWhat distinguishes refugees from internally displaced people (IDPs)? • UNHCR's role in determination of status.
• The Catholic Church’s definition of a refugee and the special significance this distinct definition has for JRS work across the globe. (See Appendix V.)
• JRS definition of a refugee.
• Undocumented aliens in the U.S. – refugees, asylum seekers or economic migrants?
Examples of asylum seekers and IDPs• Cubans fleeing the Castro regime.
• Haitians seeking better opportunities outside their impoverished nation.
• Colombians seeking ability to love in peace.
Groups that help asylum seekers in U.S.
Information for asylum seekers in the U.S.
What impact has persecution had on forcing people to seek refuge in new lands?• In Biblical times Hebrews fled Egypt in search of freedom in a Promised Land.
• Religious dissenters fled from England and France to the New World.
• Political dissenters left Europe in the mid-19th Century.
• 20th Century warfare displaced millions from Europe, Asia and Africa.
Examples of the impact of persecution:• French Huguenots: Protestants driven out.
• Irish Famine Refugees (movie available on Netflix): 1840s victims of the blight which destroyed potato crop.
• Holocaust Survivors: World War II victims, primarily refers to European Jews.
• Chin Christians flee from Burma/Myanmar.
• Invite a guest speaker from JRS to discuss JRS' mission and work, stories and important points or
• Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerants - a Vatican document from the Pontifical Council forrefugees
Other• Charter of Jesuit Refugee Service.
• UNHCR Pictorial History.
Should we care about IDPs and asylum seekers in the same way that we care for refugees?
• Bookmark CLINIC website.
Small group: students identify individuals as refugees, asylum seekers, economic migrants and IDPs.
Modern Response to Refugees & Migrants (with a focus on the U.S.)
Objectives: Students will be able to
1. Identify biases of writers and commentators in their treatment of refugees.
Biases exist in media coverage of the immigration issue.
• Buzz words and terms that indicate biases. (See questions in Appendix VI)
Myths about undocumented immigrants in the United States:• Immigrants don’t want to learn English.
• Immigrants don’t pay taxes.
• Immigrants increase the crime rate.
• Immigrants take jobs away from Americans.
• Immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy.
• Undocumented immigrants are a burden on the healthcare system
• The Power of Love (Ann Molina, 2003) - a stirring testimonial to the injustices of detention centers and the liberating power of faith to survive from the perspective of an undocumented immigrant.
• System of Neglect — article about detention in the U.S. reported by The Washington Post, May 2008.
• Obama Administration's Plan to Permit Young Migrants to Remain in U.S. (New York Times, June, 2012)
• Karnes County Civil Detention Center — new model of detention housing focusing on more humane treatment. (March, 2012)
• Immigration Incarceration — The Expansion and Failed Reform of Immigration Detention in Essex County, NJ. (March, 2012)
• Lost in Detention — PBS Frontline examines the Obama administration's controversial get-tough immigration policy. (October, 2011)
• Profits and Punishments — how companies are shaping immigration laws (YouTube, 2012)
• Twelve Stories: How Democracy Works — twelve discrete films about several dozen fascinating people in all kinds of places, each connected by a commitment to change the way that the United States handles the bedrock national identity issue of immigration.
• Detention in America - a CBS 60 Minutes segment reporting on immigrants suffering from neglect in detention centers.
• Kino Border Initiative — The Society of Jesus seeks to respond to the call of Christ who is present among those who are suffering from the consequences of contemporary immigration policy, border enforcement efforts, and the reality of undocumented migration, apprehension, detention and deportation. KBI is an organization accompanying and serving migrants on the Arizona/Mexico border.
• Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Detention Chaplaincy Program.
• USCCB Justice for Immigrants Campaign.
• CAIR Coalition — brings together community groups, pro bono attorneys, volunteers and immigrants in the D.C. metropolitan area to ensure all immigrants are treated with fairness, dignity, and with respect for their human and civil rights.
• DREAM Act — Federal legislation which would regularize the status of several million undocumented youth.
• Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona's SB1070 (June, 2012)
• Dignity Not Detention — a campaign by the Detention Watch Center to call for the restoration of fundamental human rights and due process in the broken U.S. immigration detention and deportation system. [PDF]
• Secure Communities — a deportation program by the Department of Homeland Security that relies on partnership among federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The District of Columbia's response.
• Government-mandated frequent transfer of detainees adds enormous costs to detention, impedes hearings and the ability of detainees to communicate with lawyers and family.
How do public figures, politicians and media influence our views of migrants either documented or undocumented?
• Bookmark website: Refugee Stories
• Small group interaction — students discuss the biases that exist in U.S. media coverage of refugees and undocumented immigrants.
Meeting Refugee Needs — the International Response
Objectives: Students will be able to:
1. Explain the roles of UNHCR and the U.S. State Department in meeting needs of refugees and forcibly displaced people.
Study the mission of Jesuit Refugee Service, comparing it to the other humanitarian organizations identified. (Appendix VIII)
• Jesuit Refugee Service Annual Reports.
• Bill Clinton on Rebuiding Rwanda (TED, 2007)
• Accompaniment — how JRS accompanies refugees.
• Review the criteria for refugee resettlement to the U.S.
• Small group interaction — students discuss and evaluate the seven major functions of JRS in refugee camps. See Appendix VIII.
The international response to refugees is evolving to attempt to improve protection and assistance to broader categories of people in need.
We have new approaches to IDPs, the concept of the "duty to protect" broader categories of what constitutes a "social group" (persecuted women), discussion of environmental "refugees," protection for victims of trafficking, etc.
Despite setbacks caused by post 9/11 security concerns, the church's definition of refugees as encompassing all forced migrants is gaining ground. (Please refer to the Appendix for a full discussion of this evolution.)
From Sudan to the United States: the saga of one “Lost Boy”
"In the early 1980s, the Arabs began bombing our countryside from their planes and killing people. They attacked us all the time. They also raided our cattle and burnt down our store when we ran away for safety. Life became very difficult for us."
When he was six years old, the Arabs attacked, killing his father, mother and two uncles. After this tragedy, he fled into the forest, where he joined other children, who came to be known as the "Lost Boys." They didn't know where to go to escape the marauders. Hunger and thirst dominated their existence as they subsisted on wild berries. Many of the Lost Boys were eaten by lions and other wild animals. Yet many survived thanks to the grace of God.
After a month in the forest, Daniel reached a place called Panyidu on the Ethiopia border, where UNHCR provided food, shelter, medical treatment and education. Without the help of UNHCR many would have died of hunger.
He remained in Ethiopia for four years, but when war erupted there, he and other Lost Boys fled to Sudan. At the river Gilo, gunmen fired on them using automatic weapons before they reached the Sudanese border. To escape they dove into the river where most of them died since they were unable to swim.
Daniel crossed the river by holding a long rope that was tied from tree to tree. Those children who died that time are too many to be counted. For days, they walked, eating grass like animals, back to Sudan.
Eventually, after being chased by Ethiopian, he reached Kenya. During this journey, the Red Cross dropped food and water into the forest. Without this help, everyone would have died of hunger.
After he reached Kakuma, Kenya, UNHCR provided shelter, food, clothes and education. Daniel lived there for eight years under the care of UNHCR until he was taken to the US and settled in Houston, Texas.(This account appears on a website maintained by the American Red Cross.)
Aceh, Indonesia: young lives in conflict
(Aceh was at the epicenter of the tsunami that struck the region on December26, 2004.)
Thirteen-year-old Sri has fond memories of her home village in North Aceh in Indonesia. Though she has lived in a camp for the internally displaced in the neighboring region of North Sumatra for three years, such a long time for someone so young, she still misses her old friends. "I had many friends back home, and very nice teachers," she remembers.
"I was very sad the day we were forced to leave because of the conflict. The whole village was chaotic. The schools closed, and my teachers fled in fear of their lives. Our neighbors and friends, who stayed behind, cried and told us that they would help protect us, but my parents were too afraid. We left our belongings behind, and traveled to North Sumatra," Sri quietly recounts.
Formal education is often unavailable for refugee children, especially for those who have already passed through primary level. If local schools do exist they are often too expensive for destitute refugee families to afford. Sri is one of the lucky ones. She is in the second year of a local junior secondary school near the refugee camp in Sei Lepan, about three hours from Medan. A humanitarian organization has been able to provide her with a scholarship, as her family could not afford the school fees. “I love to study because it will make me smart!” Sri says with great hope. In the camp, education is still only available for elementary schoolchildren, and only a few young people have the opportunity to take their studies further.
"We will never return to Aceh,", Sri says suddenly, anticipating the question on the lips of the JRS worker, unspoken for fear of upsetting her. "I know that more people are fleeing from Aceh now that the problems there are getting worse," she says. "I heard that on the radio."
Despite being only 13, she works hard to understand what is happening to her by piecing together the fragments of information that she picks up. Knowing this, it seems apparent that giving the youth the possibility to go to school is vital for peace-building efforts in the future.
A Young Woman’s Story
a young Burmese widow with two children
On March 20, 2002 five soldiers came to my house in Burma looking for my husband. Without any explanation, they handcuffed him while others searched the house. I shouted to my husband but was told not to make any noise. A soldier pushed me down and hit me with the butt of his gun. Then he handcuffed me and put me in the car. I was taken to a military camp. I did not see my husband alive again.
At the camp, I was taken to a small, dark room where soldiers began interrogating me about my husband's alleged involvement with a rebel group. When I could not give them information, they beat, slapped, punched, and kicked me. Eventually I lost consciousness. I was released only when I signed an agreement not to leave the area without permission and not to accept guests into my home.
When I returned home, soldiers came to inform me that my husband was in the hospital. When I got there, he was already dead. They told me he had died from sickness but his face was completely black. Afterwards soldiers came nightly to my house to terrorize my family, threatening me with imprisonment if they found any visitors in my home. I could not continue to live in fear so I fled to some relatives who advised me to go to Malaysia.
In Malaysia I eventually got a job in a restaurant. Late hours required that I take a taxi home. One night I realized that the driver was not taking me home. He stopped at an area where two other people stood under a grove of trees. They grabbed me, kicked and slapped me and then raped me. Since that time I have often been threatened with arrest for being in Malaysia illegally and forced to pay bribes.
Fears of Mutilation and Death
the story of Rodi A.
What about women fleeing domestic violence? Should they be accorded refugee status?
Rodi was 16 when she married Francisco in Guatemala. Her husband brutally beat her and vowed to kill her. "Francisco raped and sodomized Rodi, broke windows and mirrors with her head, dislocated her jaw, and tried to abort her child by kicking her violently in the spine. Besides using his hands and his feet against her, he also resorted to weapons —pistol-whipping her and terrorizing her with his machete."
Rodi’s repeated attempts to obtain protection failed. The police and the courts refused to intervene because it was a "domestic matter" and because her husband was a former army soldier. Rodi fled to the United States, where her case has been unresolved for the past ten years. Under the Clinton administration she was granted asylum, and the government "issued proposed regulations clarifying that victims of domestic violence and other gender-related persecution are eligible for asylum. However, these proposed regulations never became final." Bush Administration Attorney General John Ashcroft considered deporting Ms. Alverado back to Guatemala, but Justice Department attorneys prevailed and the case still awaits decision. (Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love, Beyond Sovereignty, Thomson-Wadsworth, p. 190)
Women seek asylum for different reasons than do men. According to Dr. Maryann Cusimano-Love, the international definition of "refugee" has been interpreted primarily in the context of male asylum-seekers, to the prejudice of women refugees. Many times women are victims of gender-specific crimes, such as genital mutilation, forced abortions, "honor killings" and governmentally-protected spousal abuse. All of these crimes are likely to occur in societies that espouse male domination of the family unit at the expense of equality between the sexes.
For example, the Taliban in Afghanistan force women to be completely subservient to their husbands. "Honor killings" of women who have been deemed to have offended their families have been reported not only in Afghanistan, but also Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Turkey and the U.K.
For reasons such as these, women have fled their homelands seeking refugee status in a new country, sometimes with little success. Sometimes pursued by family members and murdered in their new locations.
The Catholic View
"The fact that the Church carries out extensive relief efforts on behalf of refugees, especially in recent years, should not be a source of surprise to anyone. Indeed this is an integral part of the Church's mission in the world. The Church is ever mindful that Jesus Christ himself was a refugee, that as a child he had to flee with his parents from his native land in order to escape persecution. In every age therefore the Church feels herself called to help refugees. And she will continue to d? so, to the full extent that her limited means allow." ~ Pope John Paul II, Address to Refugees in Exile at Morong, no. 3.
Catholic teaching broadens the definition of who should be considered a refugee. It maintains that people who are victims of armed conflicts, misguided economic policies or natural disasters, as well as "internally displaced persons," uprooted from their homes without having crossed an international frontier, should also be recognized as refugees and offered international protection.
This principle is well supported and documented in Refugees: A Challenge to Solidarity, published in 1992 by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum."
In widening the net of people who should be deemed refugees and challenging the arguments in favor of limiting the granting of asylum, the document also makes the case for including "economic migrants" under the refugee umbrella.
"Those who flee economic conditions that threaten their lives and physical safety must be treated differently from those who emigrate simply to improve their position," the document states. Economic reasons can be, and often are, sufficient reason to justify granting asylum status.
Criticism of United Nations Position
A major criticism of the UN definition is that it is based on the circumstances existing in Europe immediately after World War II and during the Cold War, and does not address the massive changes which have since occurred in other parts of the world.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the intergovernmental organization with responsibility for protecting refugees throughout the world.
Since UNHCR was created to protect the rights of refugees, it is important to understand that they are distinct from IDPs and asylum seekers. The latter group may achieve refugee status after being admitted to a country as asylum seekers, but since IDPs have not left the boundaries of their homelands, they cannot be accorded that status even if civil unrest or fear of death caused them to move. In many instances asylum seekers have been detained by countries to which they fled in fear while their cases are adjudicated. Once their case is judged they may be awarded refugee status or returned to their home countries.
Although refugees are defined and protected by law, their legal rights and the obligation of states toward them are limited. The definition of refugee and international law and practice is evolving toward obligating states to recognizing a wider range of refugees and people in refugee like situations and to provide a broader, more humanitarian response to their needs. In order to understand this situation it is important to have understanding of the differences and similarities among the various groups who are driven from their homes:
During 2006, some 670,000 claims for asylum or refugee status were submitted in 149 countries. According to the UNHCR, the top five countries where people sought asylum last year were France, the U.S., Thailand, Kenya, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
The New Colossus
(by Emma Lazarus)
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
Now contrast Lazarus’ poem with this commentary on the Immigration Reform Act of 2007 by then-CNN Commentor Lou Dobbs, from May of 2007:
"What many once regarded as the world's great deliberative body looks more like a clamorous bazaar in which senators feverishly hawk duplicity and deceit as bright jewels of public policy. Comprehensive immigration reform is just such a bauble and buyer beware.
"Most beguiling among those merchants of mendacity is none other than Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who has been peddling his wares at the Senate bazaar for more than four decades. Kennedy's counterfeit immigration views reach all the way back to his championship of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
"In signing that legislation into law, President Lyndon Johnson promised it would not be revolutionary or affect the lives of millions, even as it overturned 60 years of U.S. immigration policy of national origin quotas and led to the creation of explosive chain migration.
"Twenty-one years later, President Ronald Reagan signed into law amnesty for more than three million illegal aliens who had entered the country. President Reagan then promised the new employer sanctions would "remove the incentive for illegal immigration by eliminating the job opportunities," and that the law's amnesty provision would allow millions who were hiding in the shadows to 'step into the sunlight.'
"And now, another 21 years later, we hear the same language as the pro-amnesty and open borders advocates demand that American citizens ignore history, reason and the national interest. They are again marketing the same false assurances about border enforcement and insist there will be no social or economic cost to the taxpayer or the nation. More than four decades of disruptive and destructive immigration policy initiatives should be a sufficient history lesson for all Americans.
"The essential truth is clear: We cannot reform immigration law until we control immigration, and we cannot control immigration until we control our borders and our ports. This president and the congressional Democratic leadership refuse to recognize that reality and will not honor that truth.
"President Bush and Sen. Kennedy pass for political stars in our tortured times, and that is sad enough. But if we follow the course they've set, true tragedy awaits us. And the fault will be ours."
My Life Journey as a Refugee
by Abdul Sheikh
As a Somali refugee, Abdul Sheikh is able to reflect on a childhood full of tragedy and life-threatening experiences. Having found asylum within the United States, Abdul feels it is important to share his life experiences with others:
I was born in 1984 in Somalia, a land of great beauty and promise that attracted tourists from around the world, who came to enjoy the friendly people and peaceful country. Now, however, Somalia is overwhelmed by famine, war, and violence; leaving no person unaffected.
Everyday I prayed that my life would change for the better, and one day soon it did. My friends and I fled across the Somalia/Kenya border in the town of Mandera, Kenya. Thanks to the generosity of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, we were provided with food and assistance in Mandera for two and a half years. Several months later, we moved to the Eastleigh section of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Shortly after our arrival in Nairobi, the friends that I was traveling with were reunited with their family in the United States, while I on the other hand, had become desperate and homeless, scavenging for food to survive.
Fortunately, while I was in Mandera, I was befriended by a gentle old man from Kenya who helped me significantly. People called him “Mzee,” though I do not know his formal name I will always remember his generosity. He provided me with food, shelter, clothing, and hope. He enrolled me in a school that was operated by a Canadian and American church, and always encouraged me to study hard. He pushed me to get an education and not to waste time doing things that would distract me from my studies. I studied English at the school until November of 2000. Shortly thereafter, the refugee coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, along with two other U.S. citizens, helped me move to the United States in December of 2000.
Because I was an unaccompanied minor and had no immediate family members, I was granted asylum by the United States government. I will never forget their compassion and help. Living in the United States is very different than Somalia. I currently live in Virginia, and enjoy the everyday freedom, free public education, abundance of food, religious toleration, and security that the United States provides.
I recently graduated from high school and have begun to pursue a degree in international studies and political science. With my education, I intend to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate than me. Although I will never forget the hardships I once faced as a refugee, I also feel that it is essential that I return to Somalia, my homeland.
Ultimately, I believe that it is important to reach out and provide support to others who have had similar life experiences and to share my story so that Americans, will become aware of the persecution and injustices that I and other refugees have experienced.
What is Jesuit Refugee Service?
Jesuit Refugee Service is an international humanitarian organization with a mission is to accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people. JRS provides assistance to refugees in refugee camps and in cities, to people displaced within their own country, to asylum seekers in cities and to migrants held in detention centers.
Like each of the 10 geographic regions of JRS, the mission of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is to care for the most vulnerable of refugees, in particular those whose plight has been forgotten by the rest of the world.
The main areas of work are in the field of Education, Advocacy, Emergency Assistance, Health and Nutrition, Income Generating Activities and Social Services. In total, more than 376,000 individuals are direct beneficiaries of JRS projects. Millions more are indirect beneficiaries of JRS advocacy efforts.
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 the 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 also 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 700,000 refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, more than half of whom are women. JRS services are made available to refugees and displaced persons regardless of their race, ethnic origin, or religious beliefs.
Sri Lanka – Victims of Natural Disaster and Civil Strife
While the 2004 tsunami drew the eyes of the world to Sri Lanka as well as other nations bordering the Indian Ocean, three years later other events have claimed our attention. The tragedy of Sri Lanka, however, transcends the tsunami, causing JRS presence as part of its mission to serve, accompany and defend the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people. Sri Lanka abounds with forcibly displaced people, primarily because of civil conflict which began decades after Britain surrendered its colonial mandate for Ceylon as it was known in 1948.
The visit to this tiny island nation, located off the southeast coast of India in December 2007, nearly three years after the tsunami devastated much of its eastern and northern coasts, indicated that financial support from JRS/USA helped to rebuild homes and lives of the victims.
Most of the people served by JRS in Sri Lanka are Tamils, although the dominant Sinhalese group also receives JRS services. Since the British departed in 1948, the Sinhalese majority has run the government and enacted laws, which the Tamils have felt to be discriminatory. Such feelings by the Tamil minority have led to bloodshed as they formed several paramilitary groups to defend themselves, most notably the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Thousands of people, mostly Tamils but Muslims as well, have been driven from their homes during the conflict. Many fled to avoid having children conscripted into the LTTE and similar rebel groups. JRS stepped into this situation in 1994, although a Jesuit presence existed far longer than that time. JRS worked with these displaced people and thus was on hand when the tsunami struck in 2004. Yet, JRS has also paid a price for its involvement. In September 2007 a diocesan priest, who served as a district coordinator for JRS in northern Sri Lanka, was killed by a remotely-detonated Claymore mine.
JRS has helped to construct more than 300 homes in various parts of the island, acting alone or in conjunction with Catholic Relief Services, both along the northwest coast and on the east coast where Fr. Gavin inaugurated and blessed a new housing development funded with JRS/USA support.
We also interviewed people who have been displaced due to the conflict. Several of those with whom we spoke had been displaced as many as seven or eight times within a five-year period. One man, presently working for JRS, saw his uncle and two brothers murdered before his eyes when he was thirteen years old, prompting him to join a rebel group in retaliation. Another man related that he and his family fled their home because the Tigers approached their town, forcing young boys to become child soldiers. In order to protect their sons, they fled their home and took up residence in a small village in Mannar District. While they await a JRS house (three rooms plus a kitchen area and toilet facility) they are living in a ramshackle hut with their children and grandchildren.
Certainly their children and all of the children in Sri Lanka concern JRS. In its mission to accompany and serve the victims of civil unrest, JRS believes, as do the parents of these children, that education plays the greatest role in freeing them from a life of second class citizenship. The English Academy, which educates adolescents in Mannar, serves as a case in point. During his comments at the dedication of the Academy, Fr. PS Amalraj, S.J., Regional Director of JRS South Asia, emphasized the importance of speaking and understanding English for their future careers.
JRS-sponsored education, however, occurs at every level, except college. Nearly 380 pre-school and elementary education programs exist throughout the country. In the eastern districts as well as Mannar we visited several of these facilities. Yet, vocational training may be the most important service that JRS offers, particularly to young women who frequently must fend for themselves. They are trained, therefore, as tailors, bakers and cooks, marketable skills in Sri Lanka. JRS has also provided start-up funds for income generating activities, like raising poultry for the market place.The struggle for a better life remains a great challenge for displaced people in Sri Lanka. When this article was written, the ceasefire had ended bringing immediate tragedy. A Tamil parliament member was assassinated in Colombo, the capital, which has seen increasing violence in the last six months. On the following day the Tamils bombed a military bus killing four soldiers. Since then a government minister was assassinated and bombings have claimed the lives of hundreds of people riding public buses, including a group of schoolchildren. There is no end in sight. Meanwhile, organizations, like JRS, continue to work to ease the lives of thousands of displaced people in a country that was once primarily known for tea production.
Since this article was written in early 2008, much has changed in Sri Lanka. Government forces (Sinhalese majority) overcame the resistance of the “Tamil Tigers,” or LTTE, finally defeating them in June 2009. In the interim tens of thousands of people were killed, and more than 300,000 have been left homeless and internally displaced in the country.
Limitations on International Obligations to Refugees
by Mitzi Schroeder, Director of Policy for JRS/USA
The obligations of states toward refugees are generally set out in the 1951 Convention and Protocol. Other forms of "complementary protection" are provided by other sources of international law, such as the human rights treaty and the more recent treaty protecting torture victims. Most of this treaty law is binding only on those nations who have acceded to the various instruments. However, it is argued that certain provisions, such as the obligation of "non-refoulement" have gained such wide acceptance as to have become customary international law, applying to all nations.
In all of these ways, the refugee definition, as has been noted by legal scholars, serves not only to protect a narrow class of individuals but to limit the liabilities of states. The underlying assumption is that an individual's state of nationality or habitual residence bears the primary obligation to protect him; only when the individual can demonstrate that the state has failed in this responsibility do other states assume a limited obligation.
Limitations on Valid Claims
While nations may be obligated not to expel a refugee:
Trends Affecting Persecuted People
Forced Migrants: Persons who leave their place of habitual residence involuntarily, due to persecution, economic hardship, war or civil conflict, or natural or manmade disaster. Among the kinds of forced migrants are asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking, convention refugees, economic migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons.
Convention Refugee: (definition was updated in 1967) a person who is outside the country of their nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality membership of a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.
Refugees as defined by Catholic Social Teaching: In addition to convention refugees, Catholic teaching suggests that de facto refugees (who are victims of armed conflicts, misguided economic policy or natural disasters), and internally displaced persons (who are uprooted from their homes without having crossed an international frontier) should also be recognized as refugees and accorded international protection.
Asylum Seekers: People who have moved across an international border in search of the protection guaranteed to Convention refugees, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined.
Forced Economic Migrants: Persons who seek to live and work in a country other than their country of origin due to a lack of economic opportunity there or better opportunities in another country. Those who become migrants due to necessity due to significant economic hardship are called forced economic migrants. When such hardships are imposed selectively by a government as a form or persecution forced economic migrants may also be convention refugees.
IDPs: Internally displaced persons are "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border." (Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, Introduction, para. 2)