JRS and Rotary spearheading project to 'help refugees to start over'

2016-05-02 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) What do millions of refugees – many of them children, adolescents and young adults - who have fled conflict or persecution need to start a new life in host countries? What do they need to be able to go home one day, form a new life and contribute to their communities and to their country? 

The answer is simple: quality education. Education provides skills, opens the doors to employment, promotes peace and stability.

That was the core concept at a panel discussion in the Vatican entitled “Helping Refugees to Start Over” aiming to raise awareness and seek support for increasing numbers of refugees who are on the move, in camps or seeking integration in host countries today.

Not providing education to refugees - it was pointed out - risks making a lost generation sentenced to poverty.

The discussion, hosted by Rotary International, included speakers from Rotary itself, from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and from the UN World Food Program. Two refugees gave first-hand witness of their stories and spoke of their hopes for the future.

For 35 years, JRS has focused on education as a means to build peace and foster the development of more resilient and cohesive societies, so JRS International Director Fr Tom Smolich’s intervention was particularly poignant.

He pointed out that “JRS has become a worldwide non-governmental organization serving over 750.000 refugees and internally displaced people each year”.

He also also spoke of JRS’s response to Pope Francis’ invitation to a Year of Mercy with its “Mercy in Motion” campaign with a 2020 goal to increase by 100,000 the number of people it serves through educational activities.

Fr Tom Smolich SJ told Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni that the opportunity of setting up a collaboration with an organization like Rotary International can be of huge assistance in pursuing JRS’s aim.


“I think it’s a very exciting opportunity bringing together Rotary which is an International Service Club, whom I know from my previous work, have done a lot of service projects throughout the world” he said.

Referring to the Jubilee Audience Rotary members were to attend the following day, Fr Tom said “the Pope has invited them to do their part” and he said that he is particularly glad “they are talking about refugees”.

“Together we can say: ‘what are the things that can make a difference for the future of refugees?’. It isn’t just emergency food, it isn’t just emergency shelter. What do we need to do to make their lives more stable, stronger, and more peaceful in the future?” 

Fr Tom pointed out that JRS will always say education plays a big part of this, and he expressed his hope that those present on the panel would agree on the fact that “education can be a priority for all of us to go forward”.

For more information on the JRS "Mercy in Motion" campaign click here.

(from Vatican Radio)