On Saturday, 14 November at 12pm, 15 refugees, as well as staff and friends of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), will attend a private audience with Pope Francis. The Pope will speak about the importance of education for refugee children and youth as a means to build peace and foster the development of more resilient and cohesive societies. The event will commemorate the 35th anniversary of JRS, founded by the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Pedro Arrupe SJ.
Pope Francis has long urged Catholics to welcome refugees, saying the world is currently suffering from a “globalisation of indifference,” ignoring those who cry out for mercy. On Saturday, as a precursor to the Holy Year of Mercy to launch on 8 December, the Pope will formally recognise and pledge support for the JRS Global Education Initiative, an initiative aimed to extend JRS’ educational programmes to 100,000 additional refugees by the year 2020.
Refugees face a variety of barriers trying to access education, from overcrowding in schools to xenophobia in host communities. Their fundamental right to education is often lost. Among refugee children, only 36% globally go to secondary school and less than 1% have the opportunity to pursue a higher education.
Children in Bangui, Central African Republic continue to learn despite the conflict around them. Access to education can keep children safe and protected from risks, including gender-based violence, recruitment into armed groups, child labor and early marriage. (Laura Sheahen)
For 35 years, JRS has provided quality education as a tool for people to better fulfill their own potential and fully contribute to the growth, strength and stability of their communities. Schools allow those who have been forced to flee their homes to rebuild a shared space, a community, a sense of normality. Pope Francis has historically called the public to protect refugees and care for the most vulnerable. Access to education can keep children safe and protected from risks, including gender-based violence, recruitment into armed groups, child labor and early marriage.
The Jesuit Refugee Service programmes are found in 45 countries, providing assistance to: refugees in camps and cities, individuals displaced within their own countries, asylum seekers in cities, and to those held in detention centres. The main areas of work are in the field of education, emergency assistance, healthcare, livelihood activities and social services.
At the end of 2014, JRS employed approximately 1,400 staff: lay, Jesuits and other religious to meet the education, health, social and other needs of nearly 760,000 refugees and IDPs, more than half of whom are women. Services are provided to refugees regardless of race, ethnic origin or religious beliefs.