JRS celebrates its 35th anniversary with Pope Francis

A refugee child at school in the Central African Republic (Laura Sheahen)
A refugee child at school in the Central African Republic (Laura Sheahen)

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 percent globally go to secondary school and less than one percent have the opportunity to pursue a higher education.

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 audience will take place in the Sala Clementina in the Vatican.

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Tomorrow (14 November) in the Sala Clementina in the Vatican, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary with Pope Francis. Fifteen refugees, together with staff and friends of JRS, will attend a private audience with the Pope who will speak about the importance of education for refugee children and young people as a means to build peace and foster the development of more resilient and cohesive societies.

JRS was founded by the former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ. For the past 35 years, it has provided quality education as a tool for people to better fulfil 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 and 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 labour and early marriage.

A global educational initiative

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 percent globally go to secondary school and less than one percent have the opportunity to pursue a higher education. 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.

At tomorrow’s audience, which is seen as a precursor to the Holy Year of Mercy to be launched on 8 December, Pope Francis will formally recognise and pledge support for the JRS Global Education Initiative. This aims to extend JRS' educational programmes to 100,000 additional refugees by the year 2020.

Read more about how Jesuits are supporting refugees and what Pope Francis has said on the subject in the latest edition of Jesuits and Friends.