JRS fears backlash against refugees after Paris

Fr Tom Smolich SJ
Fr Tom Smolich SJ, International Director of JRS Credit: Christian Fuchs

We should “move beyond fear”, following the Paris terrorist attacks, according to Father Tom Smolich SJ, the International Director of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), and should recognise that refugees are also fleeing atrocities.

Speaking on Vatican Radio, Fr Smolich acknowledged that there is the risk of a backlash against refugees – especially after more than a dozen states in the US said that Syrian refugees are no longer welcome due to security fears and the call from some European countries that borders should be closed to stop migrants arriving there. But, in an interview with Vatican Radio’s Susy Hodges, he called for the international community to move beyond its fears to make “a reasonable and appropriate response to this tragedy”.

The right to seek safety

Father Smolich says some voices in the political and even in the religious sphere “are using the Paris attacks” to push the views they already had. He said that it is important to remember that the refugees from Syria are fleeing exactly the same type of attacks as Paris experienced last week, adding that - like everybody - they have a right “to seek safety.”

It is a core Ignatian principle that decisions are not taken out of fear, according to Father Smolich. He expressed concern that some of the reactions or decisions made in the wake of the Paris attacks “come out of fear”, which “always bring out our worse” (instincts). Fear, he said, is not acting according to the Gospel, and called for the international community to move beyond fear “to make a reasonable and appropriate response to this tragedy.”

Listen to the interview on Vatican Radio.

Fr Smolich also speaks in this video about the importance of recognizing that attacks such as those carried out in Paris should not mean we close our doors to the most vulnerable.

One Human Family from Jesuit Refugee Service | USA on Vimeo.