JRS Syria staff rejuvenated by anniversary reunion

JRS staff stand both with one another and with the displaced of Syria (Cedric Prakash SJ/JRS)
JRS staff stand both with one another and with the displaced of Syria (Cedric Prakash SJ/JRS)

Jesuits and their lay co-workers from three centres in Syria have gathered to mark the 36th anniversary of the Jesuit Refugee Service and to strengthen their bonds of support and friendship. The assembly was the idea of the Director of JRS Syria, Fr Fouad, who invited staff from Aleppo, Homs and Damascus to celebrate the origins, the spirit, the vision and the mission with all those who have been an integral part of the JRS family in Syria.

"The war in Syria has grabbed world headlines for almost six years now," said Fr Cedric Prakash SJ of JRS in the Middle East and North Africa. "The violence has killed and wounded thousands. Millions have been made homeless: most of them as IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) in Syria or having to seek refuge in another country. Many towns and cities of Syria are destroyed beyond recognition ... In the face of hate and violence, pain and suffering - there are several ordinary citizens who have silently and heroically reached out to serve their less fortunate sisters and brothers. Staff of Jesuit Refugee Service in Syria is among them. Braving all odds, they serve, accompany and advocate for those more affected than them."

Togetherness and pride

At the reunion, JRS family members from Aleppo, Homs and Damascus (urban and rural) turned out to mark 36 years since JRS was founded by Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ, who was recalled in a film shown at the beginning of the day. "Many of them were meeting for the first time," continued Fr Cedric, "but at the end of the day they bonded with one another, and acted as though they knew each other even before the 36 years since the founding of JRS. For several, temporarily forgetting the violence and suffering, which they encounter daily, was soothing and rejuvenating."

Fr Cedric says that the day for JRS staff from Syria consisted of sharing and reflection about the vision and values of JRS as well as group discussions. They celebrated with an anniversary cake with 'Walking with Refugees' written on it. "In the spirit of togetherness and pride, the JRS Syria team decided to form a human collage spelling out the letters JRS," he added. "The day's activities helped to deepen bonds and to strengthen commitment to the JRS mission."