Jesuit Refugee Service
It is difficult to put into words the look of utter fatigue on a woman’s face after spending the night sleeping on different buses because she has nowhere to go. Or the joy in her voice when after a week of being hosted in a community of female religious exclaims that through the friendship and welcome they have offered she has found her family again. And yet, these are the stories that we encounter every day at JRS. Behind each story is a human being with a unique past, hopes and fears whom we seek to accompany, serve and advocate for as they attempt to obtain recognition of their need for protection in the UK.
Over the years, our work with destitute refugees has expanded to include the at Home hosting scheme through which we match destitute asylum-seekers with religious communities and parishes willing to offer short-term accommodation. In my role as Communities of Hospitality Coordinator I attempt to match the requirements of different communities with the needs of individual refugees facing destitution, to facilitate an encounter that goes beyond the mere provision of accommodation but fosters a culture of hospitality. A few weeks into my new role I remain humbled by the generosity of the people I have come into contact with. I have met communities of religious whose eagerness to open up their home and welcome the refugee ‘stranger’ bears witness to their commitment to solidarity. I am overwhelmed by the friendship offered by our refugee friends who share their lives and stories with us as we attempt to walk beside them throughout their journey here.
Fr General Adolfo Nicolas SJ has defined hospitality as that ‘deeply human and Christian value that recognises the claim that someone has, not because he or she is a member of my family or my community or my race or my faith, but simply because he or she is a human being who deserves welcome and respect’. Every day that I meet our refugee friends I am reminded that the ‘refugee crisis’ is not one that is confined to the Mediterranean or the Middle East. Instead, I acknowledge that the crisis which we must face with courage and commitment is the continued erosion of a culture of welcome and hospitality where policies and rhetoric prioritise borders over people.
Through at Home we provide a concrete way through which communities can illustrate their commitment to welcoming the stranger already in our midst and rekindle hope of a life lived with dignity. At JRS, we understand that it can be challenging to open up the home and community to people who share different cultures and backgrounds. Yet, with support, the experience can be enriching and rewarding for both host and guest. The scheme is carefully designed to make sure that JRS provides support each step of the way, be it through providing information about the situation faced by asylum seekers or talking through issues and concerns.
When visiting Centro Astalli (JRS-Italy) Pope Francis reminded us that it is not only “specialists” who are entrusted with welcoming the poor and promoting justice. In a world of globalised indifference which shies away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters we are all called to act. Religious communities and parishes who have joined the scheme are already providing an invaluable contribution to the promotion of a culture of welcome and solidarity with our refugee friends. By supporting us you strengthen this culture of encounter, as you recall that in welcoming others you are welcoming God in person.
If you would like to be part of our Communities of Hospitality and open your home to a refugee or if you simply want to find out how your community can get involved, email us at [email protected] or go to our website www.jrsuk.net and search communities-of-hospitality.
Support our fundraisers
A few of our friends have taken upon themselves various challenges to raise much needed funds for JRS. By sponsoring them, you show you care and love to the refugees and refused asylum seekers.
Fr Gerard and fellow Jesuits, laymen and laywomen are taking on the challenge of cyclying to Brighton from London for JRS UK
Fr Dominic SJ and his team of walkers will pilgrimage to Manresa in the steps of St Ignatius
Mercy in detention
Prayer is an important part of life for many of the residents of the detention centre that Fr Harry Elias SJ visits. He shares one reflection which offers them solace and hope.
Sarah Teather, director of JRS UK
Pray with us