Hope and opportunity for those on the margins of society

Some of the 35,000 children being educated by JRS in Chad. Credit: Denis Bosnic/JRS
Some of the 35,000 children being educated by JRS in Chad. Credit: Denis Bosnic/JRS

Jesuit Missions has launched its Christmas appeal, focusing on the work that the Jesuits do with some of the most marginalised communities in the world. For more than a decade, an entire generation in West Africa has only had access to education through international humanitarian organisations like Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). And for its appeal for Christmas 2016, Jesuit Missions (JM) shares the story of one individual – 20-year-old Mutara Hara – to explain why their work is so vital.

Mutara was originally from Darfur in Sudan; but he was forced to flee with his mother to Chad in 2004, when gunmen attacked his village. “They eventually found their way to the Goz Beida refugee camp,” explains Richard Greenwood, JM’s Deputy Director, “arriving with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing and their lives. With the help of our Jesuit partner in the camp, Mutara and his mother slowly began to rebuild their lives.”

Mutara says that at that time he did not even understand what education was: their life in Sudan consisted of farming during the rainy season and grazing their cattle when it was dry. But in the refugee camp, he discovered the English classes organised by JRS.

“My English was good enough,” he says, “but I knew that it was not yet at the level I wanted it to be. So I enrolled in an English language programme to expand my job opportunities. Now, in addition to interpreting part time, I am working as a volunteer English teacher at the primary school.”20-year-old refugee Mutara Hara. Credit: Jacquelyn Pavilon/JRS

Mercy in Motion

In 2015, JRS served more than 141,000 refugees through education projects, from primary school to university, and including vocational and teacher training. It recognises education as a concrete and durable solution to build more resilient communities, so it aims to double this number by 2020 through its Mercy in Motion campaign and the Global Education Initiative. Currently, JRS educates more than 35,000 children in Chad and the future prosperity and peace in this fragile region depends on access to quality education

In the future, Mutara wants to return to Darfur to build a new life: “If there were peace in Sudan, I’d go back in a heartbeat,” he says, pleased that his education has not only transformed his own life but has also helped many other refugees like him. But, according to Richard Greenwood, at present that is nothing more than a dream: “Sadly, Mutara cannot go back to his village yet,” he says. “Like so many millions of refugees this Christmas, he will only be able to dream of being in his own home. The Jesuits have a longstanding commitment to helping refugees like Mutara and his mother across the world, from Syria to Sudan, and many other countries besides.”

Donations to Jesuit Missions’ Christmas appeal would help even more refugees like Mutara. Just £16 can provide school books for three primary school children; £30 could provide refugees like Mutara with English lessons for two months; and £45 could fund the primary education of one child for a month.

“2016 has been filled with momentous events,” says Richard Greenwood. “It has also been the Year of Mercy and, although this special year is now over, Pope Francis encourages us to keep ‘the door of mercy in our hearts’ open … If you are unable to make a donation at this time, thank you for your support for Jesuit Missions during 2016. This Christmas, please pray for those on the margins of society, that 2017 may be a year filled with hope and opportunity."