JRS campaign for peace through education

Children at a JRS-run school for refugees in Lebanon, credit: JRS
Children at a JRS-run school for refugees in Lebanon, credit: JRS

Education is a human right and is a way of building peace and development. That was the message from the Jesuit Refugee Service as it launched an ambitious advocacy and fundraising campaign. ‘Mercy in Motion’ is regarded as a concrete sign of commitment to the Jubilee Year of Mercy; and it has the active support of Pope Francis.

The goal of the ‘Mercy in Motion’ Campaign is to offer educational services to 100,000 more refugees than are currently provided for, because, according to the Director of JRS International, Father Tom Smolich SJ, to provide education means to invest in peace: “When Pope Francis announced last March that he was calling for a Jubilee Year of Mercy, JRS began to reflect exactly on how we might want to respond to that call,” says Fr Smolich. “In calling for a  Year of Mercy, he has invited all of us to look into ourselves and find the grace that we can find, that we can show, those most in need”.

Schools are places of freedom

For the past 35 years, JRS has focused on education as a means to build peace and foster the development of more resilient and cohesive societies. Funds raised by the Mercy in Motion Campaign will implement the JRS Global Education Initiative, which aims to robustly expand both formal and informal education programmes – from primary school to university, and including vocational and teacher training.

Pope Francis has long urged believers to welcome refugees, noting the world is currently suffering from a “globalisation of indifference”, ignoring those who cry out for mercy. On 14 November, during an audience with JRS staff and supporters, Pope Francis directed JRS to undertake this Global Education Initiative and said “to give a child a seat at school is the finest gift you can give….For children forced to emigrate, schools are places of freedom.”

“As human beings, we are often at the mercy of war, of nature, of governments – of forces beyond our control,” says Fr Smolich. “For this reason, nearly 60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, constantly moving. But for people living in motion, those who cannot take possessions can bring knowledge and change their world.”

Follow this link for more information on the JRS ‘Mercy in Motion’ initiative and listen to Vatican Radio’s report on the launch of the campaign.