Jesuits appoint new director for JRS UK

Sarah Teather with Pope Francis at the audience for JRS' 35 years of service, L'Osservatore Romano
Sarah Teather with Pope Francis at the audience for JRS' 35 years of service, L'Osservatore Romano

Sarah Teather has been appointed as the Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK (JRS UK). Formerly the Member of Parliament for the London constituency of Brent Central, Sarah joined the International Advocacy team of JRS in June 2015. As an advocacy advisor, she has visited JRS projects all over the world, including Lebanon, South Sudan, Uganda, Macedonia and the southern coast of Italy where so many attempt dangerous crossings to Europe over the Mediterranean Sea.

In addition to her 12 years as an MP, Sarah has had a consistent record of working on social justice issues and was previously a policy analyst for Macmillan Cancer Support. During her two and a half years as Minister for Children and Families, she negotiated the end of routine detention of children in the immigration system; led efforts to combat sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood; led reforms to improve the support of children with special educational needs and disability; and published the first UK-wide child poverty strategy. As chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, she led an inquiry which looked at how children and young people are treated in the asylum process and also a high profile cross party inquiry on immigration detention.

A witness to human dignity

Sarah, who has an interest in Ignatian spirituality, made her decision to leave politics and change direction while making the Spiritual Exercises during a month-long silent retreat. She has subsequently had training in spiritual accompaniment. She says she is excited to be taking on the new role as Country Director of JRS UK. “I feel privileged to have the opportunity to commit my skills to work that I care so passionately about and to work with an organisation I have long admired,” she says. “In my current role with JRS International, I have seen how JRS’ mission to accompany refugees through the highs and lows of their journey is truly a witness to human dignity. That perspective has never been more critical than it is now. Forced migration is the issue of our age as multiple conflicts and human rights abuses force many from their homes. JRS UK has a unique and important role to play, drawing on its domestic expertise working with the most vulnerable destitute and detained asylum seekers and the international reach of JRS into some of the most troubled areas of the world.”

Sarah has also paid tribute to Louise Zanré, who is standing down from her role as Director of JRS UK after 16 years. “I am hugely aware that in this role Louise has set a high benchmark to follow,” she says. “I feel inspired by her work and hope that I can contribute to JRS with even half of her generosity of spirit.”