My Experience with Jesuit Refugee Service

Monday, November 7th, 2016
Grace, Information Advocacy Officer for JRS Manado

Grace, Information Advocacy Officer for JRS Manado

I heard about JRS for the first time on my second year in university. I was following a seminar by one of JRS staff about landmines, as part of JRS involvement in International Campaign to Ban Landmines. I got more information about JRS when I visited their national office with my friends from Magis community in Yogyakarta. I got to know more about refugee issues and JRS work, especially for refugee and asylum seeker in Indonesia.

Some of my Magis friends had already joined JRS as volunteers for their Jogjakarta project. I heard a lot from them about their meaningful experience meeting with the refugees. I started to feel the desire to also meet refugees and to apply as volunteer. But I still had doubts, I was worried I couldn’t carry out my duties responsibly, as I was still finishing my final thesis.

In September 2015 I volunteered in JRS fundraising activities, then I finally decided to join as voluntary teacher. And finally this year I joined them as staff in JRS Manado project to accompany refugees and asylum seekers held in the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC) Manado.

I have learnt many things since I join JRS. Meeting with refugees and asylum seekers shows me how important it is to always have hope, even in the most difficult situation. In Yogyakarta I had a chance to teach a refugee from Myanmar. We called him Uncle. He’s a very cheerful 44 years old man, who is always very eager to learn. He always had hope that one day live will get better when he would be accepted in a third country.

Through that experience, I recalled the memory of my 2 classmates from Afghanistan when I was in elementary school in 2003. They are now finishing their study in a university in the country where they settled.  They are lucky that they are now together with their family and able to start building on their hopes and dreams in their new live. Just like my 2 friends, there are many young people who flee their country, where they left everything behind. Everything became uncertain for them, including their future. These are the situations of people I meet in Yogyakarta and Manado.

But what I find in Manado now is quite different to my experience in Yogyakarta. The refugees in Yogyakarta community house can live quite comfortably, but those in Manado have to live in confinement. As detainees –how those refugees and asylum seekers are called in immigration detention- they cannot live freely. The detention center walls are the limits to their space to live everyday. Their activities are enclosed in the IDC walls. In this place I meet so many struggling faces, but their difficult living conditions does not make them lose their hope. They are the people fleeing war, driven to leave their family and flee their home country for a safer life. They told me many stories about their family and home, also about how difficult it is to live in detention, full of uncertainty, waiting for a very long time, and not knowing about their future.

Living in such stressful situation, they get so easily provoked, even by a very small annoyance. This also causes conflicts at times, triggered by simple misunderstandings. I realized it’s not easy living in such a condition. I often imagine how difficult their life is and it gets me emotional, even brought me to tears sometimes. In this situation, I got the strength from my teammates. By sharing our stories and experience, we encourage each other to keep accompanying our refugee brothers and sisters.

JRS Manado team posing with their  #WithRefugees World Refugee Day messages

JRS Manado team posing with their #WithRefugees World Refugee Day messages

Nowadays, the world’s attention is drawn to the refugee issues. But there is still not many people moved to accept the refugees’ presence. As our brothers and sisters, refugees deserve to be accepted and treated as our fellow human being. They are just like us, whom longing for peace, safety and comfort, education, a proper job, and family. But they couldn’t access those things because of their present situation. I hope we as society would no longer consider them as burden and obstruction, but to realize that refugees are part of our life.

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Yogyakarta, 20 November 2014 – The Jesuit Refugee Service observes with deep sadness yet another sudden retroactive change in the policy of Australia towards people seeking international protection in Southeast Asia. Yesterday, the government of Australia announced its decision to … Continue reading

Kelud Emergency Response

Together with the Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, JRS Indonesia took part in the emergency response in Kelud. The Community of United Volunteers Yogjakarta, comprised of a diverse group of individuals and students from Yogyakarta, work together in humanitarian disaster response, being present and providing support in the form of accompaniment, counseling activities or delivering urgently needed goods. JRS Indonesia provided funds to support the operational and expenditure of urgently need goods, also presence in the field for two days, on February 26-27, 2014. Continue reading

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Celebrating 33 years of being with and serving refugees, JRS would like to encourage you to extend your hospitality and support to our brothers and sisters that are here to seek protection. Continue reading

Vatican: Pope Francis appeals for hospitality and justice during visit to Jesuit Refugee Service

“It’s not enough to give a sandwich if it isn’t accompanied by the possibility of learning to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that does not change the situation of the poor isn’t enough. True mercy, which God gives and teaches us, calls for justice, for a way in which the poor can find a way out of poverty.” Continue reading

JRS joins multi-faith call for refugee protection

The Jesuit Refugee Service joined together with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and representatives of a number of faith-based organisations to call for greater protection for refugees.

The multilingual, 16-page declaration, known as an Affirmation of Welcome, is the first to involve UNHCR and a spectrum of faith-based organisations. Continue reading

JRS Indonesia Accompaniment to Refugees and Asylum Seekers 2013

In May 2013 JRS supported the SUAKA Diplomat briefing on the situation of Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Indonesia. SUAKA and JRS participated in a Focus Group Discussion at the National Human Rights Commission discussing and promoting Indonesia’s ratification of the convention on the status of Refugees and its protocol. SUAKA continues to provide legal advice and accompaniment to Asylum Seekers during the RSD process mostly referrals from JRS. Currently a more comprehensive referral system is developed in a collaboration of JRS and SUAKA. Continue reading

Futsal

It was Sunday evening of 9 September 2012. Twelve African men were walking toward a rather big shop in Cipayung. They were some asylum seekers from Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. Their destination, a place on the third floor of that … Continue reading

31st Anniversary of JRS

Yogyakarta, 14 November 2011 – 31 years is not short measured on a lifetime. After a 31 year journey JRS is proud of the heritage of spiritual insights from Pedro Arrupe who arouse the concern of people for the refugees. This year, JRS Indonesia celebrated its 31st anniversary in many simple ways. Continue reading

World Refugee Day 2009

It was the 20st of June, World Refugee Day, and JRS had invited to come to Sanata Dharma University Yogyakarta. About 50 people including lecturers, representatives of civil society and students from Indonesia, Thailand and Burma/Myanmar had gathered here to watch the film describing the experiences and challenges faced by refugees in their home country and in the country of asylum (Malaysia). “Personally I appreciate everyone that helps them (refugees) and accepts them in their country … these people fleeing and their voices touched everyone of us” states Lorence a student from Myanmar/Burma at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta still touched by the stories shared through the film. Continue reading