Open Minds, Unlock Potential

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016


No one wants to leave their country, but there are things that force you to flee. Things that make you seek refuge somewhere safe, somewhere peaceful” Dawood, asylum seeker in Indonesia


On 20 June the world observed World Refugee Day. Over 65 million people – mothers, fathers, sisters and children – are

in search of safety after being forced to leave their homes by war, violence and persecution. Many of us are shocked not only by the cruel and inhumane deterioration in conflicts, the decline in respect for human rights and humanitarian principles in countries of origin but also about the half hearted and at times cruel reactions from people and authorities in places where refugees seek shelter and safety. People wishing to seek asylum and asking for our protection are pushed away not only in Europe, Australia but also in South East Asia. A recent boat with asylum seekers from Sri Lanka was only allowed to land and disembark in Indonesia after days of uncertainty after ferocious weather did not allow a push back.

A global wave of fear and hatred as well as incidents of violence against those asking for protection call upon all of us to stand #WithRefugees. It is in personal encounters with them that we meet as one human being with another and are able to explore their reasons, fears and hopes. During this time many refugees feel rejected and estranged not only by the place they call home but also by the world’s reaction to their plight. It is in this situation that JRS Indonesia calls on people in Indonesia and South East Asia to share their messages, thoughts, and feelings with refugees and the public via photos posted on social media and asks to support UNHCR’s petition #WithRefugees to nurture hope and solidarity in our part of the world.


JRS International Director, Fr. Thomas H. Smolich SJ  further calls upon all of us not only to provide refugees with a safe place to stay, but with opportunities to grow and contribute to society. To truly protect means keeping people safe from all evils, including poverty, isolation, exploitation, misconception and neglect. For this reason, this year JRS is using the theme “Open minds, unlock potential”, releasing a short video with the words of Pope Francis and of refugees worldwide telling – in their words – what being a refugee actually means to refugees themselves.

In the video Wahida, a refugee currently living in Indonesia, pleads to us to accept a simple powerful truth, “Refugees are human beings too… The way others breathe, we breathe. The way others live, have relationships, we do too. The way others have a normal life, we refugees also do.” Refugees are normal people who have faced extraordinary circumstances.

When I hear people use the word ‘refugee’ or ‘foreigner’, it just makes me realize then, how people won’t accept me for who I am. They know I’m a refugee, but they make it sound like a bad thing,” said Valerie, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in South Africa.

Reflecting on the situation, JRS International Director says, “We need to reinvent our way of being together. We must show mercy to and accept one another, and this act of mercy must be mutual and concrete. Opening doors is not enough; we must open ourselves and our minds to unlock our potential as a society.”  In other words, we can do better than this.  We can be courageous.

JRS Indonesia is providing assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, asylum seekers and those held in detention centers including education, psychosocial support, as well as access to healthcare, food and shelter.  In collaboration with refugees and our network we hope to inspire a culture of hospitality and solidarity, encouraging encounters and understanding between the Indonesian society and the refugee community and promoting solutions for people forced to flee their home.

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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

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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