A Place where There Is Peace, Is where I Want to LiveFriday, January 3rd, 2014
Mebratu Selam lived in Indonesia for a while now. He was granted “Refugee status” by UNHCR. Twenty-six years ago, he was born in a small town in Ethiopia into a family of an ethnic minority. After graduating high school he had studied at the Academy of Engineering, but did not finish it. Fortunately, after training in the field of construction engineering with good results, he was recruited by a company and worked as construction worker. But his life was soon to change due to threats and insecurity, forcing him to leave home in search of safety.
“The government often acts using threats, violence, coercion, and even actions that result in death,” he remembers.
Mebratu’s family was supporting an organization that was critical of the Government. Injustice and discrimination experienced by ethnic minorities motivated them to engage in political education often criticizing the authorities. In January 2011 government officers came to his family’s house asking them to hand over the entire land they owned. Facing this unjust request, his father resisted by openly refusing the authorities request.
“They dragged my father to the large land belongs to us. They forced him to hand over the land to the government. Because he still refused, they beat and tortured my father cruelly until he lay on the ground in a state of unconsciousness. As a result of the abuse, a month later my father died,” he recalls with sadness.
The government did not allow people to attend the father’s funeral at a cemetery arguing that the opponents of the government do not need to be remembered. “At the funeral, soldiers came to prevent the presence of those who wanted to mourn him. I was angry and quarreled with the soldiers. Because of that I was beaten and arrested and put in jail for three months,” he said.
Since then the government monitored Mebratu’s activities closely. Even then, he continued to provide political education to young people secretly. Injustice and persecution witnessed and experienced by minorities making it hard to stay quiet. “Sometimes we get together to discuss what has been done by the government to a minority and what we should strive for.”
On one night in August, two soldiers captured Mebratu at home bringing him to a unknown location. “They put me into a dark room. My hands and feet tied. In a curled up position, I was beaten and kicked. They beat me all night,” recalls Mebratu with sadness and anger. “If you and your brother do not stop opposing the government, I will kill you,” he was threatened by one of the soldiers that night. They forced me to sign a statement that contains the willingness to support the ruling government party. I had to sign it because I could not stand the torture. Then they released me.
At midnight in mid-August, three soldiers came back to my house. That night, I managed to escape, while my older brother was caught and imprisoned until now.
Later the enforcement of an Anti-Terrorism Act further complicated the situation of the minorities critical to the Government. The law legitimates to accuse anyone who does not agree with the policy of the Government to be a terrorist. Against these so called terrorists, the Government acted arbitrarily, arrests, beatings, persecution, and even deaths were a result. “I was afraid because of the threats so I was forced to flee to Kenya and get to Indonesia,” said Mebratu.
In Indonesian exile he found new friends. “For me, JRS is like family, they would come to visit me, say hello, invite me to chat and listen to my stories. JRS provides financial support and pays for this room. JRS even will come and wait for us when we are sick and in hospital to the extent that they themselves forget to eat lunch. I am very grateful for all of this,” he said.
Awaiting his resettlement to a third country, he hopes to learn on a free online course in Project Management as a preparation for work in the future. He is willing to be settling in any country as long as it is safe and peaceful. “Place me wherever you want, what is important is that I can live like a human being.”
Mebratu is only one of millions of people who were forced to leave loved ones in search of a secure and humane future. Encountering friendship and solidarity by others in situations where one feels most vulnerable rekindles hope in the midst of adversity. ***
(Indonesia) Paus Fransiskus berulang kali mengunjungi para pengungsi, menyapa mereka dan mendorong kepedulian terhadap mereka. Ia bahkan pernah memboyong tiga keluarga pengungsi Suriah ke Vatikan. Bagaimana pandangan dan ajaran Gereja terkait pengungsi? Continue reading
If we, as a human family, insist on only ever seeing refugees as a burden, we deprive ourselves of the opportunities for solidarity that are also always opportunities for mutual learning, mutual enrichment, and mutual growth. Continue reading
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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