Accompaniment – Encountering Those Forsaken

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016
20150902-IMGP4598

Writing lesson for Rohingya refugees

It was 10:35 am in the morning, Bayeun Village refugee camp in Aceh Timur started to become alive. Rohingya refugees had started their activities. Some teenage refugees gathered in one of the classrooms to begin their English session, whilst a group of children in one corner of a semi permanent wooden building began their play and study sessions with some NGO volunteers. At the other corner, some female refugees and their children sat in a circle with other volunteers. Yet another group was sitting under the trees talking. These were common impressions of the situation in this camp.

After visiting for several days and observing the refugees’ activities, I noticed a teenage boy sitting alone in a tent, while his friends were outside. I was so curious, so I went to see him. “My name Mohammad Hasan,” he introduced himself. Looking shy and unconfident, he answered my questions with inarticulate Indonesian. “Saya no like study, saya hari-hari duduk di sini. Sore hari saya play football (I don’t like studying, I sit here every day. In the afternoon, I play football)”. During my early days here I had never seen him joining his friends in classes.

I couldn’t believe Hasan didn’t like studying. I tried to find out why he was reluctant to join his friends in studying English or other subjects. One day, I finally got the answer. “Brother, I don’t like study, I’m embarrassed. I can’t read, I can’t write,” he answered when I urged him to tell me why.

20150902-IMGP4603

English study materials used by Rohingya refugees in Aceh

After observing for few days, I realized Hasan was not the only one. There were also Rofik, Mohammed Aziz, and Armin who were just sitting around during the study time. They felt discouraged to join the classes for being illiterate.

Then an idea came to me, to do a special and personal intervention for them. I asked my friends to accompany Hasan and the other boys to learn how to read and write. From meeting to meeting we could see they were getting more excited to learn.

One and a half months later, Hasan looked different. He seemed more cheerful and confident. “Brother, now I can write my name. This is father, this is mother, and this is my sister”, Hasan wrote his parents’ and sibling’s name on a small white board. I complimented him with a big smile on my face.

Hasan is a symbol of forgotten refugees, those left behind. While some refugees get up and join activities, there are some out of sight. Those who are afraid to show themselves, those who are shy and unconfident, they’re the ones who need intervention.

While most people choose to pay attention to those who can be seen, we should look out and pay more attention to those invisible. In addressing big needs when caring for people, there are often some small aspects out of our sight. In ensuring no one is forgotten or left behind lays the real value of genuine accompaniment.

20150904-IMGP4672

Rohingya refugees practise typing on a computer

***

Since their arrival in May 2015, much support has been provided  to the Rohingya arrivals in Aceh by the local and international community. In an euphoric outpour of sympathy and welcome for the Rohingya guests communities, local and national government were moved to helping them.

As time goes by, the waves of assistance provided for the refugees still continue. Not less than 18 local, national, and international organizations, in cooperation with local governments, are doing their part to help refugees; UNHCR, IOM, JRS, Save The Children, Dompet Dhuafa, PKPU, Insan TV, Sheep  Indonesia Foundation, Peduli Muslim, Red Crescent Indonesia, ACF, CMC, Roja TV, MSF, As-sunni, MDMC, Geutanyoe Foundation, BPBD, Tagana, and Aceh Timur District and Langsa City government, and Immigration Office are working together in helping the Rohingya refugees.

This is a very interesting phenomenon,as it is different to the common response to refugees in Indonesia. Asylum seekers and refugees are usually tended to only by Immigration, UNHCR and IOM who have a direct mandate from or agreement with the Indonesian government. The response to Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh immigrants in Aceh involved local authorities, humanitarian agencies, and community groups collaborating together in a Rohingya Task Force organized by Aceh Timur District and Langsa City government, providing the space for many parts of society to participate, expressing a commitment and concern on refugee and asylum seeker issues. But the involvement of many parties needed proper management and guidelines addressing mis-communication, coordination and overlapping in services, conflict of interests, or even how to avoid jealousy by the local community. Based on this experience, it was necessary to establish guidelines for community based humanitarian care for   refugees. Guidelines based on these experiences are currently combined by Sheep Indonesia Foundation and will be published in the coming months.

As much material support was provided by generous organizations, JRS chose to focus on supporting the coordination of responses as well as increase the understanding on who the Rohingya are, their status as refugees and asylum seekers in conducting public awareness activities, such as talk shows on local radio. Public discussions with government officials were facilitated by some NGOs (Geutanyoe Foundation, SCF, and Sheep Indonesia Foundation) inviting JRS to share about our understanding and experience in  accompanying and serving refugees in other parts of Indonesia.

Following the principle to ensuring no refugee is left behind and no aspect is forgotten, JRS focused its support on assisting coordination, addressing emerging gaps and those forgotten, sharing information and supporting others in outreach to the local community and to the Rohingya refugees aiming to improve understanding about cultural differences.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Australia: shutting the door in the face of a global humanitarian crisis

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

33 Years on, the Needs of Displaced are bigger than Ever

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