Under God’s Wings of Protection

Monday, June 17th, 2013

“He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge,
you will not fear the terror of night..”

This verse from Psalm 91:4-5 on God’s protection does give empowerment to and becomes a reality in the life of Refugees and Asylum seekers on the Cipayung, West Java,  highlands. What the Psalm author is convinced of is also experienced by the Asylum seekers, who have forcefully fled their homes, villages and their loved ones to acquire a peaceful life they have been dreaming.

JRS staf congratulating a Refugee on Nauruz celebration

It’s Otang Sukarna, a 50 year old resident of a village on the hills of Cipayung, West Java, who sincerely put this Psalm in the daily life. He’s just a modest villager who befriends the Refugees and Asylum seekers. By simple but real ways, he motivates his fellow village residents, mothers and children to show kindness and friendliness to the Refugees and Asylum seekers living nearby. This honest and sincere friendship and mutually supportive attitude makes up the real kindness and also protection that gives them the feeling of security.

While in other places the Refugees and Asylum seekers have to face rejection, suspicion, negative stigma, expulsion and isolation, Otang Sukarna and hios fellow villagers, in contrast, offer their modest but comfortable shelters for their stay, friendly and passionate relationship, useful joint activities and real helps that boost their spirit.

“These immigrants are good persons. They’re not criminals or people who incite trouble. They have come here just to discover peace as their countries are in chaos,” says Otang to express his understanding. Although he has never read any documents on Refugees, he is able to explain his understanding on this issue with a modest but communicative formulation which all residents of the village would easily understand and accept.

Emphatic Awareness

Otang Sukarna has his own basic reason to be kind and friendly towards the Refugees and Asylum seekers. “They are people, who, like us, have children. They are facing hardship like I am. So, we should be kind and help them. Even, whenever we could, we should protect them as we and they are just the same human beings,” he explains. Immersing oneself, understanding and allowing oneself to be touched by others’ experiences is an exercise of emphatic awareness. This awareness creates a concrete involvement.

When the mass media report about the rejection and expulsion of the Asylum Seekers, Otang Sukarna and the local Village Head opt to go around the village to give them some encouragement. I’m going around with the Lurah (village head) to meet them one by one and try to convince them and the landlords that they should not be afraid, because this village has been secured of its peaceful condition” he explains enthusiastically. Even the Lurah restates his assurance of protection, If someday some parties from outside come here to disturb their lives, ask them (refugees) to move to my house. I will myself give them protection,” he adds quoting the Village Head.


Otang Sukarna has an effective but simple way to more closely bonding the friendship between his fellow villagers and the Asylum Seekers. The daily life is the key. “I often invite them to attend wedding parties and funerals. Some of them even take part in carrying the coffin to the cemetery,” he says. Their presence and involvement in the locals’ activities is a sign, tool and proof of their willingness to be part of the society. This has made their ties closer and friendlier. They become part of the village and no more strangers. “Due to the extremely close relationship, one of the immigrants has been persuaded by a family to marry a local and become one of its members,” adds Otang.

Religious celebrations, too, are used as tools to share. On the 10 Muharram (Assyura) the villagers and Asylum Seekers hold a joint religious ceremony. The village head donates a sheep for the event. And they are very thankful.”

During the early time of the influx of Asylum Seekers, English lessons for children are held for some time. Through this activity the villagers and the Asylum Seekers could learn from each other. The local children learn English while the Asylum Seekers learn how to live the local daily, routine life. Yes, in the past a lot of our children took part in the English class. Almost three class rooms were always full of students.”

Thanks to the close ties, it’s no strange if in some road corners and eating kiosks we can hear laughs and chats of the Asylum Seekers and villagers killing their times of rest.  Otang Sukarna and residents of the Cipayung hills are like God’s wings that give the Asylum Seekers kindness, protection and security. Through them God fully shelters the Refugees and Asylum Seekers with His wings. ***

Indro Suprobo

(Indonesia) Pastor Thomas Aquinas Maswan Susinto, SJ: Pengungsi Ingin Hidup Damai

(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

Refugees: An opportunity to grow together

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

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


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