A Message Echoing through the Human Family

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Pope Francis met with refugees in Centro Astalli, Italy

Khaled Hosseini’s latest novel “And the Mountains Echoed” introduces us to the intimate link among family members in Afghanistan. Hosseini takes us on a journey across time, from the era of pre-Soviet occupation in Afghanistan until the period after entering the third millennium. The characters show a close bond among family members, especially between the siblings of Pari and Abdullah, whose mother passed away during their childhood. It talks about the relationship between Saboor the father and those two children and also the close bond between Nabi, Saboor’s brother-in-law and the children, especially Pari. Since his youth, Nabi has been a loyal servant of a rich man in Kabul, Wahdati Suleiman and his wife Nila. Saboor, a poor farmer, sold Pari to this wealthy family who cannot get children on their own.

Saboor’s family in Shadbagh is separated by death, poverty, political turmoil, and difficult life choices driven by hope for a better future. The novel takes us from the fictional hamlet called Shadbagh, to Kabul, and all the way to Paris where Nila then resides with the little Pari. Nevertheless, the memory of closeness and warmth of family ties back home are not broken by distance, time, forgotten moments, and events. In the confusion of being uprooted of her past, Pari feels “That there was in her life the absence of something, or someone, fundamental to her own existence. Sometimes it was vague, like a message sent across shadowy byways and vast distances, a weak signal on a radio dial, remote, warbled. Other times it felt so clear, this absence, so intimately close it made her heart lurch (page 205).” Finally Pari and her brother Abdullah met again in California but he no longer remembers her as he is suffering from Alzheimer.

The dramas of Afghan families drawn in Hosseini’s novel are a reality for asylum seekers and refugees as we met them in Indonesia. Of the 3,268 refugees and 7,168 asylum seekers here in the beginning of 2014, there are many children fleeing alone from their home country, a great distance from their parents or relatives. A few days ago, we were approached on behalf of two refugee children sleeping in a mosque in Jakarta. They rely only on the kindness of the people around to share food with them. Living in such a harsh reality, children continue to be left to struggle on their own in Jakarta and other cities in Indonesia as numerous countries in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa are hit by conflicts.

Many of Indonesian people have shown hospitality accepting asylum seekers and refugees, particularly those who are vulnerable such as unaccompanied minors, women, the elderly, those who have run out of savings or those who are ill. Solidarity Indonesians have expressed exceeds the limits of the family, state, tribe, religion, or race. Humanity becomes the only language that binds their hearts. Behind all the political maneuvering that countries undertake to reject the presence of asylum seekers and refugees, the actions of our citizens is a generous encouragement and kindles hope for refugees.

Pope Francis earlier this year encouraged us all that “A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.”

World Refugee Day on June 20, 2014 is a chance to encourage and practice this change of attitude when meeting asylum seekers and refugees driven by war and conflict into our midst. Our consideration and real support for them is needed as currently they receive no or only little personal and institutional attention when trying to fulfill their basic needs for food, shelter, and medical assistance.

With the title “And the Mountains Echoed”, Khaled Hosseini reflects about the bond of love during separation leading people to fix their families broken ties, like the echo of the joyful laughter of children echoes through the mountain cliffs of Afghanistan. Being with and for asylum seekers and refugees separated from their families is an act of solidarity and carries a message of love and hope for all of us. It is our decisions and actions that will echo into the future and into far places of the world, resonating powerfully through the human family, the message of love that is so needed in our time.

Th. A. Maswan Susinto, SJ


(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