Hospitality as Remedy

Friday, May 10th, 2013

JRS Staf is meeting a Refugee at Detention Center

Conflicts and armed violence in many parts of the world have caused millions of deaths and people seeking refuge. Quite often innocent children and ordinary people have to bear incomprehensible sufferings or even get killed. Many parents feel their hearts completely broken watching their children snatched away by the atrocities of wars. A lot of children are forced to experience loneliness and alienation because they have just lost their fathers or mothers who have embraced them with tender care and love. These unnecessary miseries and deaths unarguably leave deep wounds. The refugees have been compelled to abandon their villages along with their anguish and wounded hearts. Their only hope is just to discover a new peaceful life and brighter future.

The refugees are keen to see their life experiences be listened to with full attention. Telling us about their life, these displaced people want to pass on some humanitarian messages that shall motivate us to take actions for the creation of peace and justice in a simple but concrete way. These messages would reach their targets if we are prepared to kindly receive the refugees.  Adolfo Nicolás SJ defines hospitality as a ray of humanitarian value that recognizes one’s rights, not because he or she is part of our family, community, race or faith, but solely because he or she is the same human creature as us who deserve proper reception and honour.[1]

Hospitality is like welcoming a stranger in our house we have just built for someone we love.² With our cordiality, the refugees who are guests in our country are welcomed as lovable guests and friends. The warm welcome encourages and revives their spirit of life which was once dimmed. It is here, they, who have constantly suffered in their venture for a safe life, at last discover an environment which may re-ignite their spirit to stand up again as persons with dignity. Kindness rekindles mutual trust and respect which lead the “host” and the “welcomed guest” to knowing each other better. It is in this environment that the JRS is experiencing some blessed periods to receive the refugees and learning that all the refugees are in need to recover their dignity.

Hospitality toward strangers like the refugees is the actual form of detachment from all inordinate attachments, which have barred a person from meeting another person with all his or her personal uniqueness. Among the inordinate attachments are distrustful and insecure feelings as well as tendencies to stereotype against other people and to regard strangers as menacing “enemies”. Hospitality makes way for self-emptying to enable the growth of peace.

To many cultures and religions, hospitality is one of their basic values. In Islam Surah An Nisaa’ orders the Muslim followers to show kindness to their relatives, orphans, strangers and travellers (ibnu sabil) [4:36]. One of the Christian traditions states “.. and hospitality do not forget; for by this some, being not aware of it, have entertained angels.” [St Paul’s Letters to the Hebrew 13:2] Even God in the tradition of Christianity identifies Himself as a stranger who is inviting our hospitality: “ .. I was a stranger and you invited me in” [Matthew 25:35]. Taittiriya Upanishad in Hinduism declares that hospitality is like welcoming a guest as a Divine creature. In the Jewish teachings, hospitality (hakhnasat orchim) toward a guest or a stranger is an obligation. [2] In addition, there is a principle encouraging the followers of Judaism to accept any strangers whom they have previously treated as their enemies as their new comrades (Eizehu Gibur M’ha’giburim).[3]

The world which suffers due to wars, conflicts, suspicious feelings and stereotyping judgements – all resulting in the plight of refugees – requires hospitality as a remedy. We do hope that JRS’s direct, concrete and modest advocacy, service and support for the refugees be able to serve as a token of hospitality that heals the wounds. The ray of hospitality may hopefully melt the social freeze among the refugee-rejecting community and make a number of breakthroughs in some important chambers where political policies toward the refugees are made.

Indro Suprobo

[1] Letter from Father General Adolfo Nicolás SJ to the JRS dated 14 November 2010 on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of JRS .

[2] Ibid.

[3] Arik Ascherman,”Does Judaism Teach Universal Human Rights?”, in Kelly James Clark, Abraham’s Children, Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict, Yale University Press, 2012, pages 46-47.

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