Ordinary People Living in Extraordinary Circumstances

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

This year’s World Refugee Day draws attention to our brothers and sisters who are experiencing an extraordinary situation, namely asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and refugees. Those have felt the loss, separation, and the destruction caused by war, conflicts, natural disasters, discrimination, threats or suppression of their rights. If we are to weigh the meaning of poverty, it is them who are experiencing poverty as capability deprivation (Amartya Sen: 1999). These last few years, we encounter refugees who have experienced displacement several times during their lives. Some of them lost their homes three times after their houses had been vandalized and burned, just because of being different. Initially, many of those refugees were like us, free to choose a job, school, or embrace a different view on life or members of the public at large. When hatred was kindled, they who are different were no longer free to choose. From there onwards, any access to public life began to be closed to them.

Since May we are again aware of the presence of people fleeing on boats, 996 Rohingya refugees arrived in Aceh and North Sumatra along with 795 immigrants from Bangladesh (UNHCR, as of May 28, 2015). We see clearly the results of prolonged suppression of basic rights, their potentials, life choices, and their chances to survive. They are part of a class of the world’s inhabitants without citizenship (stateless people) who globally number around 10 million. The only option left for them is to flee the country that has rejected them, taking the risk of being exploited or ill treated by people smugglers or even death in the middle of the ocean.

However, the truly remarkable aspect to be witnessed in the encounter with refugees is not the extreme situations they experience but the look on their faces, the expressions of a belief that wars and disasters can deprive them of their life opportunities, but cannot break or exhausted their spirits. All the fear and trauma they experienced, do not remove their will or hope in life. They did not stop at being a victim, but they continued to live as survivors.

At the end of May, we were present in the refugee camps of Kuala Langsa and Bayeun in East Aceh, to explore the wider needs and provide some urgent medical assistance, including for children that spend weeks dritiing in the ocean. We will come back to accompany and serve, to fill the gaps that have not been answered by the brothers and sisters who are kindly attending to the refugees. Far from merely seeing them as passive recipients of aid, we would like first of all to appreciate the life energy of the survivors of gross violations of human rights in Southeast Asia in the 21st century.

It is the inspiring hospitality shared by fishermen and the people of Aceh to the Rohingya refugees and immigrants from Bangladesh that leads a fight against the stigma of “illegal immigrants” in countries where the boat people and other refugees stranded. Noble souls extending help to those in need become challenge to the criminalization of asylum-seekers around the globe. Hopefully, the attention and solidarity extended to the 1,791 displaced Rohingya and Bangladeshi immigrants will also be an opportunity for state and society to rediscover the approximately 12,000 asylum seekers and refugees who currently live in Indonesia with similar experience and needs. On World Refugee Day June 20, 2015, let us celebrate the resilience, courage, and vitality of asylum seekers and refugees.

In Children’s Hands

In children’s hands, paper becomes Sinbad’s boat

unconquered by the waves,

become a bird whose calls open flowers in the forest;

in children’s mouths, the word is Sacred.

“Hey mister, please leave my game alone.”

(a poem by Sapardi Djoko Damono, 1981)


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