Contributing to The Community, a Part of a Life in Dignity

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

“My name is Zain. I worked as a contractor, before I was forced to leave my country because almost every day I received threats. A group of people called me saying that I am still alive today, but tomorrow I may not be. I therefore decided to leave.” Zain said in a tone of melancholy because he would not have imagined that this fate might lead to him being locked up behind the bars of an immigration detention center.

Refugee strengthening computer skills through JRS education project.

Behind all the information, news, data and figures from various institutions and agencies reporting on refugees and asylum seekers in Indonesia, there are individual histories, experiences, suffering, as well as joy, thoughts, ideals, hopes and dreams about life. They are  fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters many of whom are journalists, businessmen, shoe makers, computer specialists, school teachers, artists, aircraft technicians, translators or writers who played an important role in public life back home.

News and statistics intended to give a glimpse of the latest developments of the phenomenon of forced displacement, but all too often obscure the human dimension of a refugee’s unique personality, sadly even labels those seeking asylum here as ‘illegals’. The term is arbitrary ignoring the entire background of why people end up staying here, the ideals, hopes that lead to them having to leave their community.

Machasin likes to invite people for lunch: “In my country, I opened a restaurant and a hotel. I used to cook. Tomorrow afternoon come to me and I will cook some food so we can eat together”. Indeed his homemade chapatis are delicious. The child of farmers and sheep herders who later became the manager of the restaurant and hotel had to spend two years of his life behind bars in the Tanjung Pinang immigration detention center. There he filled his days with the cooking of food for others in the same situation. These kind people, it strikes me, do certainly not deserve jail in the detention center for no other reason than that they were forced to leave their country to save their lives. None of them seem to be criminals one imagines behind bars, instead I encounter good-hearted men who were forced to leave in search for safety and peace.

Abdul Malik, a young man from Afghanistan  likes to practice his writing skills to maintain his spirit and hope while awaiting placement to a third country. ”I am not a very social person. I would stay in my room and like to write in my blog on the internet. I am a blogger, writing keeps me occupied. Writing makes me feel calm and enables me to make sense of my life experience. I can tell you about Borobudur, Kraton, Malioboro, Yogyakarta’s beaches and Mount Merapi. I also dream to become a movie producer so I can visualize the situation and history of my people, the Hazara, for others” he said while adjusting his glasses.

Refugees are resourceful, allowing refugees to use their time and skills during the long waiting period helps to preserve their resilience and dignity. But for most of them the life in forced displacement does not allow for chance to actualize themselves, being not allowed to work or even volunteer or in any way contributing to one’s own or surrounding community leaves the feeling of life being put on hold.

Hashim is one more example. He is a computer graduate, who seldom socializes with others. Concerns about his wife and children’s safety, being left behind in Iran, fill him with worries. During his flight he was never able to access computers making him afraid he is losing his abilities in his field of work.

In order to explore the skills and abilities of refugees and asylum seekers JRS participated in the national consultation between civil society organizations and refugees between 25-26 February exploring ways on how to enable refugees living in the community to use their skills within the restrictions set by national regulations. At the meeting it was found that organizing refugee communities and mapping their skills can be a first step of exploring how asylum seekers and refugees can increase their agency in supporting themselves and engage with the local community.

A summary of Catholic Sosial Teaching on participation reminds us that: “All people have a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society. It is a fundamental demand of justice and a requirement for human dignity that all people be assured a minimum level of participation in the community. It is wrong for a person or a group to be excluded unfairly or to be unable to participate in society.”

Indro Suprobo

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JRS joins multi-faith call for refugee protection

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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

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