The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants estimates that there as many as fourteen million refugees worldwide. Refugees are individuals who have fled their countries of origin and who meet the United Nations’ criteria of having a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Countless refugees are trapped in camps around the world, sometimes for years on end, with little for escape and limited opportunities to thrive. Recognizing the plight of these people, the Catholic Church has become involved in providing services and support to refugee populations, both domestically and abroad.
The Department of Migration and Refugee Services at the United States Conference of Catholic (USCCB/MRS) has for decades assisted in the resettlement of refugees that come to the United States. USCCB/MRS is the largest non-governmental agency in the U.S. to help refugees start a new life in a new world. In 2008, they helped to resettle nearly 18,000 refugees through their networks, which involve over 100 diocesan offices across the country and in Guam and Puerto Rico. In 2009 they expect to help resettle over 20,000 refugees in the United States.
In the coming years, USCCB/MRS plans on providing a wide range of educational resources related to our work in refugee resettlement and on the crises that give rise to this need. The work of the Catholic Church with refugee communities, both through the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic organizations across the country and the world, deserve to be recognized and commended for their service on this issue. One resource that USCCB/MRS would like to highlight is the work done by Jesuit Refugee Services, a partner organization who seeks to live out the Gospel message to those in need.
Not all Catholic organizations have a predominately domestic focus when it comes to refugees. Jesuit Refugee Services/USA (JRS/USA), an international Catholic organization sponsored by the Society of Jesus, strives to “give help, hope, ear and voice to vulnerable and victimized people on the move by being present to and bearing witness to their plight; by relieving their human suffering and restoring hope; by addressing the root causes of their displacement and improving international response to refugee situations; and by providing human resources and financial assistance.
In addition to helping refugees find a better life worldwide, JRS/USA has developed a cutting edge curriculum that can help Americans better understand the difficulties confronting these refugee populations. This curriculum will help students the underlying causes that give rise to refugee crises, historical events that have laid the groundwork for refugee exoduses, and how the international community, the United States and the Church have reached out to help these populations in trouble. We at MRS strongly recommend that teachers, directors of religious education and anyone else interested in questions of social justice look at this curriculum with a close eye.
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS)
One of the greatest tragedies of the 21st Century is the explosive increase in the number of our world’s refugees, internally displaced people, and vulnerable migrants.
Since 1980 Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has committed itself to accompanying, serving and defending the rights of these forcibly displaced people. While this curricular module focuses largely on areas of the world where JRS serves vulnerable and forgotten people, it also tries to address global issues of refugee protection and assistance.