The Jesuit perspective on refugees

Alumni of Jesuit colleges and universities and others who support the Jesuit mission came together for a luncheon and to hear the Jesuit response to refugee crises.

Thomas Smolich, S.J., the international director for the Jesuit Refugee Service spoke at the Jesuit Alumni and Friends of Detroit (JAFD) at a luncheon at the Detroit Athletic Club which more than 100 people attended.

As of the end of 2017, there were 68.5 million people forcibly displaced from their homeland by natural disasters, war and political unrest, among other reasons. Of those people, some 21 million are considered refugees. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) serves about one out of every hundred refugee or forcibly displaced people in 53 countries.

“How did the Society even get involved in working with refugees,” he asked. It goes back to Pedro Arrupe, S.J., who was a missionary in Japan during World War II, and later became superior general of the Society of Jesus.

“He knew that in times of need, the whole society needed to come together,” Fr. Smolich said. Informed by what he saw in Japan in the aftermath of the dropping of the atom bomb in Hiroshima, Arrupe formed the JRS in 1980 driven by the plight of the refugees known as the Vietnamese boat people.

“His heart was moved with pity to see what was happening to the Vietnamese people leaving their country, a third of them were dying on the water either drowning or falling victim to pirates. … And he felt that we needed to respond somehow. And he asked that JRS be an organization that was human, pedagogical and spiritual. … This is what JRS tries to do.”

Listen to the full talk below. And if you want to know more about JAFD, visit their Facebook page here.

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