When Fr Arrupe saw the suffering of Vietnamese people fleeing their country in outrageous conditions in 1980, him and the Society of Jesus followed God’s call to assist these people and help them on their journeys. That is how, 40 years ago, the Jesuit Refugee Service was founded. Soon after that, JRS came to our region, Eastern Africa, locating their headquarters in Nairobi to assist the wave of Ethiopian and Somali refugees at the time. From then, JRS has kept growing rapidly, as a practical and spiritual response to the sufferings of refugees. Today, JRS is present in 56 countries worldwide, with the mission to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees, IDPs, and anyone ever obliged to flee their homes forcefully.

JRS East Africa is present in Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. Here we assist thousands of people coming from all over the continent: people fleeing Somalia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia… among many others, in search of dignity, resilience, and a better life. From the youngest child to the oldest person, our open-door policy and Christian charity helps us to avoid denying assistance and support of any kind to whomever reaches our premises: no matter the gender, the colour, the origin or the religion. Even in the most complicated of times, when most humanitarian staff fled the territory, we stayed. When war re-started in South Sudan, we stayed. When Ethnic and tribal tensions shacked Addis Ababa, we stayed. When COVID reached its highest and most uncertain moments, we stayed.

And the only reason why we stayed, was always the same: “to be next to the refugee, to walk and accompany them all the way through… even when all lights seem to be turned off…. brief, to remain faithful to our mission”. In addition, our mission is a mission of love! We have an international team devoted to serve, advocate and always accompany our beneficiaries, with a proven tireless effort and commitment towards our duty. Coming from Ireland, Togo, Kenya, Ethiopia, Spain, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Germany, Cameroon, Rwanda, DRC, USA… our family works in different aspects to ensure that these refugees, who are the beneficiaries, have the deserved opportunities to get a qualified education, to manage their sources of income, to be secured and safe from vulnerabilities, to be accompanied emotionally at every moment, to become fully self-reliant citizens.

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Today, as we (JRS) celebrate 40 years of accompaniment worldwide. We celebrate 40 years of Jesuit Christian charity; of commitment, love, and effort from our staff; 40 years of hope and opportunities for the vulnerable; 40 years of walking together, of serving and advocating. And we wish for JRS to keep on with its so necessary duty continue to assist more and more beneficiaries every day, as long as it is required. To keep growing as fast as it did, because it only means that we can. Congratulations for helping thousands of youth and children finish their studies. Congratulations for assisting thousands of entrepreneurs to get their vocational trainings, to be part of business projects or even to build their own. Congratulations for a tireless pastoral and spiritual support to anyone who needed it. For a continuous assistance to the mentally or physically handicapped, on their studies and their wellbeing. Congratulations for the thousands of people who you assisted with emergency support, with food items, with sanitary means or medical care, or with rent, to face complicated moments in their life. Congratulations for these 40 years of commitment to restoring dignity.

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And thank you, thank you to all the beneficiaries who believed in us and made of our work a meaningful passion. Thank you to all the donors, who believed in our cause and made all this possible. Thank you to the IO and all the COs worldwide supporting our common duty. And thank you to all the people who shared our stories. Hopefully one day our work will no longer be needed. Until then, lets pray for the Jesuit Refugee Service to be able to keep accompanying, serving, and advocating for as many vulnerable refugees, IDPs or any displaced human being, with the same passion, commitment, and effort, as these last 40 years.