International Strategic Planning Conference on Migration and Refugees in Nairobi

The International Strategic Planning Conference on Migration and Refugees was held in Nairobi, Kenya from January 20-22. This event was organized by the Jesuits Justice and Ecology Network (JENA) in collaboration with the Jesuits Refugee Service (JRS) bringing together Jesuits, collaborators and partners in mission from across the globe.

The objectives of the conference were to: complete the mapping exercise of the Jesuit ministry to refugees in Africa, develop strategies for the coordination of the Jesuit Migrants and Refugees ministries in Africa, develop common change goals for the Euro-Africa Jesuit Migration and Refugees ministries and develop strategies for international institutional collaboration among the Jesuit ministries in Africa and Europe.

On the first day, the Socius of the Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) Fr John the Baptist Anyeh SJ opened the meeting, welcoming all the participants to Nairobi, on behalf of the JCAM President Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ . The JCAM Justice and Ecology Office Director, Fr Charles Chilufya SJ, then gave a presentation of the JENA Strategic Plan 2019-2023 on Migration, followed by an introductory session of all participants, and presentations from key note speakers namely: Felleson Mans the Senior Solutions Adviser to the CRRF for UNHCR, Ms. Romina Sta. Clara in charge of Project Development and Liaison at IOM and Simon Marot from the African Union (AU), representing the Youth Advisory Council.

The second day, begun on a prayerful note with a Mass celebration by (Frs) Alberto Ares and Jose Ignacio Garcia. The participants from various countries, representing different and diverse Jesuit ministries then congregated at the conference room for the first-morning session which centered on the operating environments of the various Jesuit ministries on Migration and Refugees.

The provinces or regions of Africa explored during the morning session were: South Africa, West Africa, Central Africa and Eastern Africa where the Jesuit Refugee Service renders services to persons facing migration and refugee status. Prevailing political, socio-economic migration and refugee issues prevalent in Africa and Madagascar were explored in the various presentations.

The Africa Jesuit Aids Network (AJAN) director Fr Elphehe Quenum SJ had the opportunity to highlight through a presentation, the linkages between migration and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, exploring ways of collaboration with ministries involved with migration and refugees to ensure persons on the move receive required services when encountering issues to do with reproductive health, and especially victims of HIV/AIDS.

The Arrupe Jesuit University’s presentation by Fr. Evaristus Ekwuweme SJ touched on human trafficking, and organ trafficking emanating from migration and refugee crisis across Africa and the Jesuits' response to the crisis.

Christina Manzanedo from the Entreculturas spoke about their efforts towards the protection of migrants in Morocco, while Fr James Mayanda SJ from Hakimani Centre referenced to surveys done by the centre in collaboration with European Jesuit partners on Euro-migration flows.

Fr Ikenna Ikechi SJ from the Migrants and Refugee Sections at the Vatican emphasized on four verbs by Pope Francis, “to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate” as he explored the challenges and the Church’s response to migration.

The other key segment of the day was by Fr Tom Smolich SJ the International Director for the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) whose presentation was an in-depth overview of the work of the JRS. He shared on the trends and realities on migration like wars, resource wars, failing governments, climate change among others. He noted that the primary effort by the JRS is to protect refugees - people whose home countries have not protected them. He also spoke about integration, saying that JRS continues the call of the founder of JRS Fr Pedro Arrupe to render a service that is “human, pedagogical and spiritual”.

Javier Montes from Alboan engaged participants in an interesting forum on accompanying women especially in contexts of migration, refugee and displacement. He talked about the need to engage more women because when women are at the center of the action the fruit is bigger, indicating that it is important to understand the importance of giving women a voice. He stated that in order to better serve women, we need to get their experience so that we really understand what they are dealing with. He observed that women are diminished by being women, and one of the worst ways is through human trafficking. Alboan is actively engaged in reaching out to migrant women moving across borders.

The sessions held in the afternoon and the third day concentrated on internal analysis which involved mapping of the Jesuits' migrants and refugees ministries in Africa, creating a clear vision for the coming years, exploring the networking and collaboration opportunities, presentation of the outputs of the conference and the way forward.

The conference closed with a message from the JCAM president one that emphasized that "We serve people not systems”, encouraging participants to be bold in serving those that are excluded, those that are poor those without a place to call home.


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