We will always remember the year 2020 as one of the most difficult years we have ever lived. In addition to the extraordinary number of death and sick people, the pandemic has left us with a profound collective experience of vulnerability. Never before our generation had felt so violently our own fragility. And in an unexpected way, these months have reminded us of our fundamental bond as human beings, beyond our social situation, or race, or religion. In a disconcerting way we have all recognized the most profound we are, humans.
We cannot be surprised that Pope Francis has highlighted this basic fraternity that connects us all, he reminds us this social friendship that demands a responsible response in order to move forward into a new way of living together marked by the respect for human beings and the planet.
“God willing, after all this, we will think no longer in terms of “them” and “those”, but only “us” … If only this immense sorrow may not prove useless but enable us to take a step forward towards a new style of life. If only we might rediscover once for all that we need one another, and that in this way our human family can experience a rebirth, with all its faces, all its hands and all its voices, beyond the walls that we have erected”. (Fratelli Tutti, 35)
For JRS in Europe it has, obviously, been a very difficult time. We have been put to the test as never before. The great joy is that JRS staff and volunteers have been able to stand and respond to the challenges. It is true that we have had great teachers, for the last 40 years accompanying forcibly displaced people, we have learned that solidarity and compassion must be put more in deeds than in words. Refugees teach us, every day, that resilience is the fundamental capacity from which it is possible to rebuild, and reconcile, a new life.
While we wait for the health situation to be restored, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the enormous effort made by JRS teams, volunteers and staff, to adapt: creativity, closeness to the people, and ensuring dignity have guided – and continue to guide – us through these unpredictable times. I would also like to thank all of you the donors who help us to make it possible, without you, especially in this time of pandemic, it would have been impossible to carry out our mission.
To all of you merry Christmas and best desires for the new year, may the contemplation of the nativity scene, this year, move us to tenderness and compassion. Certainly, words like vulnerability, resilience, dignity, or fraternity will never be the same to us. We know now, even better, how special, and worthy they are. We especially remember those we have lost during these months; we keep them in our hearts.
Jose Ignacio Garcia SJ
Regional Director JRS Europe