As we approach the end of the year, I want to express my gratitude for your unwavering support. This year has been marked by challenges and ambitious projects for JRS Europe. The outbreak of an International Armed Conflict in Ukraine continues to have a profound impact on the lives of many, causing the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe in recent history.
As you know, in response to this crisis, the Society of Jesus has launched a coordinated initiative to accompany Internally Displaced Persons and refugees affected by the conflict: “The ONE PROPOSAL“. Through this project, the Society of Jesus has accompanied more than 90.000 people in the first 22 months since the start of the war in Ukraine.
In addition to our response to the crisis in Ukraine, JRS continues to accompany, serve, and advocate for thousands of refugees in our 23 country offices in Europe, in more than 125 cities and municipalities. Our projects focus on social inclusion, access to protection, and accompanying people in migration detention, with the aim of building a more welcoming, just, and caring society.
Our impactful awareness projects reached over 46,000 students and 830 teachers in 700 schools across seven countries. These initiatives not only brought attention to migration-related topics, but also nurtured a deeper sense of understanding and empathy. With the upcoming “Together for Change” project, we embark on a new journey, united in our mission to foster connections and cultivate inclusive societies that warmly embrace diversity, transcend physical borders, and promote a sense of unity.
This year we continued to accompany people in detention centres and to strengthen our common work, leading to the publication of our joint report: ”Visiting Migrants in Detention: How it is and how it should be”.
Regarding the negotiations on the New European Pact on Migration and Asylum, JRS has and continues to reject any plan that would impose a generalised use of border procedures and that would only increase detention and human rights violations, while not providing any real solutions for the shortcomings of the current system. Energy and efforts should instead go to strengthening reception and asylum systems on the ground and mechanisms for meaningful responsibility sharing between member states.
On this special day, we would like to especially thank you for all the generosity and affection that have made a profound difference in the lives of refugees and displaced people in Europe, offering them a sense of hope and community. As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we are reminded of the message of hope and love that he brings.
I am reminded of the words of Pope Francis, who invites us to be sowers of hope:
“Share your hope wherever you are, to encourage, console, comfort, and revive. Open the future, inspire possibilities, generate alternatives, help to think and act differently. Take care of your daily relationship with God and be workers of charity and sowers of hope. May you walk, singing and weeping, so that the struggles and concerns for the lives of the least and for threatened creation may not take away from you the joy of hope.”
As we look ahead to the coming year, we remain committed to our mission of keeping hope alive for refugees and displaced people in Europe. With your continued support, I am hopeful that we can continue to make a positive impact on the lives of those who have been forced to flee their homes.
Thank you for your generosity and compassion, which help us to keep hope alive.
We wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Alberto Ares, SJ