Today, we remember the life of Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ, who passed away on 5th February 1991. Fr Arrupe founded the Jesuit Refugee Service in response to the plight of the Vietnamese “boat people” fleeing their war-torn country.
Hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese left their homes to escape persecution and search for a better life, with many losing their lives on the journey through the South China sea, when their boats – stuffed to bursting – would fall victim to pirates, storms, and rough seas. The European branch was started after the fall of the USSR and in response to the horrific wars in the Balkans.
To quote Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit, from his letter on the occasion of JRS’s 40th anniversary, “[Fr Arrupe’s] profoundly Christian and Ignatian desire to care for the wellbeing of all who find themselves in utter desperation has inspired and guided the work of JRS for the past forty years.” This resonates strongly today, at a time when COVID-19 is laying bare the cruelty of many societal structures, and especially those in which asylum seekers find themselves enmeshed.
Describing the work of JRS, Fr General Arturo Sosa SJ said:
“So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.”
Fr Arrupe was awake when others preferred not to be, and even in eternal sleep, the organisation he launched continues to carry forth this same ethos of compassion and solidarity.
For more information on Fr Arrupe’s life, watch the video below: