End of year message from JRS International Director

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you and your loved ones.  

2016 has been memorable for shadows and lights. One shadow hovering over our world is the reality of 65 million refugees and displaced people – the highest number in our history. We are all acutely aware of places like Aleppo and Athens. Yet JRS also works where those on the move are off the radar:  Afghanis in Indonesia, Congolese in all parts of Africa, Central Americans fleeing to Mexico and the USA. 

Tom Smolich SJ with JRS Great Lakes staff during his visit to the region in February 2016.

A remarkable light this year has been Pope Francis. In his encounters, he mirrors the power of the Divine to touch lives. 2016 saw the Holy Year of Mercy, in which Francis invited us to extend our friendship to those most in need.   

Many of you have done so through JRS’ Mercy in Motion campaign, and we are 40% of the way to raising $35 million to educate 100,000 more refugees by 2020.  Thank you for your generosity.

2016 was also my first year as International Director of JRS. I was fortunate to visit each of our regions, to meet women and men we accompany, to meet staff members who walk lovingly with them.

In Homs, Syria, JRS has been offering education within sight of buildings damaged beyond recognition five years ago. During my visit in June, I was welcomed into each classroom, meeting Muslim and Christian children with their Christian and Muslim teachers.  In one room, a former Syrian chess champion taught the game he loves to a dozen girls and boys.  I was moved: we don’t teach chess unless we see a future. 

The day after he closed the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis released his Apostolic Letter Mercy and Misery, with this remarkable statement: “Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace…Two thousand years have passed, yet works of mercy continue to make God’s goodness visible.”

JRS will continue to comfort, educate, and walk with those most vulnerable in the coming year, and we invite you to join us in this fruit of grace. May your 2017 also unleash the creativity of mercy, and may we all continue to make God’s goodness visible. 

Fr Tom Smolich SJ, JRS International Director

Republished with permission by the Jesuit Refugee Service