On Tuesday, December 8, as a concrete sign of commitment to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Jesuit Refugee Service launched the Mercy in Motion advocacy and fundraising campaign to expand and strengthen its international education programs.

Mercy in Motion: JRS launches Global Education Initiative for refugees

On Tuesday, December 8, as a concrete sign of commitment to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Jesuit Refugee Service launched the Mercy in Motion advocacy and fundraising campaign to expand and strengthen its international education programs. The goal is to increase by nearly double the number of refugees JRS serves in educational programs by the year 2020. The goal is provide educational services to 100,000 more refugees by the end of the decade than were reached in 2015. 

Mercy in Motion reflects the words of Pope Francis: “mercy is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality We are called to look beyond, to focus on the heart to see how much generosity everyone is capable of.”

Pope Francis directed JRS to undertake this Global Education Initiative during an audience with JRS staff and supporters on November 14, saying “to give a child a seat at school is the finest gift you can give.… For children forced to emigrate, schools are places of freedom.”

“Jesuit Refugee Service/USA looks forward to putting the Pope’s words into action,” said Jesuit Refugee Service North America Regional Director Armando Borja. 


A JRS classroom in Lebanon. Most Syrian refugee children do not have access to to public education. JRS both provides private schooling in the region to help fill the gap, and advocates internationally for more educational resources. (Zerene Haddad — Jesuit Refugee Service)

For 35 years, JRS has focused on education as a means to build peace and foster the development of more resilient and cohesive societies. Funds raised by the Mercy in Motion campaign will implement the JRS Global Education Initiative, which aims to robustly expand both formal and informal education programs — from primary school to university, and including vocational education and teacher training.

“We have over many years seen the benefits that arise from supporting refugee education; the ripple effects that allow refugees to gain the knowledge needed to open a business to support their family, or to go on to further their education in a university,” Mr. Borja said.

Pope Francis has long urged people to welcome refugees, noting the world is currently suffering from a “globalization of indifference,” ignoring those who cry out for mercy.

One of several Jesuit Refugee Service pre-school programs at Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. Such give refugee children a head-start and keep them safe while their families work to meet daily needs. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)

“As human beings, we are often at the mercy of war, of nature, of governments — of forces beyond our control. For this reason, nearly 60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, constantly moving. But for people living in motion, those who cannot take possessions can bring knowledge and change their world,” said JRS International Director Fr. Thomas Smolich, SJ.

“Education helps resettled refugees integrate and contribute to their new communities more quickly, and helps refugees who are able to return home to rebuild their countries. The benefits of education are innumerable," said Mr. Borja.

Biology teacher Abdella Ahmed at the Jesuit Refugee Service secondary school in Kounoungou  camp, Chad. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)

A quality education gives refugees the tools not only to contribute to their new communities, but also to rebuild their old ones. Refugees face a variety of barriers trying to access education, from overcrowding in schools to xenophobia in host communities. Their fundamental right to education is often lost. Among refugee children globally, only 36 percent go to secondary school and less than one percent have the opportunity to pursue a higher education.

During the November 14 audience, Pope Francis encouraged the more than 100 JRS staff and supporters in attendance to “help refugees grow in self-confidence, to realise their highest inherent potential and be able to defend their rights as individuals and communities.”

Inspired by his encouragement, JRS teams in cities and refugee camps around the world will strengthen and expand existing educational programs and make sure the potential of thousands of refugee children and young adults is not wasted.

“We must show mercy to those who are at the mercy of outside forces,” said Fr. Smolich. “We must mobilize ourselves for those who are in motion.”

Learn more about Jesuit Refugee Service education programs for refugees: http://www.jrsusa.org/mercy

Banner photo: The St Mary Magdalene School is one of three schools JRS/USA built in Thiotte, Haiti, to help communities recover from the 2010 earthquake. The normal routines of school life help children traumatized by disaster recover confidence in a safe environment. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)

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