Commemorating 40 years of accompaniment, advocacy, and service of JRS worldwide, JRS South Asia organised a photo exhibition on the theme ‘40 Years of Accompaniment’ on November 16, 2020 at the Indian Social Institute. Due to covid-19, we restricted the participants around 120 including the representatives from Chin and Afghan refugee community, the Jesuits and Staff of ISI, ADO and JESA. Fr. Jerome Stanislaus D’Souza SJ, President Jesuit Conference of South Asia, graced the occasion and inaugurated the Photo exhibition and gave a hope-giving message with an assurance of his unfailing accompaniment with the marginalized communities. Spontaneous response of the Society of Jesus to the invitation of Fr Pedro Arrupe, the then superior general, to alleviate the pain, agony, and distress of boat people after the Vietnamese war in 1980s, was remarkable and outstanding. He added that the tiny seed sown by Fr Arrupe has become a mighty tree today by giving shades of hope for the refugees. Fr Jerome congratulated and wished JRS to be a blessing to refugees all around the world.

Fr. Denzil Fernandez SJ, Executive Director of Indian Social Institute, welcomed the people gathered and gave a brief background of the close collaboration of Jesuit Refugee Service and Indian Social Institute on shared values. With ISI’s assistance, an impact assessment report on Afghan mission was carried out which sheds light to the way forward. Earlier, ISI
undertook a profile study on Chin Refugees in Delhi.

During the event JRS launched its fourth booklet “Testimonies of Hope” based on its Impact Assessment of Jesuit Mission Outreach in Afghanistan. Fr. Paul D’Souza, Superior of the Jesuit Community and Head of the Department of Dalit studies highlighted the milestone of of the testimonies of hope. He emphasised on the significant impact JRS has played in the
lives of Internally Displaced persons in Afghanistan to bring hope back in a war-torn country.

A video with the theme ‘Down the Decades’ was also played during the event. The video displayed the journey of 40 years of its accompaniment in South Asia.

Fr. Louie Albert, the Regional Director for JRS South Asia highlighted the need for greater advocacy as the number of forcibly displaced persons are on the increase. More than ever before, there is a necessity to align our efforts with academia, civil society organizations, and international human rights groups to amplify the needs of refugees for sustainable and
dignified settlement. Refugees live with ‘hyphenated-identity’ and they become unwanted by host and home country. This situation calls for a renewed commitment to the cause for refugees.

Tamana, an Afghan refugee and life skill trainer of JRS shared “JRS identified and developed my skills to serve my community. Kip Thluai a cooking and baking student from the Chin life skill training centre brought out vividly how JRS revived my hope in life. The scintillating cultural performance of children from Chin and Afghan community enthralled the members. Participants of the program were able to learn more about the culture and tradition of both the Chin and the Afghan community through their traditional attire, music, and performance. To encourage traditional cuisine, we had snacks from both the groups. Stalls of garments by the Chin and Afghan tailoring batch were also on display to promote the sale of their products and create marketing opportunities for JRS’s new initiative called the Skilling Circles.

JRS 40 years commemoration was a time of expressing gratitude to the people who have journeyed along with us over the years and help others understand the mission of JRS over the world and how JRS is trying to promote the ministry of Fr Pedro Arrupe of “being with rather than doing for”.