Jesuit Refugee Service and accompaniment

Fr Bernard Arputhasamy SJ, Asia Pacific Director, discusses the role of accompaniment in JRS. Refugees notice how the mission to accompany is the basis for the work JRS does around the world. Refugees and others not how that aspect of JRS sets JRS apart from other relief organisations. "JRS is here to stay; we know we can count on them." "Our close and direct contact with people, our presence with them ... lets us understand their real needs," says Fr Arputhasamy. To accompany is a practical and effective action. Not infrequently it is precisely the way in which protection is given. It is a way to ‘internationalize’ a situation. The presence of an international team can sometimes prevent an attack on refugees. Moreover, presence can be a sign. That a free person chooses willingly and faithfully to accompany those who are not free, who had no choice about being there, is itself a sign, a way of eliciting hope. Our accompaniment affirms that God is present in human history, even in its most tragic episodes. We experience this presence. God does not abandon us. As pastoral workers, we focus on this vision, and are not side-tracked by political maneuverings and ethnic divisions, whether they are among the refugees or among the agencies and governments who decide their fate.