A personal reflection from a JRS volunteer, Sr Juliana, who offers her thoughts after being with JRS for a couple of months…
My journey at Jesuit Refugee Service, it all started during our CSJP’s Congregation (Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace) experience here in London, as we explore where God is calling and leading us for future ministries in accordance with the signs of times and the needs of the world today. Right form that day something really touched and stayed with me, I felt something within, is had to name and to express what it is.
JRS as an international catholic non-governmental organization with a mission to accompany, serve and defend the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people; is very much in line with our Charism of Peace through Justice. The question is often asked, why on earth should one had anything to do with ex-offenders, law breakers. Others feel that these people should get what they deserve and go where they belong. This attitude deeply touched and challenged me when I hear these words towards refugees and asylum seekers. At the same time what a remarkable witness of people who are willing to risk their lives by trying to live against this way of thinking, the logic and standards of the world; by working with people on the margins, helping those that nobody wants to help in terms of political, socio-economic and national policies and structures. With individuals not given a fair and good hearing and unfairly treated.
As a CSJP invited to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, I questioned myself how do I live and apply the Charism of Peace through Justice where people are not respected, believed in or listened to and considered as individuals and persons? Why do I choose to go to JRS? It was because as CSJP I am called to live and think differently from the logic and standards of the world, to live in a new way the concept of basic human rights – our common humanity that fosters mutuality equality. I was welcomed within the team at JRS, making it possible for me to fit in very well, and we really worked very well together.
The situations of all those that visit the centre are very complex, difficult and sad, but the team acting as a community where everyone is family really makes a huge difference for the friends receiving service. As Henri Nouwen said: “Hospitality is primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy”. I was involved in the administration (updating files, reception and welcoming); Day Centre (variety) and the women’s group. The main purpose of the work with the women is to see to their personal well-being – physical, emotional, moral and spiritual (activities like relaxation exercises, reflexology and contemplative prayer circle are offered to help them) All of this aims to create a place for them just “TO BE”, a time of relaxation and companionship. For me, the group itself was a witness: there are no barriers, no best way, no better language, and no better expression! We relate to God as we are and in the same way we relate to one anther. There were times when I was challenged and really experienced my own poverty, because many times I didn’t feel I was actually doing anything, I had just to sit with the participants, even if communication was difficult. The communication of acceptance, equality and that atmosphere of shared common humanity spoke more than anything indeed. I became aware that sometimes even without words my attitudes can be discriminating and marginalizing of others. My experience at JRS, what really stayed with me is that “If I can’t change people’s situation, but I will try to love them”.