Ignatius developed a spiritual praxis often focused on looking for God’s presence in human experience – in the events of our daily lives, and in human history. I have tried this praxis before by praying the Examen, a prayer written by Ignatius. In my experience, seeking God can bring great joy, but it can also be profoundly challenging in the face of human suffering and systemic injustice. I found the Examen helpful, because it offers a framework to acknowledge the bad things, whilst continuing to see the good, and crucially, it allows you to maintain hope. For those unfamiliar with the Examen, as you review your day, you thank God for the good things, but you also acknowledge your shortcomings, and have room to acknowledge the things that felt bad.
This attitude plays out on a larger scale in the Jesuit Refugee Service’s faith in God present in human history, even in its most tragic moments. This a kind of faith that can help us to accompany our refugee friends who have been forced to flee their homes, often in tragic circumstances, and who now find themselves retraumatised, subjected to destitution and detention by an asylum system so devoid of good purpose that it wounds those it is supposed to protect. It also helps faced with a political landscape that is becoming ever more cruel towards refugees, with the passage of the Nationality and Borders Act and determination in the party of government to press ahead with the inhumane plan to forcibly transfer people seeking asylum here to Rwanda, in an act that amounts to state facilitated human trafficking. This is bleak. We must lament, and we must demand justice. And yet, we have faith that God is here.
And indeed, we find God’s image most especially in refugees. It’s a recurring theme in a lot of Catholic Social Thought that, in the faces of refugees, we see the image of Christ, who as an infant fled for safety into Egypt.
I have learnt a lot from refugees about finding hope in hard times. Often, refugees have explained to me that their hope comes from faith in God. Others have talked about how solidarity with other refugees is a key source of hope and strength. Both of these came up in research undertaken for the report Detained and Dehumanised a couple of years ago. What repeatedly strikes me is the determination, and the ability, to reclaim life from pain and from injustice.
This, I suspect, is a determination that Ignatius would admire.
JRS offers prayer resources to help you to pray for and with refugees. Join us in prayer together on the Feast of St Ignatius for refugees and forcibly displaced people around the world.