Colleagues from Croatia, Italy, Macedonia, Germany, Spain, Ireland, France, Portugal, Belgium, Romania, Switzerland, Malta, Sweden and more all gathered in Hertfordshire for a few days for the Annual General Meeting of Jesuit Refugee Service Europe.
As a continent, we are currently struggling with the future of our region: responding to economic downturn and the hardship – particularly for young people – that it has created; debating political structures and power relations as our place in the world changes; and our social questions raised by our welcome (or not) to the many refugees coming to us for safe haven.
JRS Europe gathers each year to build understand and trust between colleagues, deepen our working relationships, share learning and wisdom about our service to refugees. We spend time discussing our advocacy priorities, our communication strategies and most importantly, how to best respond to the needs of the refugees that are serving in each of our own country contexts.
One example of the value of being an international network of country offices was shared: as families travel across Europe and between different countries, JRS staff have been able to phone colleagues in other countries to tell them and make sure those families or separated relatives have a contact or address to go to on arrival in a new place.
A new website “I Get You” has just been launched. “I Get You” shares the testimonies of refugees, asylum seekers and forced migrants in different countries and their hopes as they also wish for a brighter future. As the campaign grows, countries across Europe will be invited to nominate examples of good community building. Each section is available in different languages, nominating examples of good practice in community building.
I hope and trust that JRS will continue to be a fellowship that, whatever the future of Europe has in store economically, politically and socially, will grow together and in service to the people we care for: the refugees our continent is providing hospitality to.