BY ISN STAFF | March 17, 2020
During the unprecedented spread of COVID-19, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is continuing its mission to accompany, serve, and advocate with and on behalf of the forcibly displaced while taking steps to ensure the well-being of those they accompany and their staff.
Present in over 56 projects throughout the world, JRS is continuing operations where possible. To prevent the spread of the virus, JRS Global security staff is educating staff around the globe on the information regarding the virus and instructions for hygiene and group practices. Office staff in Europe, the USA, and the Middle East have moved to home-based working and non-essential meetings and travel have been postponed or canceled.The organization is focused on the growing concern of how COVID-19 will impact the millions of forcibly displaced people around the world who are subject to difficult living conditions and have limited access to health care, making them especially vulnerable to this outbreak and its social and economic repercussions.
“What does this mean for the refugees in Italy, whose Italian classes have been canceled, food distributions limited, and hope of finding work made more difficult?” asked Rev. Tom Smolich, S.J., JRS International Director.
Here in the U.S., JRS/USA chaplains are considered essential personnel and continue to serve people detained by the U.S. government in five detention centers. JRS staff are ensuring that everyone in the centers has access to n95 masks and appropriate hygiene materials.
Programs serving especially vulnerable individuals have been canceled whenever possible, but additional hygiene supplies are being provided and education on hygiene practices is being implemented.
The organization’s annual spring Advocacy Day, originally planned for April 2 in Washington D.C. has been canceled. However, JRS/USA is still urging for education and advocacy to take place providing opportunities to virtually participate.
“Please remember that if you’re also doing your part and limiting social contact, you don’t have to limit your support for refugees. We encourage you to continue to take action and to learn and share the stories of the forcibly displaced,” said Joan Rosenhaur, executive director of JRS/USA.
JRS is calling on people of faith to remember the importance of solidarity and to act in a way that unites everyone as a community during this challenging situation.