JRS’ 40th Anniversary a “celebration of Christian charity, commitment, love, dedication”

Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) celebrating 40 years of dedicated service to refugees around the world.

The international refugee organization of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is set to mark four decades of existence this weekend, a celebration that highlights 40 years of “Christian charity; commitment, love, and dedication,” the leadership of the agency has said.

“We celebrate 40 years of accompaniment from JRS worldwide. We celebrate 40 years of Jesuit Christian charity; commitment, love, and dedication from our staff,” the leadership of JRS in Eastern Africa say in an anniversary message shared with ACI Africa, Thursday, November 12.

The Saturday, November 14 anniversary has also been described as a celebration of “40 years of hope and opportunities for the vulnerable; 40 years of walking together, of serving and advocating,” the officials who oversee JRS’ operations in Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia add in their message.

Founded on November 14, 1980 by Jesuit Fr. Andrew Arrupe, the mission of JRS is “to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future.”

“From then, JRS has kept growing rapidly, as a practical and spiritual response to the sufferings of refugees,” the Kenya-based JRS Eastern Africa officials note in their message shared with ACI Africa ahead of the November 14 event.


To the Nairobi-based JRS’ Communications Officer, Paula Aguirregabiria, the organization’s open-door policy has ensured that the 40-year-old entity does not deny assistance and support of any kind to whomever reaches their premises “no matter the gender, the color, the origin nor the religion.”

“Even in the most complicated times, when some humanitarian organizations fled their mission, we stayed. When war re-started in South Sudan, we stayed. When ethnic and tribal tensions shook Addis Ababa, we stayed. When COVID-19 reached its highest and most uncertain moments, we stayed,” the Nairobi-based JRS officials say in the November 12 message sent to ACI Africa.

In the message, the JRS’ teams serving in some 56 countries across the globe are acknowledged with appreciation for helping thousands of youth and children finish their studies, and for assisting thousands of entrepreneurs get their vocational training, be part of business projects, or even build their own. 

The officials further applaud JRS teams worldwide for a tireless pastoral and spiritual support to anyone who needed it; and for continuous assistance to the mentally or physically handicapped, in their studies and their wellbeing.

“Congratulations for the thousands of people who you assisted with emergency support, food items, sanitary means or medical care, or with rents, to face complicated moments in their life. Congratulations for these 40 years of commitment to restoring dignity,” the officials of JRS in Eastern Africa say.

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They thank their beneficiaries who have believed in JRS over the years and made their work “a meaningful passion” as well as the donors who believed in JRS cause and made the service to refugees possible.

“Thank you to the International Office and all the Country Offices worldwide for supporting our common duty. And thank you to all the people who shared our stories,” they add.

As the officials of the Rome-headquartered agency prepare to mark four decades of accompanying refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, their counterparts in Eastern Africa are hopeful that someday, their work “will no longer be needed.”

“Until then, let's pray for the Jesuit Refugee Service to be able to keep accompanying, serving, and advocating for as many vulnerable displaced human beings, with the same passion, commitment, and dedication, as these last 40 years,” JRS officials say.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY JRS!” they say in their November 12 anniversary message.


Meanwhile, Pope Francis has, in his message to the global JRS family ahead of the November 14 event, conveyed his “cordial best wishes” to those gathered at the Astalli Centre, the Italian headquarters of JRS, and to all JRS staff and volunteers throughout the world.

“As you seek to renew and deepen your commitment to serving the varied and complex needs of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, I pray that all of you will continue to draw encouragement and wisdom from the vision and example of your founder,” Pope Francis adds in his October 4 letter, making reference to Jesuit Fr. Andrew Arrupe.

The Holy Father adds, “Yours is the vital task of extending the hand of friendship to those who are lonely, separated from their families, or even abandoned, accompanying them and giving them a voice, especially by providing them with opportunities to grow through educational and development programs.”

In the letter addressed to the International Director of JRS, Jesuit Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, Pope Francis notes that the agency's official’s witness to God’s love in serving refugees and migrants “is essential for building that ‘culture of encounter,’ which alone can provide the basis for authentic and enduring solidarity for the sake of our human family.”

“As you look to the future, I am confident that no setback or challenge, whether personal or institutional, will distract or discourage you from responding generously to this urgent call to promote the culture of closeness and encounter through your resolute advocacy of those whom you accompany each day,” Pope Francis further adds.

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“My thoughts turn also in a special way to the many men, women and children who seek refuge and assistance from JRS. May they and their families always know that the Pope remains close to them and is praying for them!” the Holy Father says in his October 4 letter seen by ACI Africa.

Besides the four countries under JRS Eastern Africa, the agency also runs programs in 11 other African countries within Southern Africa, West Africa, and Great Lakes Africa.