Accompaniment

The cornerstone of the JRS mission is to offer holistic human services to forcibly displaced persons. All the subsidies in the world will never be able to replace the warmth of assistance rendered by one individual human being to another. JRS recognises the human dignity in refugees through its accompaniment.

It is this direct and personal approach of individual interaction and cooperation with refugees which mutually empowers refugees and JRS personnel alike. It is through providing accompaniment to refugees, touched by their reality in camps, conflict zones, detention centres or wherever else they may be, that JRS staff understand how best to serve and advocate on their behalf.

"Our close and direct contact with people, our presence with them... lets us understand their real needs", said Fr Bernard Arputhasamy SJ, former JRS Asia Pacific Director.

To accompany means to be a companion. We are companions of Jesus, so we wish to be companions of those with whom he preferred to be associated, the poor and the outcast. It is practical and effective action. Not infrequently, accompaniment is a way of offering protection, and 'internationalising' a situation. The presence of an international team can sometimes prevent attacks on refugees. Moreover, presence can be a sign, that a free person chooses willingly and faithfully to accompany those who are not free, who have no choice about being there. This, is itself a sign, a way of eliciting hope.

Our accompaniment affirms that God is present in human history, even in its most tragic episodes. We experience this presence. God does not abandon us. As pastoral workers, we focus on this vision, and are not side-tracked by political manoeuvrings and ethnic divisions, whether among refugees or among the agencies and governments who decide their fate.


  • Presence and listening count
  • Accompaniment in detention
  • Whites don't cry for blacks
  • Being present
  • Out of sight, out of mind
  • Helping to heal the world
Presence and listening count

Sr Anne-Elisabeth de Vuyst, who worked for JRS in Latin America, Southern Africa and Europe, believes that being with refugees is the "cornerstone" of JRS' work. Knowing you are not alone is a transforming experience in that you know you are valued in the eyes of others. Sr Anne-Elisabeth takes Jesus as the model par excellence of a companion to the poor and marginalised, who can be inspirational for all of us. Full Article>>
Accompaniment in detention

"Please remember us." Taka Gani still recalls the words that a young detainee told her at the end of her first visit to an immigration detention centre in Indonesia. She could not know it then but this plea marked the beginning of a long friendship. Taka reflects on the challenges she experienced, as well as the wisdom she gained, from accompanying Donya, a Hazara man from Afghanistan, and other asylum seekers throughout their stay in detention. Full Article>>
Whites don't cry for blacks

Luis Fernando Gómez Gutiérrez describes his deeply moving experience of accompanying an Afro-Colombian community in Buenaventura. He says the JRS workers felt truly accepted by the community when they mourned together for 'Chila', an indigenous human rights activist who was murdered. Drawing on the Christian three-day celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus, Luis Fernando says JRS' accompaniment of communities in crisis can be a real sign of God's love. Full Article>>
Being present in seemingly hopeless situations

The reflection of Mohammed Idris is deeply personal. Mohammed is an Eritrean refugee who joined JRS in Malta because the JRS team visited him in detention and continued to help him after he was released too. Their support made him feel that "I still had a value because they were doing all this for me." Mohammed's work as a cultural mediator gave him ample scope to accompany his fellow refugees in a very concrete way.
Out of sight, out of mind

Sr Inés Oleaga draws on her experience of working with JRS in East Timor and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to show that accompanying refugees can be a very practical way of protecting them and of showing them that they have not been forgotten by all. "We are like a bridge over the abyss that separates the people from the world that decides, at least partly, what will happen to them," she writes. "When we witness what happens and tell the world what we have seen, others may be touched by what they can see through our eyes." Full Article>>
Helping to heal the world

As an observant Jewish woman, Shaina Aber was often asked how she came to work for a Catholic organisation like JRS. She says the accompaniment mission of JRS spoke to her on a spiritual level. This aspect of JRS' work, to offer friendship and be a witness to our common humanity and to the eternal and unconditional nature of God's love, was evocative of her own faith tradition and family history.