Rome: Fr Nicolás encourages hospitality on the frontiers
21 November 2014

Fr Nicolás speaks with Fr Lombardi in the Aula della Congregazione on mutual respect between host and stranger (Fr Roy Sebastian)
All of us have to be welcomed, not because we are members of a specific family, race or faith community, but simply because we are human beings who deserve respect.
Rome, 21 November 2014 – Yesterday, on the on thirty-fourth anniversary of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), more than 250 people gathered to hear Fr Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), discuss Hospitality on the Frontiers. In his discussion with the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi, Fr Nicolás encouraged governments and citizens to open their doors to refugees, recognising service to refugees as "Gospel hospitality in action."

Hospitality is "a momentum that engenders mutual respect between host and stranger, pushing us to open the door to share food, space and knowledge, both in good times, and times that stretch us to the limit," Fr Nicolás acknowledged.

Opening our doors. Many developing countries bear disproportionate responsibility for hosting refugees, which is unjust, dangerous and potentially destabilising for these states. Furthermore, European governments have still not adopted measures to allow safe access to the continent. Many European leaders prioritise the protection of borders over the protection of human life. Fr Nicolás called the leaders of industrialised nations to do their part to welcome refugees, saying true security is based on justice, not border control.

In an increasingly globalised world where national borders are becoming less relevant, people can better understand how others live and offer their help. "All of us have to be welcomed, not because we are members of a specific family, race or faith community, but simply because we are human beings who deserve respect," Fr Nicolás professed.

"The role of personal encounter is important in overcoming stereotypes," Fr Nicolás continued. "Our encounter with refugees is a horizontal one, not vertical. We are on the same level."

Reconciliation. Fr Nicolás furthermore called the work of reconciliation an urgent matter. Reconciliation is about building bridges and recreating just relationships. JRS works for reconciliation in line with the mission of the 35th General Congregation, which invites Jesuits to reconcile divisions, especially on the edge of humanity.

Fr Nicolás noted that the word "frontier" is derived from the Latin word frons, meaning "face". He explained that reconciliation on the frontiers means "restoring a human face to those who have been dehumanised by violent exclusions … it is a work that has no end."

Education. Speaking on the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Fr Nicolás discussed education as a priority, an emergency. Even in states like Italy, where education is a right, many refugee children fall through the gap between the law and the reality. In emergency situations, such as in Syria, entire generations risk missing out on an education. "This is dangerous," Fr General noted since "Ignorance breeds violence which in turn becomes a vicious circle."

Education instills a sense of normalcy in children's lives. It allows generations of children to build communities build on peace and respect for difference. Fr Nicolás concluded with, "education and training are key ways out of true poverty, which is cultural and human, rather than economic."

Jacquelyn Pavilon,  JRS International Communications Assistant




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James Stapleton
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