23 July 2018
Caracas, July 23, 2018 – The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Venezuela is responding to the country’s ongoing humanitarian crisis, which is a result of unjust economic policies, social violence, and the breakdown of state institutions. All these factors have pushed thousands of Venezuelans to leave the country. Since 2015, JRS Venezuela has considered it urgent to address the internal situation and direct its mission of accompanying, serving, and advocating displaced people towards Venezuelans in vulnerable situations.The current state of daily life for Venezuelans is an example of the damage of deinstitutionalisation and impunity. The breakdown of society, as evidenced by looting, lynching, increased gang activity, and another violent trends, increases pervasive societal violence. In accepting that conflict only can be addressed through violence, we are breaking a longstanding national consensus by which conflict is solved with peaceful dialogue. These hardships have taken away the dignity of the Venezuelan people.
JRS Venezuela understands that protection mechanisms for Venezuelans must be constructed communally, weaving social and humanitarian issues into the same thread of intervention. The Venezuelan crisis demonstrates a rupture in the human nature of coexistence. With that said, our mission in Venezuela is focused on promoting social cohesion and recovering social spaces to rebuild mutual trust. Without losing sight of other urgent issues, such as of the flight of thousands of Venezuelans from their home country, we are committed to forging a new community network and reconstructing human relationships that have been lost.
One of our tasks is to keep alive a vision of hope amid this humanitarian crisis. The country is collapsed, but we still believe that the people remaining inside Venezuela can live together. There are two specific JRS initiatives that have shown us how to weave this thread of solidarity through accompaniment.
First, we can come together as a community to shape new languages of peace and humanitarianism. Through our project Cultural Caravan for Community Hospitality we bring together people in public areas to reconstruct a common solidarity and build spaces where dialogue and peace are furthered.
Another initiative, Creative Cooking Workshops, creates a safe haven for women by bringing together mothers who prepare meals for the schools where we work. Together, the women learn how to prepare meals for the students during food scarcity. These protective spaces encourage women to explore nonviolent responses to the humanitarian crisis. The initiative encourages us to speak of Venezuela with hope. The women help us, as JRS Venezuela, think about the present and the future.
Both initiatives have showed us that it is possible to rebuild society, even during a crisis. JRS Venezuela has become a bearer of stories and actions of hope because there is still a country to build – a country that all Venezuelans dream of.
On the horizon, there is a Venezuela where we can live all together, somewhere we all fit in. This horizon will allow us to tell those who have left that we need them; that we can build a human country that stands for peace in solidarity.
- Fr Yovanny Bermúdez SJ, JRS Venezuela Director