(Sydney) November 1, 2012 — The Jesuit Refugee Service office in Sydney is located in an inner city Jesuit parish. Each day the parish ministers to many hundreds of homeless who come to the soup kitchen. Our office is located on top of this soup kitchen.
Rarely do the clients from either ministries mix, though both groups share similar concerns about finding adequate and safe accommodation.
Recently Said appeared at the door of the JRS office. A volunteer in the kitchen had referred him to our services. He spoke quickly and showed signs of his distress. We invited him to meet with one of our case-workers.
From minute one it was clear that Said was struggling. Our deeper discussion revealed that he had been in Australia some years and had a protection visa. He had formerly served in the army in Iraq and had witnessed the death of all of his family. We could see he was a man of stature. What was not so clear, until we delved deeper, were the years of addiction and trauma that Said had struggled with since arriving in Australia.
Business cards and appointment slips revealed that Said had bounced from agency to agency, clinic to clinic in search of ‘peace.’ In recent days he had been allocated an apartment from public housing, only to return the keys because the confined space of the apartment evoked disturbing images of his deceased family.
For many refugees a visa is the beginning of a new struggle, not the end. Psychological trauma and loss can be completely debilitating to even the strongest of personalities. We can advise, refer and offer treatment. Sometimes all we can do is stand by. In times like these it is God alone who provides strength and healing.
By Maryanne Loughry — Jesuit Refugee Service Australia & Boston College