Thursday, January 21, 2016

The 2016 Academic Global Immersion Program in Rome

AGI-Rome '16 meeting with Jesuit Refugee Service - Centro Astalli

The Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) students  who participated in the 2016 Rome Academic Global Immersion (AGI-Rome) learned a great deal about the current EU refugee crisis. Speaking with Chiara Peri, of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS-Italy) Centro Astalli Foundation, students learned that this is an issue of social inclusion and appropriate management. Jesuit Refugee Service is one of the few organization who work in Syria and know the struggles of people who have lost hope for their future and seek new opportunities in Europe. In Italy, the refugees welcomed and assisted by Centro Astalli - the first place visited by Pope Francis after his election - are primarily coming from North African struggling countries and other contexts of conflict and extreme poverty. Refugees who come to the coast of Italy are asylum seekers who escape very difficult situations and seek better opportunities for their families and children. We learned that there are more than 30% of refugees who are victims of torture and are affected by PTSD. We learned that situations of refugees - protected by international law - are mixed with illegal smuggling of migrants, mostly economic migrants, as well as criminal activities due to human trafficking. Student learned about the managerial and policy issues connected to forced migration in Europe and for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). 

AGI-Rome '16 participants excited about their tickets for an audience with Pope Francis
The AGI-Rome participants were excited to meet Pope Francis during the General Audience on Wednesday January 13, 2016. Some even were personally blessed by him afterwards. Most of our students are not Catholic and some not believers, yet the inspiring public figure of Pope Francis is inspiring for all of us. After announcing the presence of students and faculty from Jesuit University of San Francisco, Pope Francis offered some biblical reflections on God's mercy. What can be seen as a Biblical reflection to faithfuls, the words of Pope Francis - who has been an advocate for refugee acceptance, human responsibility, and compassion for the poor - takes on a whole new meaning for us at a Jesuit university whose values are for the promotion of social justice and educating men and women for others. Hospitality to strangers becomes a moral call and a responsibility to institutions, congregations, families and individuals. 

AGI-Rome '16 students meeting with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

The AGI-Rome '16 participants met with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Laura Cantarini, representing the work UNHCR-Italy, illustrated how a properly managed refugee protection program could be a solution to human security and societal integration. The UNHCR has the primary mandate to protect 33.9 million uprooted or stateless people. With the Syria and other ongoing conflicts around the world, there are more than 60 million of vulnerable people in need of protection. These include internally displaced people (IDPs), refugees, asylum seekers, stateless people, and many of them are children, women and girls. Laura Cantarini explained to us the situation and the dedicated work conducted by the UN agency in Europe. There has been a sharp increase of persons forced to flee: + 8 mil in last ten years (59, 5 million refugees in 2014 as opposed to 37, 5 in 2004). Since 2011 there has been a devastating war in Syria and this is in addition to 15 new conflicts in the last 5 years (e.g. Nigeria, Yemen, Ukraine). In 2014 there has been 42,500 new refugees/day - four times more than only four years before. Voluntary repatriation is also very small with only 126,800 in 2014. Yet, the UNHCR is assisting the EU in a promising program of relocation of refugees from Italy and Greece to Northern European countries.  As an Italian citizen, Laura also proudly noted that the Italian Marina Militare has rescued stranded vessels in the Mediterranean Sea during the operation Mare Nostrum saving more than 150,000 people in just one year.