Monday, February 5, 2018

The Forgotten Legacy of Roma Caput Mundi

AGI-Rome participants in January 2018 during a special tour of the Colosseum with Dr. Georgea Colella exploring the migration, slavery and prostitution during the Roman Empire. 
The Forgotten Legacy of Roma Caput Mundi

by Rita Ewing, MIMS

The revolving subject of this program related to refugee integration and the concept of accompaniment. Perhaps, because this theme relates closely to my own research as a Migration Studies scholar, it resonated with me throughout my experiences in this program. During the program we were reminded of the rising facts and figures of Forcibly Displaced Persons worldwide. Due to media misrepresentation, economic downturns, and the uprising of nationalist movements, reception towards FDPs has been hostile and hotly contested since Europe’s refugee crisis of 2015. By examining the discourse related to anti-immigration sentiment, arguments are often premised on the loss of national identity related to the influx of the foreign-born populations. Though history may come alive while walking the ancient streets of Rome, these anti-immigration sentiments seem to reflect blindness towards how its own history of migration has shaped Rome today. A city so indicative to history and migration should prove emblematic to refugee resettlement, yet it struggles to do so. In this experiential report I explore the dichotomy between Europe’s anti-refugee sentiments to Rome’s evidentiary example of how migration has historically functioned.

We stood outside of the Colosseum with our guide as she briefed us on how the site functioned as the epicenter of migration, slavery, and prostitution. As the center of the Roman Empire, Rome found itself as a transit point and home to people from all corners of the empire. The effects of these migratory influences cannot only be seen in the architecture and language, but are also visible within the external characteristics of the Roman citizen. As our guide explained, peoples and cultures blended and what resulted is the Rome we recognize today. To better understand the concept of integration, I recommend this piece by Alastair Ager and Alison Strang, Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework. Migration is not new, and the fears related to the natural processes of migration are historically unfounded. The concept that integration of new peoples will dismantle the existing national identity does not recognize that neither the nation-state nor its associated identity exists in a vacuum, rather they are part of a constantly evolving process that incorporates spheres of influences over time. To further explore the concept of citizenship and belonging, I highly suggest Nira Yuval-Davis’ work, The 'Multi-Layered Citizen'. As our guide explained, Roman citizenship could be bought, and what it meant to be Roman varied depending on class and gender. How we recognize political incorporation today is not how it once was, nor is it bound to remain the same centuries from now. Lastly, to conceptualize how citizenship functions in this evolving supra-national, globalized world, this think-piece Should Citizenship be for Sale? is enlightening. Evidence of migration lives and breathes in the streets of Rome. Those same streets we walk on today are in the same footsteps of migrants before us. To deny FDPs from seeking refuge is not only denying them of their human rights, but also denying the history that built and will continue to build cities, cultures, ideas, and languages.

Jesuit Universities Respond to the Global Refugee Crisis

Graduates from the Jesuit Worldwide Learning Program. Photo JWL 
Taking Charge: Jesuit Universities Respond to the Global Refugee Crisis
By John Calandra, MNA

One of the main principles of the University of San Francisco is that "as Global citizens we have a shared Global responsibility (AGI-Rome Syllabus, 2017)." Over the past four years, AGI-Rome has allowed students the opportunity to study the Global Refugee Crisis in Italy and I was fortunate to participate in 2018.

The first time I read the Jesuit objectives of AGI-Rome I asked myself the question, "how are the other Jesuit universities responding to the refugee crisis." Further research on the subject revealed that a new initiative was created in 2006 called The Jesuit Universities Humanitarian Action Network. The organization is a coalition of three highly regarded Jesuit higher education institutions: Georgetown, Fordham, and Fairfield. You can read more on their website:

On the first day of our immersion we listened to Fr. Thomas Smolich SJ, the International Director of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) in Italy. Fr. Thomas spoke about an initiative called the "Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL)" program that helps refugees, migrants, and the disadvantaged. It was great hearing about the success of this program and how it is helping refugees resettle into the United States and elsewhere. I found an interesting article online about courses similar to the ones Fr. Tom and JRS have set up for refugees which I have included the link to:

On November 4th, 2017 in Vatican City, Pope Francis made remarks that "Catholic Universities needed to study the root causes of forced migration, and ways to counter the discrimination and xenophobic reactions it provokes in so many traditionally Christian nations (Gatz, 2017). Regis, a Jesuit university in Denver, is a member of the Jesuit Commons program and is helping find a solution to the issues Pope Francis discussed. These types of programs certainly embody the Jesuit spirit of Service to others. You can read about Regis' program here:

According to a study by UNHCR, only 1 in 100 refugees is able to pursue a college degree in contrast with 34% of youth around the world go to college after high school. As we also learned throughout the immersion even if refugees have college degrees in their home countries these degrees/ knowledge may not be transferrable to the American workforce. UNHCR created a program to combat these issues, which you can read more about here:

These data points show the importance of creating a coalition of renowned higher education institutions to help educate refugees and migrants settling in the United States and elsewhere around the globe. Programs like Jesuit commons and JUHAN will help increase refugees access to a quality education, which will in turn allow them to move up the social ladder. Access to education allows refugees to give their children the same opportunities to grow and learn.

One of the most important themes discussed throughout the immersion week was the difficulty refugees have when integrating into a new culture. The Jesuit College education programs for refugees solve this issue. Programs like Jesuit Worldwide learning will help make integration easier for refugees in the future.

While we were in Rome we listened to a lecture at an NGO called Caritas Roma. Alicia, the lecturer spoke about their language education program to help refugees become integrated into Italian culture. Their program consisted of beginning, intermediate, pre-literate and advanced language. These types of programs should be combined with the Jesuit university programs to help refugees around the globe integrate effectively into the society of their host country.

What Does it Take to be Human?

Photo Credit: TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images 
What Does it Take to be Human?

By Michell Figueroa, MIMS

During the second week of January, the University of San Francisco held the Academic Global Immersion program in Rome, Italy. It was very important for me as a student in the Masters of Migration Studies program to participate in this global immersion course. I had spent months prior to AGI-Rome exploring the politics and policies that have impacted the ‘refugee crisis’ and often found myself feeling defeated with the conceptual discussions that went on in class. Throughout the immersion course we met organizers, community leaders, NGO workers, and others working to welcome refugees and other migrants into Italian society. Caritas, Save the Children, Jesuit Refugee Services, Doctors Without Borders, UNHCR, and SPRAR all participated in our educational experience.

Each speaker we met recounted the strengths of their organization, but also the challenges that they face with such a large and vulnerable population of migrants. During our meeting at the Doctors Without Borders facilities in Rome I learned of the large number of informal settlement camps that can be found housing migrants in very unsafe and unsanitary conditions throughout Italy. I also learned that many people living in these settlements are recruited to work as day laborers in Italian farmlands. This information resonated with me since I myself come from a farm working community in California where many immigrants are exploited by agricultural companies. It was surprising to hear that refugees and other migrants in Italy could be experiencing the same thing that migrants from Central America and Mexico experience in the United States. This meeting encouraged me to look at the humanitarian crisis that Italy is experiencing with a wider lense.

My general attitude towards this immersion trip was to listen and to learn from the people that experience this unique and complex humanitarian crisis. Yet, what surprised me the most is that the crisis might not be as unique or complex as we have posed it to be in MIMS discussions. I mean this in the most humble way possible and with the understanding that it is difficult to quickly accommodate a large sum of people seeking humanitarian aid. However, if we see the underlying layers of this crisis we find that the problems that arise with granting protective status, granting citizenship, integrating migrants and so forth are also experienced in other countries. All over the world, migrants are making their way through dangerous land to find safety, stability, and maybe even wealth, but the problem they face is not migration, it is our reception to them as fellow human beings. We continue to equate migrants as less than human and leave the bulk of the work to organizations such as Caritas, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, etc and that is where the problem begins. What I learned during my AGI-Rome experience was that we have aligned our conversations of migration to citizenship, ignoring the major factor of our raw humanity. We have ignored our privilege. Who am I to decide who gets a home? Who is Paolo Gentiloni to determine who is worthy enough to be human? Who is Donald Trump to decide who gets to step and stay on native land? Who is human enough to exist with freedom of mobility? These are the questions that are not being answered by our governments, politicians, neighbors, friends and family. These are the questions we must pose to ourselves; not just so that we may ponder, but so that we may act to ensure we never have to watch people lose their humanity such as they are doing now in this refugee crisis.

Silence & Complicity

General Audience with Pope Francis where the Faculty and Students of Jesuit University of San Francisco participated on January 10, 2018. Photo by Geoff Johnson

Silence & Complicity 
by Geoff Johnson, MNA

During the Academic Global Immersion (AGI) trip to Rome, Italy, we had the privilege of attending and audience with Pope Francis in the Paul VI Hall. Our audience with the Pope was very timely in that in took place on Wednesday, exactly halfway through our program. The two days prior, we had the opportunity to meet with the global staff of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) and to hear about JRS’ work helping asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and displaced persons throughout the world. Father Thomas Smolich the International Director of JRS spoke about the mission of JRS which is to, “Accompany, serve and advocate for the rights of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons. As a Catholic organization and a work of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), JRS is inspired by the compassion and love of Jesus for the poor and excluded.” What struck me most about their mission, is their desire to serve where the need is the greatest and misery is the most pronounced. Led by the values of dignity, solidarity, compassion, hope, hospitality, justice, and participation, the organization finds its greatest advocate in Pope Francis, himself a Jesuit.

Prior to the audience with the Pope, we also had the opportunity to tour the Colosseum and learn about its history of slavery, prostitution and other forms of forced labor. Surrounded by the historical splendor of the Colosseum, I began to understand the human misery and suffering that occurred within its walls and how human lives were not valued. During our time the previous afternoon with Father Michael Smith with JRS, we were led in a exercise on the importance of silence in active listening, and striving to connect with those who are in need. It was following these meaningful preparatory sessions, that Pope Francis’ message on Wednesday resonated so purposefully.

Pope Francis began his message by stating, “It is in the very encounter between human misery and divine mercy that the gratitude expressed in the ‘Gloria’ comes alive; ‘a very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb’ (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 53).” Highlighting the importance of silence, the Pope continues, “The silence is not confined to the absence of words but rather to preparing oneself to listen to other voices: the one in our heart and, above all, the voice of the Holy Spirit. In the Liturgy, the nature of sacred silence depends on the moment in which it takes place: ‘within the Act of Penitence and again after the invitation to pray, all recollect themselves; but at the conclusion of a reading or the homily, all meditate briefly on what they have heard; then after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts’ (ibid., 45). Thus, before the opening prayer, silence helps us to recollect ourselves and to contemplate why we are there.”

This powerful message was even more appropriate given the purpose of our trip to Rome, and given the setting of the Pope speaking in front of The Resurrection by Pericle Fazzini. This massive sculpture was created to show the anguish of mankind living under threat of nuclear war during the 20th century. For me personally, I felt the connection of the anguish, misery and suffering that is now felt in the 21st century by refugees and migrants. Furthermore, I especially appreciated the theme throughout the week of silence. So often we think about silence in the face of misery as a form of complicity, as a metaphor for ignoring the suffering of others. But through our time with JRS and with the Pope’s address, I was reminded that silence can actually be a tool of reflection and solidarity. Allowing us to not just listen to, but actually hear and understand, both “the voice of the Holy Spirit” and the stories of those in need.

Message of Pope on Silence:

Image of Resurrection- Anguish of mankind leaving under threat of nuclear war/Contrast with loss of connection between mankind.

Jesuit Refugee Service