Thursday, January 24, 2019

Acceptance After Arrival 

Acceptance After Arrival: 
Building Bridges Through Reconciliation Efforts For Refugees
Kelley Devanathan, MBA student

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and had to rush out of your home? You have to go so fast that you can't even grab your shoes, money, or most precious momento? Well, a few years ago, my house burned down and my family lost everything. We didn't have any material thing left except for the clothes we were wearing. Luckily, we had local family support and bank accounts so we would have the opportunity to rebuild our lives. For refugees that are forced to migrate to new territory, they are often not able to share the same feelings of support in a difficult time. They also may travel miles and miles being smashed in a boat, smothered in a trailer truck, smuggled by violent people, or matters that are so much worse that we can't even imagine the trek. If refugees are fortunate enough to be relocated in a host country with all of their family, unfortunately, the challenges are not over for them. Reconciliation efforts between refugees and host communities proves to be an important consideration through the refugee relocation process.

Through the Jesuit University of San Francisco AGI Immersion trip in Rome, I had the opportunity to learn more about the services provided by The Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS). In their vision to provide protection, opportunity, and participation for refugees, the JRS has prioritized reconciliation efforts as a pillar for the strategic framework for the 2019 year (1). I had not quite fully grasped the importance, nor the need, for the reconciliation efforts until I understood more about geographical locations on the refugee camps and the educational services that may be offered within those camps. Many refugee camps are often settled in areas with little development and available resources. Therefore, what are the considerations to be made for the host community when inside the refugee camps, people are receiving education, shelter support, and technical trade skills?

The JRS implements reconciliation efforts between refugees and host communities by building bridges through projects and presence (2). Refugees face a range of hostility along their journeys to safety, including but not limited to, political movements that stem from economic and cultural anxieties, climates with emerging xenophobia, as well as policies demonstrate a shift from solidarity and human rights.

It is not solely up to the JRS and the refugees to solve the problems of acclimation, integration, and reconciliation with the new host community. Campaigns such as the JRS video, I Get You, were produced in order to promote community building initiatives that have the power to break down stereotypes and combats xenophobia and racism (3). I believe that through these efforts to understand each other's journey, we gain perspective and understanding. I encourage you to try on the shoes of a person that has walked hundreds of miles, away from everything they called home, in pursuit of a safe life free from persecution. This perspective may not stop the reasons that refugees flee their home, but it may provide support to the host communities on how to respond in a peaceful manner that promotes social cohesion.

Teacher leads the students in conflict resolution in Kajokeji, South Sudan. (Jesuit Refugee Service)