What can Jesuit institutions do to ease suffering and advocate for hospitality for migrants and refugees? 


The IAJU Task Force on Solidarity with Migrants and Refugees addressed this pressing question during its Thursday afternoon panel at the 2022 IAJU Assembly.


An Afghan refugee opened the session by sharing her compelling experiences as an alum and teacher with the Jesuit Worldwide Learning (JWL) program. Her courageous story shed light on the individual experiences of refugees and how the Jesuit community is called to serve and stand in solidarity with those undergoing forced migration.


The refugee’s story was put into global context by Arnout Mertens of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), who outlined the ongoing global refugee crisis. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 100 million people are currently forcibly displaced across the world. Further, this is a rapidly growing phenomenon. Yet, as Pope Francis reminds us, this issue is “not about statistics; it’s about real people.”


Rev. Rampe Hlobo, S.J. of South Africa broke down the key reasons why people migrate, and their experiences upon doing so. He explained that countries are becoming increasingly inhospitable with regard to asylum, documentation, and opportunities to pursue a livelihood: severe violations of human dignity.


Before the next panelist spoke, participants were asked to discuss the following question with their neighbor sitting next to them: What are some best practices that your university is carrying out in relation to forced migration? 


In response, Rev. David Hollenbach, S.J. of Georgetown University (USA) provided biblical justification for Jesuit institutions to stand in solidarity with migrants and refugees. He referenced God’s special concern for displaced people, as highlighted in Exodus 3;6-7, Matthew 2:13-14, and Deuteronomy 10:17-19. The verse, “For… I was…a stranger and you welcomed me” (Matthew 25:34-35), serves as a particular reminder that those who welcome the stranger are welcoming Christ himself.  


The panel then provided three distinct models that Jesuit institutions are employing to act in solidarity with migrants and refugees.


Model 1: “Partnering to Advance Institutional Mission” is a collaboration through which Jesuit universities partner with Jesuit organizations that provide refugee services, such as Jesuit Refugee Service. María Vidal de Haymes of Loyola University Chicago (USA) explained that Jesuit university partnerships have supported these organizations in attending to migrants while benefiting the universities’ teaching, research, and service.


Model 2: “Hospitality Love in Action” has been demonstrated by in Spain and SoyH in Latin America and the Caribbean. Rev. Alberto Ares, S.J. of JRS Europe explained that this model emerged from the 35th General Congregation in 2008, which stressed the need for Jesuit communities to bear witness to the world of hospitality. Through it, hospitality is approached from a comprehensive perspective, incorporating accompaniment, service, research, awareness, and advocacy.


Model 3: Research is being conducted on the role that Catholic colleges and universities should play with regard to migrants and refugees. Delia Popescu of Le Moyne College (USA) shared a compelling question: Among the least educated, Catholics are the most accepting. However, when we compare well-educated Catholics to well-educated non-Catholics, religious differences disappear. Why? The research recommends Catholic institutions model the social behavior they want to see and that they revive their activist roots.


What are the next steps for the Task Force?


The Task Force on Solidarity with Migrants and Refugees has prepared a four-part proposal for IAJU. It entails:

  1. Committing to a common set of Principles of Engagement on how Jesuit universities work with each other and refugee-serving apostolates.
  2. Asking migration and refugee scholars to join the IAJU Migration Research Directory.
  3. Creating an online compendium of best practices on areas such as advocacy, teaching, hospitality efforts, and immersion programs. Institutional contacts can be submitted here.
  4. Engaging an IAJU coordinator, or Coordinating Team, for promoting solidarity with migrants and refugees.

The full proposal can be read on the Solidarity with Migrants and Refugees Task Force webpage.