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Praying with Refugees: the opportunity of education
01 August 2011

The students in this Johannesburg high school classroom are both citizens of South Africa and refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Christian Fuchs – Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)

(Washington, D.C.) August 1, 2011 — Refugees don't leave their countries simply because things are difficult, they leave because their lives are in danger and the situation is hopeless. They are driven by hope to seek new opportunities, not just for themselves, but, for their children. Arriving in a new country is traumatic for parents, who often are either confined to camps where employment is not an option. Even when living in cities, depending on local laws urban refugees may not be allowed to work. In those countries where refugees are allowed to work, jobs are scarce or huge obstacles may prevent the refugees from landing a job.

Education provides a lifeline to the future for refugees. Adult education classes allow refugees to gain new skills they can apply to new jobs. Traditional education allows children to be children with others their own age, to resume a somewhat normal life in abnormal circumstances. Education allows children to grow, to have the opportunity to secure a fulfilling future, and not be trapped by circumstance in a camp or slum with no hope.


Your Reflections

A refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, now living in Johannesburg, South Africa, shares with us her story:  

"We ran from our country, from a war; we need to see a future through our children. It's like if they don't get [an education], we are more lost than ever.

"If you are not a refugee, you can’t understand how it feels. Having children that can attend school is like hope coming back, and JRS is giving us that hope. We are so grateful for that. My children have … hemophillia. It was difficult for them to attend public school… the school was always complaining. One school [kicked them out]… so I came to JRS, crying to them, to help me.

"Because I’m a refugee, I don't have a job, how can I afford special school? [Jesuit Refugee Service heard my story and] accepted my children, they are paying for their school. I can hope that my children can see tomorrow, their future before them. They can attend school like other children. Otherwise they would be home and sitting, living without hope again, and that will kill me.

"My kids are doing well in school, I feel happy. At school [other kids] don’t know they are refugees, they are students like others. So I'm happy. Private schools are for rich people, not refugees, but my children are there. I'm happy, thank you JRS."


Please Join Us in Reflection:



Suggested Reading for Prayer

Matthew 13:1-12

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea.

Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying:

"A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear."

The disciples approached him and said, "Why do you speak to them in parables?”

He said to them in reply,

"Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given…"