14 December 2008
|The staff of JRS-Adjumani gather with Eastern Africa Regional Director Fr. Frido Pfleuger SJ during the closing ceremony of the project. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)|
|“We are left strong as JRS leaves. JRS has empowered us economically, intellectually and spiritually."|
Closing celebrations started with a Mass on Sunday morning,
celebrated by Regional Director Fr. Frido Pflueger who thanked the local
community for the way they welcomed the Sudanese refugees: “You have given one
of the best examples of how refugees can be received,” he said pointing out
that in many countries this rarely happens.
Adjumani stronger because of JRS
Speeches during the closure celebration in the afternoon
clearly demonstrated that JRS has achieved its objectives and mission in the
area. People who were supported by JRS expressed their gratitude and
appreciation. Longa Kassim, representative of the refugee community and head
teacher at one of the schools said: “We are left strong as JRS leaves. JRS has
empowered us economically, intellectually and spiritually. Economically –
because we could build our skills and
learned to do something that helps us earn money, intellectually because the rate of illiteracy has gone down
and many of us are now literate and spiritually because the moral values were
planted in our hearts and will bear fruit when we build our new communities in
Sudan. The peace education provided by JRS has brought harmony to our camps. We
assure you that our sons and daughters who were supported by JRS will be the
future leaders of tomorrow.”
District and government representatives also underlined
their benefit of JRS programmes, admitting that without JRS, the District would
not be at the present state. For a long time, the JRS run Alere Secondary School
was the best in the District. JRS was appreciated as one of the best
development partners. “The impact has been international because refugees and
nationals shared the same schools and the capacities they build will help both,
Uganda and Sudan,” a
representative of the Local Council pointed out. Refugees were explicitly
welcomed at any time in the future.
Rebuilding a country with dignity
JRS Uganda Country Director Sr. Nora McCarthy expressed her gratitude for all that JRS has accomplished during the last 16 years. She pointed out that this would have never been possible without the help of so many people and thanked especially the local community and the refugees: “JRS has been enriched by your culture, hospitality and traditions. We’ve widened our horizons with what you have taught us and I am proud that we had a part in your formation,” she said. Finally Fr. Frido Pflueger encouraged the refugees to keep alive in their communities what JRS has passed on to them and to rebuild a country where people can live in dignity, freedom and peace.
Right from the beginning JRS’ response to the influx of
— who were fleeing the civil war between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People’s
Liberation Army (SPLA)
— was a combined programme of education and pastoral
care. Over the years JRS has provided education for around 30,000 students per
year in over 30 nursery, 40 primary and 5
secondary schools. Tertiary and peace education were also part of the
programme. An affirmative action programme supported girls’ education.
Schools handed over to district
Often, programmes were affected by the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) which was active in the area until 2006. After the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 repatriation began slowly in 2006 and finally in 2007 and 2008 huge numbers of refugees returned to their homes, leaving most of the over 50 settlements. While in 2006, there were still 90,000 refugees in Adjumani and Moyo, their number has now reduced to 20,000, most of whom will be repatriated in January.
As JRS leaves, almost all the schools have been handed over to the District. The government has taken over responsibility for the continuation of all educational services and 70 refugee teachers were employed. Pastoral services have been integrated with the local church of Arua Diocese and catechists have acquired adequate knowledge and skills to sustain the continuity of over 40 chapels.
Up to the last minute, the JRS