Fr. David Holdcroft, S.J., the Regional Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Southern Africa, discusses the necessity of accompaniment in JRS’ work with refugees.
Accompaniment is an essential element of the mission and methodology of Jesuit Refugee Service/USA. To accompany means to be a companion. We are companions of Jesus, so we wish to be companions of those with whom he preferred to be associated, the poor and the outcast.
To accompany is a practical and effective action. Not infrequently it is precisely the way in which protection is given. It is a way to ‘internationalize’ a situation. The presence of an international team can sometimes prevent an attack on refugees. Moreover, presence can be a sign. That a free person chooses willingly and faithfully to accompany those who are not free, who had no choice about being there, is itself a sign, a way of eliciting hope.
Our accompaniment affirms that God is present in human history, even in its most tragic episodes. We experience this presence. God does not abandon us.
As pastoral workers, we focus on this vision, and are not side-tracked by political maneuverings and ethnic divisions, whether they are among the refugees or among the agencies and governments who decide their fate.