From Justice to Reconciliation – A Jesuit Response to the Refugee Crisis in the Middle East

Nathan Howard ‘25

News Editor

On Oct. 19, 2021, The McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture hosted former College of the Holy Cross Chaplain, Father Dan Corrou, SJ, who now serves as Regional Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East. Because of the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria, over 13 million people have been forcibly displaced, and the rise of ISIS/ISIL has left over four million people needing humanitarian assistance. In 2019, Father Corrou was deeply involved with the JRS response to aid individuals who have been forcibly displaced. 

Father Corrou’s discussion at Rehm Library primarily focused on the importance of taking a humanitarian approach to the Middle Eastern refugee crisis as well as sharing the JRS mission of “accompanying, serving, and advocating on behalf of refugees and other displaced persons.” 

Father Corrou began by presenting the following quote by Pedro Arrupe: “Refugees tell us the state of the world—we must communicate that message.” This quote proved to be an inspirational and overarching theme for the rest of the discussion. Father Corrou then related the importance of the JRS mission to that of Pope Francis’s visit to Iraq during the initial rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. This visit demonstrated the importance of connecting and helping fellow neighbors during a time of great need. 

Transitioning the discussion into the recent work of JRS, Father Corrou proclaimed, “The beautiful gift of our staff is that they are fully immersed in the mission of what we do and how we do it in a distinct way.” Throughout the ongoing refugee crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, JRS has committed to addressing the issues of education, mental health, protection, and community building. Specifically for education, Father Corrou explained, “The excellence of education you get here should be the same as your sister or brother in the Bekaa Valley, or in Damascus.” On the issue of mental health, Father Corrou discussed how JRS has a team of psychologists and social workers that carry out psychosocial programs for families and neighbors who are affected by ongoing crises in the region. For the issue of protection, JRS is guided by two fundamental questions. First, how can the family structure, itself, provide safety to the children in a given community? Furthermore, how can we better integrate displaced people and refugee populations between nations? With this integration, Father Corrou stressed the importance of community building through reconciliation as a way to settle differences for the betterment of humanity.

The discussion then moved to how the country of Lebanon has been deeply affected by the large number of refugees in the region. Since the crisis began, more than 1.5 million refugees have poured into Lebanon. Because of this, Lebanon has the largest per capita population of Syrian refugees throughout the world. Father Corrou described Lebanon as a beautiful nation that “has become a shell of its former self” due to the instability associated with the refugee crisis throughout the Middle East.

In concluding his discussion, Father Corrou urged students to get involved and become more aware, as it is the first step towards rebuilding and healing the lives of those who are in need. He stressed the importance of asking questions and becoming informed on issues pertaining to developing countries in the Middle East. Father Corrou compelled audience members to use their education as an opportunity to spread awareness and help those individuals who are less advantaged throughout the world.

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