January 16, 2017 — On Jan. 13, Father Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, joined Centro Astalli (Jesuit Refugee Service Italy) in commemorating the International Day for Migrants and Refugees at the Church of the Gesù in Rome.
Fr. Sosa gave a talk to commemorate the International Day for Migrants and Refugees. (Patrick Mulemi, SJ)
“This moment presents an important invitation to the Society of Jesus to accompany … and to share in the anxieties and hopes of the refugees here in Italy and everywhere in the world,” Fr. Sosa said.
The event’s theme focused on young immigrants and refugees, and four young refugees — from Syria, Guinea-Bissau, Iran and Afghanistan — sat with Fr. Sosa and gave their testimonies before Father General delivered his speech.
"It means a lot to me that Pope Francis decided to dedicate this day to refugee children," said Aziz, a 20-year-old refugee from Guinea. He had to leave his country when he was 16 years old, and he travelled across Mali, then Niger, Libya and finally Italy.
Fr. Sosa described how he encountered refugees on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, where he is from. “I met entire families that had been forced to abandon everything to save lives threatened by injustice and violence that has taken hold of our societies. I met children and young people who had been forced to become soldiers and to participate in wars so far away from their dreams, thoughts and desires.”
But, he said, he also encountered the “generosity of many families who welcomed the refugees as brothers and sisters in search of a new life.”
Refugees presented Fr. Sosa with an icon of the three kings. (Martina Bezzini / Jesuit Refugee Service)
He asked Europeans to “demand that governments create reception systems, with facilities adequate and conveniently located throughout their territories to ensure a humane reception of migrants, especially to young people.”
Concluding his talk, Fr. Sosa invited those gathered to “step up your effort to make our societies places of genuine welcome to those who are suffering because of the need to migrate.”
At the end of the ceremony, Fr. Sosa received a gift from the migrant community at Centro Astalli: an image of the Magi coming to visit the child Jesus. In the image, the Magi are not kings, but rather poor migrants. [Sources: Jesuit Curia, JRS]