July 7, 2017 — Four years ago tomorrow, Pope Francis made his first pastoral visit outside of Rome to the tiny island of Lampedusa, Italy, where he met with migrants who had made the treacherous crossing from the coast of North Africa and remembered the many who had died seeking refuge.
The pope’s call for solidarity with migrants has been a hallmark of his papacy, and today the Jesuits of the U.S. and Canada are heeding that call by launching a new campaign that aims to create a culture of hospitality for migrants.
Working in partnership with the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN), the Campaign for Hospitality will reach out to U.S. and Canadian Jesuit universities, schools, parishes, social ministries, retreat centers, Jesuit communities and other ministries. It will attempt to engage those in the Jesuit family who may not normally participate in social justice initiatives, such as alumni of Jesuit schools, parents of students and parishioners.
Jesuit partners, such as Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and Jesuit Schools Network — as well as similar Jesuit programs outside the U.S. and Canada, including the Jesuit Migration Network in Latin America, the Conference of Jesuit Provincials in Latin America, Fe y Alegría and the Jesuit Social Apostolate in Spain — have been invited to participate.
The campaign will expose the harsh realities associated with human migration and will include three main elements: encounter, understanding and action. Public awareness materials will be available to participants as well as education and advocacy resources and information for those interested in hosting migrants.
The Ignatian Solidarity Network, an organization that advocates for social justice grounded in the spirituality of the Jesuits’ founder St. Ignatius, aims for the campaign to build a greater culture of welcoming and compassion for those who migrate to the U.S. and Canada. That includes immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are escaping violence, persecution or extreme poverty.
“Encounter will often come through tangible experiences directly or virtually with those who migrate,” said Christopher Kerr, executive director of ISN. “Action will include advocacy, acts of hospitality and public witness. Understanding has a double meaning — both providing resources for intellectual understanding of the issues and, perhaps more importantly, encouraging dialogue that leads people to a deeper understanding of the recognition of the realities migrants face — and the reasons that people feel challenged to be welcoming to them at times.”
But “images and words are not always sufficient when inviting people into transformation,” said Kerr.
“Our human nature often requires that we encounter the ‘wounds’ of injustice directly before we can truly come to understand them and respond to them.” For this reason, the campaign will include opportunities for getting to know migrants.
To do this, the campaign will partner with other Jesuit organizations, such as the Kino Border Initiative, which works with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Local opportunities for interaction could include meeting with undocumented students at a Jesuit university, who could share their experiences with students, parents and alumni in the area.
“I am encouraged to see this type of cooperation between Jesuit ministries and our Ignatian partners,” said Fr. Timothy Kesicki, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the U.S., which represents the Society of Jesus in Canada and the U.S. “Together we can do so much to welcome migrants and displaced peoples and learn from their experience.”
For more on the Campaign for Hospitality and to register as a participant, click here.