Conflict resolution

With the war in Ukraine entering its third year, Jesuit services
have helped more than 100,000 refugees in the region.

 WALKING WITH THE EXCLUDED 

By Zach Martorana, Communications Officer, Jesuit Mission Australia 

Two years on from the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the Jesuits in Europe, with the support of the Australian Catholic community, have been able to provide emergency assistance to over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees.   

From day one of the conflict, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Europe with the support of Jesuit Mission Australia and the Xavier Network, immediately provided emergency support, shelter and opportunity to refugees fleeing the conflict.  

As the crisis extends and in view of the evolving needs of refugees affected by the war, the Jesuits have committed to long-term holistic accompaniment, including psychological support, education and integration services to empower the most vulnerable in the years ahead.

“Our shared commitment to alleviating suffering and fostering resilience is a beacon of hope for those who have fled the conflict,” said Helen Forde, CEO of Jesuit Mission Australia. “I am deeply grateful to our Jesuit partners and our supporters for their role in this humanitarian effort. Your generosity has been a lifeline for those suffering and in their greatest time of need.”   

Millions of Ukrainian civilians have been displaced across Europe, with neighbouring countries Poland, Romania, Hungary, Moldova, and Slovakia bearing the brunt of this human crisis.  

Frequent missile launches and air raids, which sometimes last longer than three hours, continue to shatter lives, destroy infrastructure and have led to a vastly traumatised Ukrainian society. Despite the dangers, the Jesuits continue to provide steadfast support, welcoming refugees and empowering them to get back on their feet and to flourish.  

Among the refugees who left Ukraine seeking safety elsewhere is Olena. She and her children left their home and fled to Romania, but her 18-year-old son was stopped by soldiers who did not allow him to leave.  

When Ukrainian refugee Olena (wearing a checked shirt) arrived in Romania, she introduced art therapy sessions for Ukrainian children as well as their mothers. “Drawings express the emotions of a child,” she said. Photo: Jesuit Mission

Shaken from their difficult goodbye and their fraught journey to Romania, Olena was lost for words when she arrived at the border with her seven-year-old daughter. “At first we didn’t eat or drink, we sat and didn’t understand what was happening,” she said.  

Fortunately for Olena and her daughter, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Romania welcomed them with open hearts, offering accommodation and safety. Soon after their arrival, Olena began running art therapy sessions for Ukrainian children as well as their mothers.  

“Drawings express the emotions of a child,” she said. “When we see that a child is using dark colours that express fear, we talk about it. We re-imagine the drawing using brighter colours.”  

Olena says she feels empowered by offering art therapy sessions and is grateful for the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of others. Art therapy has been vital in helping people process the trauma of fleeing the conflict, saying goodbye to their loved ones, and starting life in an unfamiliar country. 

Fr Alberto Ares SJ, Director of JRS Europe, said: “It is a privilege to be able to count on the continued solidarity of so many generous people, foundations and other organisations who trust in the work of the Society of Jesus. On behalf of our teams and the people we serve, thank you.”  

Jesuit Mission Australia stands in solidarity with the devastated families in and outside of Ukraine. A donation to Jesuit Mission Australia’s Emergency Action Fund will support refugees surviving the Ukraine crisis and other crises around the world. Please donate to https://jesuitmission.org.au/ukraine/. or call 02 8918 4109.  

 

 

Banner image by Xtian DuGard, Canva.