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October 7, 2015

Global Governance: A Conversation with Father Endashaw Debrework

Father Endashaw Debrework, S.J., Ethiopia country director of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS), offered remarks about the challenges that refugees and internally displaced persons face in Eastern Africa and the response efforts of the JRS during an event at Georgetown on October 7 co-sponsored by the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, the African Studies Program, and the Global Futures Initiative.

Father Debrework has led the JRS in Eastern Africa, primarily in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya, where there are more than two million refugees and upwards of 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). During his presentation, he discussed the hardship faced by refugees and IDPs, including inadequate infrastructure in refugee camps; discrimination and xenophobic attacks; sexual assault and violence; harassment from police and military officials; and, more generally, a lack of basic necessities.

To all of these challenges, Father Debrework posed the question: “How do we keep the dignity and restore hope in these communities?”

Father Debrework said that the JRS aspires to offer a non-discriminatory approach towards refugees and hosts a range of programs that promote the self-reliance of those in need, in alignment with the vision of Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J., who founded the JRS in 1982. In Kenya, for example, JRS hosts livelihood trainings and grants for educational scholarships, as well as emergency assistance. In Ethiopia, they coordinate sports and musical activities and offer computer training, English language training, and day care. For those escaping trauma and crises, JRS offers counseling and psychosocial outreach.

In spite of JRS’s efforts, Father Debrework acknowledged the immensity of the work left to be done. He pointed to the refugee crisis in South Sudan, where there is “no help is coming from anywhere.” He spoke also about refugee crises on a global scale, reporting that there are globally more than 60 million people displaced from their homes.

Conflicts around the world—from extremist movements to oppressive governments—as well as economic and environmental issues are lending to the growing body of refugees and displaced persons. To meet that challenge, Father Debrework said global leadership around the issue is needed, perhaps now more than ever.