20 January 2017
|JRS Europe regional director, Jose Ignacio Garcia, SJ, stands outside the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium near the European headquarters of the Jesuit Refugee Service (Photo: Oscar Spooner / JRS Europe).|
|We need to boost our awareness raising capabilities and ability to shape political discourse. At the same time, we acknowledge the strong response from civil society and many individuals.|
Garcia takes up the leadership of JRS in Europe with a wealth of European affairs experience behind him. From 2009 to 2016 he led the Jesuit European Social Centre (JESC) in Brussels conducting research and advocacy on migration, climate change and social justice. During this time Garcia also coordinated work of the Jesuit Social Ministry in Europe, assisting and promoting the many Jesuit charities and organisations seeking to help vulnerable and marginalized people.
“We’re facing a double challenge at the moment. First, as we have seen over the last two years, increasing numbers of people are seeking protection in Europe and we need to increase our capacities and resources accordingly.
Second, there is a rising negative public opinion against newcomers and foreigners. We need to boost our awareness raising capabilities and ability to shape political discourse. At the same time, we acknowledge the strong response from civil society and many individuals,” says Garcia.
Speaking about the current work of JRS in Europe, Garcia says: “I appreciate very much the work of so many people in the field committed to refugees and migrants.”
“We feel strongly supported by Pope Francis and we feel his message is very focused, as in his speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. We appreciate his work in setting up new structures within the Church to help migrants and refugees.”
Thanking his predecessor in the post, Garcia says: “My dream is to keep the same leadership and to continue building from the same lines and vision that Jean-Marie brought to JRS and to continue strengthening the path he identified in the midst of a very turbulent time for refugees in Europe. I would like to express my gratitude for the work, cohesion and vision that Jean-Marie brought and look forward to strengthening our common work across the 18-plus JRS country offices in Europe.”
It is not the first time that Garcia has worked with JRS. From 1992 to 1994 he was part of the JRS operation in Malawi and at the end of the civil war in Mozambique. The experience of helping refugees in Africa left a lasting impression: “JRS one day, JRS forever,” says Garcia with a smile.
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