Jesuit Refugee Service Jordan Director to Visit U.S. Jesuit Schools, Parishes
Tags: Colin Gilbert, Jesuit, Jesuit Refugee Service, jesuits, Jordan
Colin Gilbert’s current post in Amman, Jordan, as Country Director for Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Jordan, affords him a striking, personal view of the current Syrian crisis and the refugees it affects. Next month, Gilbert will share his compelling experiences by visiting Jesuit high schools, universities and parishes across the United States to raise awareness of JRS Jordan and its work. Gilbert, a native of Phoenix, hopes to deepen understanding about refugees’ lives and their precarious status.
In early 2009, Gilbert was teaching at the Jesuits’ Xavier College Preparatory High School in Palm Desert, Calif., when news of bombings in Gaza broke. He had previously worked with forcibly displaced populations in Latin America and wanted to see how he could help the situation in the Middle East.
“I had never been so deeply struck by reading international news as a helpless population incurred such immense suffering,” Gilbert said in reference to the bombings.
After visiting the West Bank several times and studying Arabic, Gilbert arrived in Jordan to work for JRS in January 2011, in the midst of the Arab Spring. He started out working with a team of Iraqi refugees who were offering informal education and emergency assistance to other Iraqis in Amman. As the Syrian crisis progressed, he and JRS expanded their assistance to Syrians in Amman and the north of Jordan and established the Jordanian outpost of the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins initiative, a college-level program designed for refugees of all nationalities.
Gilbert said there is an overwhelming demand for the types of services and assistance that JRS Jordan provides as the conflict continues to escalate. The fighting in Syria causes thousands to flee the country each day, seeking safety and shelter in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. More than 40,000 Syrians entered Jordan in January 2013 alone, according to Gilbert.
“We cannot meet all their needs and it is frustrating. As a team we are learning, in light of immense needs and our limited resources, that we can and will continue to be with people and accompany them in times of suffering. Although this response may be incomplete, it has empowering potential. As war rages in Syria, violence increases in Iraq, and Somalia and Darfur remain unsafe, we will continue to walk with refugees in Jordan and attempt to provide hope to their highly uncertain futures,” he explained.
Gilbert begins his visit to the U.S. on Mar. 11, 2013, in Phoenix at Brophy College Preparatory. The tour will conclude on April 3 at Loyola Parish in Denver. Other stops include Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, the University of San Francisco, Regis University in Denver and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
A complete schedule of the tour and a video interview with Gilbert is available on the Jesuit Refugee Service/USA website and will be updated as necessary.