“Do you understand what I have done for you?…
if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet,
you also should wash one another’s feet.
(John 13: 12-14)
A most memorable image of my time as JRS International Director is Holy Thursday, 2016. That year, Pope Francis washed the feet of Catholics, Muslims and those of other faiths at a shelter for asylum seekers in Rome. Francis smiled, kissed feet, and proclaimed the truth: though at times struggling and broken, we are one human family.
This Easter season, the brokenness of our human family is obvious. Ukraine’s second year of war cares little for the people on the ground or those who have fled. Unresolved crises in Myanmar and South Sudan, to name but two, force people to flee their homes and leave lives behind.
Last month I was able to visit our JRS teams in Syria. February’s 7.8 earthquake in southern Turkey increased the suffering of those displaced by years of war in Aleppo and other areas.
In Aleppo, I was graced to see the foot washing Pope Francis inspires. JRS offers food baskets, psychosocial accompaniment to deal with distress, and medical assistance to people of all faiths. This accompaniment is provided by our staff members who live in Aleppo and have shared their experience. The care JRS offered initially to our staff is now shared with countless others.
The needs of forcibly displaced people around the world can seem overwhelming, yet there is hope. Simple gestures of welcoming, listening, and washing feet make all the difference.
JRS’s mission to accompany, serve, and advocate for and with displaced people is a privileged experience of washing feet. By walking with us and those we serve, you wash their feet as well.
Thank you for helping us strengthen and bring new life to those in our human family most in need.
In the joy of the Risen Lord,
Rev. Thomas H. Smolich SJ
JRS International Director