by Thomas Reese, S.J., NCR
Jesuit Frs. Peter Balleis and Michael Zammit were in Washington in April, making the rounds of nongovernmental organizations and government offices to inform policymakers of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Balleis is the international director of the Jesuit Refugee Service, and Zammit works with refugees and internally displaced people in Syria. They were also visiting JRS-USA, which is based in Washington. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
NCR: What is the Jesuit Refugee Service? What does it do?
Balleis: Jesuit Refugee Service is an organization around 35 years old. Today, we are working in 46 countries and last year reached out to around 760,000 people.
We move according to the crises in the world. Thirty-five years ago, during the Cold War, it was Asia-Pacific, helping refugees from Cambodia and Vietnam.
Then in the mid-1990s when Africa exploded, we continued in Asia-Pacific and other places like San Salvador, El Salvador, but the main focus became Africa with the Rwanda crisis, the Great Lakes crisis, Sudan and so on. More recently, the conflicts in Africa are more in the Sahel Zone. We work in the Central African Republic, Chad, and we have started in Cameroon. We are going to engage with the refugees who are victims of the Boko Haram...