Material assistance while fighting a cultural battle against rising xenophobia: these are the pillars of a project to assist Venezuelans fleeing their country launched by the Jesuits in Latin America and the Caribbean, with the support of North American and European brother Jesuits.
Venezuela is a country deep in crisis. Years of command and dependence politics have weakened the entrepreneur capacity and dynamism of business operators. Falling prices of oil, the country’s main resource, undermine its financial system, Fides News Agency reported December 10, 2018.
In recent years, some 15,000 companies have closed and inflation has reached 1,200 percent. The country lacks everything: clean water, electricity, basic necessities, medicine, petrol. The people stand in never-ending lines to purchase food at reasonable prices, milk, rice, bread, pasta, butter.
In the face of this tragedy, Venezuelans are fleeing the country. Between 2015 and 2017 more than one million Venezuelans sought refuge in Brazil, Colombia, Guyana, Ecuador. In these five last years, an estimated one in every 20 Venezuelan left the country. These displaced people live in difficult conditions. They lack food for immediate subsistence.
In this context the Jesuits have launched a project of humanitarian and emergency assistance on the borders of Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil consisting not only of basic needs (food, equipment and transport), but also legal assistance to regulate a state of immigration and health-psychosocial care for the most vulnerable (pregnant mothers, unvaccinated children, people with chronic health conditions).
The project of the Company of Jesus goes further than just ordinary humanitarian assistance: the continual arrival of refugees is causing growing diffidence in their regard among the local people. This attitude leads to xenophobic reaction manifested in constant abuse. This is why the Jesuits have started cultural activities promoting reception.
“Our aim – Venezuelan Jesuits explain in a report sent to Fides – is to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the people. We not only offer the refugees, help, and assistance we intend to counter growing xenophobia in the receiving countries and promote a culture of hospitality. We are considering a situation of forced emigration in Venezuela that gives first place to the rights of migrants. The results of our studies will be made available to all Venezuelans and be accompanied by campaigns to counter attitudes of rejection of migrants and foster instead an approach of welcoming “.