Reflections 20th June 2017

A Reflection for World Refugee Day, 20th June 2017

MT: 5:43-48 ( )

The story of Jamal* still stands out for me. As a young medical doctor from Sudan working in his country’s war-torn Darfur region, he was moved to speak out about the appalling atrocities that he witnessed, including the systematic rape and sexual abuse of women by government soldiers. Warned by the state that he would be ‘punished’ if he did not stay quiet, he continued to blog online and was eventually captured, brutally tortured and left for dead. With the help of an NGO he made his way to Ireland where he sought asylum. Six years later, in 2014, after numerous court appearances, judicial reviews and appeals, Jamal was finally recognised as a refugee.

When Jamal talks about what happened to him, he places the experience of the ‘long wait’ in Ireland, of not being believed, and of living in the ‘Direct Provision’ system on a par with his horrendous experience in Sudan. At times he despaired and was suicidal but cites SPIRASI, the Spiritans’ asylum-seeker initiative, among those key organisations and individuals who supported him and kept him going during this dark time.

What strikes me now, as I reflect on the story of Jamal, is the extraordinary courage of the man, his resilience, and his willingness to speak the truth – initially in Darfur, then in Ireland – no matter what the consequences.  I feel challenged by him and by what he faced, and I want to be more like him, to be able to face my own fears with similar bravery.

We live in extraordinary times. In its report in January 2017, the UN’s refugee agency stated that the number of displaced people in the world was at its highest ever, surpassing even post-WWII numbers. And, while it is important to highlight the extent of the challenge facing our world, the UN, in its annual celebration of World Refugee Day, also wants us to honour the courage, strength and determination of the individual women, men and children who have been forced to flee their homes under threat of persecution, conflict and violence. Lest we get lost in the vast numbers we are asked to remember the Jamals of our world – and be inspired.


Mr. Rory Halpin – Rory is the Executive Director of SPIRASI ( the asylum-seeker initiative set up by the Spiritans in the late 1990s. SPIRASI works with asylum seekers, refugees and other disadvantaged migrant groups, with special concern for survivors of torture.


* Not his real name.