Fr. Cedric Prakash, an Indian Jesuit priest and committed human rights activist, is the Regional Advocacy & Communications Officer of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) for the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) Region, based in Beirut, Lebanon. Belonging to the Gujarat Jesuit Province of India, Fr. Cedric was until recently directing "Prashant", a Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, which he founded in 2001 in Ahmedabad. He has been at the forefront on issues related to human rights, justice, peace and other advocacy matters for which he has been honoured both in India and abroad. Notable among these is the Knighthood of the Legion of Honour, one of France’s highest civilian awards conferred on him in 2006.
Fr. Cedric was recently on a visit to the Jordanian capital Amman in his capacity as the Regional Advocacy & Communications Officer for JRS MENA. We managed to catch up with him on his mobile phone to know about his new assignment. Last week, in the first part of this telephone interview, Fr. Cedric explained his switch from the founder and director of “Prashant” in Ahmedabad, India, to the Regional Advocacy & Communications Officer of JRS MENA, in Beirut, Lebanon. The 64-year old Jesuit said it was the outcome of his admiration for late Jesuit superior general, Fr. Pedro Aruppe who started the Jesuit Refugee Service in 1980 to meet the emergency of the boat people of south-east Asia, and a long and difficult process of discernment to discover God’s will, to which Fr. Cedric said “yes”. He said his job at JRS MENA with refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Turkey, includes highlighting advocacy issues at different fora, such as with the media, like-minded individuals and groups, concerned governments, etc… At the time of his visit to Amman, he had visited some 25 refugees centres in the Middle East region. He said many of these refugees and internally displaced people are in makeshift centres, illegally rented apartments, dormitories, in the open fields or in officially-recognized refugee camps. Fr. Cedric said they suffer exclusion and lack of integration, manifested in restrictions in employment, formal education and movement; lack of food, safe drinking water, sanitation and medical care, and exploitation and abuse. Besides stories of trauma, pain and suffering, Fr. Cedric also comes across heroic models of resilience and hope. He said he was particularly moved to tears to see a mother of 4 little girls, abandoned by her husband, struggling to give her children a better tomorrow.
Today, in the final of this 2-part telephone interview, we asked Fr. Cedric about the humanitarian assistance of JRS MENA, besides advocacy, counselling and show of solidarity.