The call from the borderland

Among the students from the Xavier Learning Community (XLC), the Jesuits’ support for underprivileged children is well known. One of the students, Chee shares his recent experience of visiting a refugee camp.

Easter Mass at Mae Ra Moe refugee camp 2.

Fr Vinai Boonlue SJ has been bringing students to the Mae Ra Moe refugee camp in Mae Hong Son Province to allow them to experience the lives of those residing in the camps. This year, our team consisted of seven members—three Jesuit priests, a brother, and four students from Xavier Learning Community.

We left XLC on 28 March to celebrate Easter Sunday with the camp’s residents. The refugee camp is located in a remote area that makes travel challenging. Even though the majority of the residents are devout Catholics from Myanmar, they do not have a priest who is able to visit them regularly to perform the sacraments. It was a true privilege for the community when, on Easter, we celebrated the baptism of four babies!

Fr Vinai baptising babies in Mae Ra Moe refugee camp 2.

Additionally, we had the opportunity to visit the children’s dormitory and accompany the Jesuits in performing house blessings. We were able to go around the village and experience the living conditions firsthand. Most of the residents are young people. Some aspire to study further in the hope of a better future, while others marry at a young age. Their education is based on their traditional way of life, culture, and faith. Some of them are graduates, but job opportunities for refugees are scarce. So, education is often undervalued. 

Living alongside them fostered a deeper understanding of the societal problems within our country. Even though the refugees have limited opportunities, their strong faith allows them to live happily in such a society. This experience motivates us to develop ourselves to serve them better by imparting knowledge and offering guidance on their life journeys. This involves sharing our education and life experiences, offering new and enlightening perspectives. We aspire to be a part of realising the dreams of the young people in the refugee camps.

XLC students with young people at Mae Ra Moe refugee camp 2.

Chee, the author of this article, is a student at Xavier Learning Community, the Jesuit higher education institution in Chiang Rai which serves ethnic minorities in northern Thailand. This article was first published on the JCAP website.