A Burning Chaff

A Burning Chaff

Source: https://jcapsj.org/blog/2022/04/04/a-burning-chaff/


The Migrants and Refugees Network of JCAP had the opportunity to gather online, and while there hasn’t been a meeting like this in a long time, it meant a lot. Listening to the stories of two victims, Sara Muzamil in Africa and Paul in Myanmar, brought us together to realise how deep their suffering is. We are amazed. We bow down to their suffering. They live geographically very far apart, but we feel close to them because we are united by suffering.

Indeed, we have heard stories of victims of human trafficking, not a few of them are migrants. But listening to Sara and Paul, we were like medical students huddled together observing a birth. They made us remember the victims in our respective places. The input of Kristin from the International Organization for Migration, and Naoko from the Migrants and Refugees Section in the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development only served to highlight that our concern is also the concern of the world and our universal Church. Sometimes we feel alone; most of the people around us just pass us by, like the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The pain of the victims is immense and it is easy to feel we are too small to be able to do anything significant. Fortunately, we remember the miracle of the five loaves and two fish. Jesus told the little ones and the helpless to bring the bread and fish to Him. It is just like our experience. The five loaves of bread and two fish seem so small. It’s not enough and we want to wash our hands by saying to Jesus: “Just let them go somewhere else.” The things we do are not enough to meet the needs of the victims, yet the prayers we offered in the meeting are our efforts to bring our smallness to Jesus. Without bringing it to Jesus, what do we, members of the civil society, have in the face of the weapons of an all-powerful military regime? Without being led to Jesus, what is the meaning of our office activities in the face of a predatory network that works with such a well-groomed organisation? Without bringing it to Jesus, what does volunteering mean in the presence of full-timers who prey on children to sell?

A divine miracle requires raw materials from us. In conveying our smallness to Jesus, we realise that this is the miracle, that we have to increase our cooperation, that we have to intensify our collaboration and our pain, like the pain of a mother in labour. We must be active in advocacy, by giving voice to those who, because of their suffering, cannot speak, or are not heard. Networking is also important. We must be like a net. The tighter we are bound, the stronger we become, and the more we can do. We must exchange resources; those with more should help those with less.

We are thankful that the Jesuit conference has planted the seed of this miracle. The steps taken in this meeting: listening to the victims, social analysis, and spiritual reflections prepare us to collaborate better in our actions.

In the end, we are like a burning chaff. We thank the Lord that we may be kindled again. May we continue to burn by being His instrument to meet Him in every face of the victims.


Fr Ignatius Ismartono SJ is an Indonesian Jesuit and Director of Sahabat Insan (Friend of Humanity), a Jesuit centre for migrant workers and victims of human trafficking in Jakarta. This article is a reflection on the JCAP Migrants and Refugees Network meeting held online from 28 to 30 March.