News
Humans of Migration: From a Refugee Camp to Georgetown

February 8, 2019 — Even though he has never lived anywhere near the U.S.-Mexico border, Indra Acharya hears the national debate about border security and it hits so close to home. As the child of Bhutanese refugees growing up in a refugee camp in Nepal, he has spent more than half his life surrounded by fences.   

In the early 1990s, Acharya’s parents were among the close to 100,000 ethnic Nepalis who were expelled from southern Bhutan as part of the “One Nation, One People” policy enacted by the government. After losing their land, his parents fled to a refugee camp in Nepal where they had Acharya and spent approximately the next two decades of their lives. “My earliest memories are waiting for the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] to bring us food,” Acharya says.  

He and his family endured harsh living conditions in the refugee camp. “There was never enough food. I never got new clothes. Our beds were made of mud. The camp was overcrowded,” Acharya says. Tragically, Acharya’s father died while in the refugee camp due to a lack of medical supplies. “If there is a hell, I’ve already seen it,” he says. 

The one saving grace of Acharya’s time in the refugee camp was the years he spent studying at a school run by Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS). Acharya doesn’t know where he would be without the education provided by JRS. “Not only did I get a rigorous education, but the Jesuits were my [mentors]. They helped me find lots of new opportunities.” Acharya continued to put education first when he was resettled with his mother to Vermont in 2012. “The resettlement agency suggested I immediately start working but pursuing an education and graduating from college were always part of my plan,” Acharya says.  


A Jesuit Refugee Service school in Nepal.

After settling into his new home, Acharya enrolled in a dual program that allowed him to complete high school while also taking classes at a state college. Perhaps most gratifying of all, he was accepted and earned a full scholarship to Georgetown University in 2014. All these years later, Acharya has not forgotten the important life lessons the Jesuits taught him at the school with JRS. “You could really feel the spirit of [men and women] for others in the refugee camp. It wasn’t just about you,” Acharya says. “That’s why I always try to give back to JRS. Whenever they ask me to speak or give an interview, I always say yes.”  

As someone who was Jesuit-educated and is a former refugee, it comes as no surprise that Acharya is troubled by the rhetoric used by some politicians around refugees and migrants today. However, it isn’t anything he hasn’t seen before. “My father used to get beaten up when he would leave the refugee camp to try and earn a little money working in construction,” Acharya says. “Locals generally didn’t see us as victims of violence, but rather competition for jobs and resources.”  

By stoking similar fears, the Trump Administration has been able to dramatically slash the refugee resettlement program in the United States. Around 54,000 refugees were admitted in FY 2017, down from nearly 85,000 the previous fiscal year. In FY 2018, the president further reduced the refugee admission cap to 45,000, although it admitted only around half that number. The cap was again reduced in FY 2019 to 30,000.     

Before policy can change, though, Acharya believes it is necessary to change people’s hearts, something that can only be done through dialogue. “I’ve seen it happen before. It’s much harder to dehumanize someone once you’ve heard their personal story,” Acharya says. We live in a fallen world where conflict continues to produce an increasing number of refugees. However, it is Acharya’s firm belief that if we can get out of our comfort zones to see the faces of refugees and hear their stories, we can destroy harmful misconceptions and create practical solutions that alleviate human suffering.





Recent News

January 6, 2020 — This National Migration Week, Jesuit leaders urge us to support and advocate for migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

January 1, 2020 — As the new year begins, Jesuits.org invites you to reflect on 2019 with this Ignatian Annual Examen courtesy of Xavier University’s Jesuitresource.org.

Dec. 16, 2019 - The Church of St. Francis Xavier recently held a Lessons and Carols concert. The parish filmed and live-streamed the event. We invite you to watch the archived stream of the full concert.

Fr. John C. Haughey, SJ, beloved pastor, professor and researcher, dies at 89.

December 3, 2019 — Today is the feast day of St. Francis Xavier, SJ, one of the first Jesuits, who is considered by some to be the greatest missionary since the time of the Apostles.

Nov. 18, 2019 - Each year on Dec. 3, Jesuits worldwide celebrate the feast of St. Francis Xavier, who was sent to the East by St. Ignatius as a missionary and would travel to India as well as Japan. Dec. 3, 2019, is Giving Tuesday, an opportunity for people to support organizations like our Jesuit province.

Nov. 8, 2019 - Pope Francis recently addressed 210 participants in the congress of the 50th anniversary of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, accompanied by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Father Arturo Sosa SJ.

view all news

Search news

Publications

JESUITS Magazine: Winter 2020

JESUITS Magazine: Spring/Summer 2019

JESUITS Magazine: Fall/Winter 2018



Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth
The Jesuit Center in Wernersville, Penn., is a place of natural beauty, welcoming quiet and spiritual sustenance for those who seek peace within.