Video: Rome's refugees find sanctuary, support in Episcopal ministry

By Matthew Davies
Posted Jun 20, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] The Joel Nafuma Refugee Centre is the only day center in Rome available to refugees. The ministry, dedicated in 1995 and located in the crypt of St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church, provides a sanctuary for refugees to seek advice and assistance. The center offers breakfast, distributes toiletries and items of clothing, and provides services for refugees to learn languages, computer skills, and watch news bulletins from around the world. The center is run entirely by volunteers from many different faith communities.


Comments (5)

  1. John McCann says:

    This is terrific!! Please send me any information on how I could be a volunteer. I am a parishoner at Trinity Church Wall Street, was fairly fluent in Italian, but had to give it up for Japanese and now Mandarin. Would love to volunteer, with a quick refresher, could get my Italian up to speed, but love Rome, and your mission, and wouldlove to see what kind of volunteer opportunities you might need. I plan to be a lay minister working with the 100 million plus migrant workersin Chinaand need some experience working with refugees. I don’t plan tobe an ordaimed priest, but have completed Year One of he EFM seminarian program

  2. Andrew Irving says:

    This is a great report and quite inspiring. One clarification: is it really the case that this is the ‘only day center available in Rome for refugees’? I know people who have worked in the Jesuit Refugee Center in Rome where, according to their website at least, they feed 400 per day through their soup kitchen and run an Italian language course for refugees. This does not diminish the good work that St Paul-in-the-Walls is doing, but I’d see it as one of a number of local (and over-stretched) initiatives in a country struggling to know how to handle large numbers of refugees.

    1. Austin K. Rios says:

      Andrew, thank you for your kind comment. While it is true that there are other refugee assistance programs, the JNRC is the only center where refugees may spend the day. We have close ties with the other organizations, which as you rightly say, provide dormitories and evening meals; and our desire is to continue strengthening these ties in order to better serve the needs of Rome’s refugee population. No one center can meet the enormity of need, but the JNRC indeed offers a unique service in providing a place of rest, recreation and education during the day.

      1. Katerina Whitley says:

        Austin, we miss you in NC but glad you found an exciting ministry in Rome. I reported on JNRC back in 1998 during an exciting week with the good folks at St. Paul’s Within-the-Walls. I was impressed by the center, by the volunteers, and was happy to tell the stories of the refugees at that time. I am glad to know the work continues, since the plight of refugees is not diminishing in this sad time. All the best to you and yours.

  3. Solange De Santis says:

    I visited the Joel Nafuma Center in 2009 when Michael Vono was the rector. Good to see from Matthew Davies’ excellent report that this essential work continues. St. Paul’s is close to Rome’s main train station where many refugees arrive.

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