Christmas Lunch with a Refugee” is an event organised by the Jesuit Refugee Service, Croatia, connecting local Zagreb, Sisak and Karlovac families with refugees since 2016. The intention of the campaign is to encourage social interaction between local communities and refugees and asylum seekers in Croatia. Despite the Christian background of the organisation which came through with this idea, it is not envisioned as connecting practicing Christians who are local with Christian refugees, but because Christmas is a cultural, and not necessarily a religious event for many Croatian families, so it is an opportunity to bring people together for one of the most special events in an average Croatian family, during time of the year when it is, according to many studies, more difficult to be on one’s own than otherwise. The “Christmas lunch with a refugee” has already established itself as a tradition during the holiday season. Besides offering refugees a sense of home and belonging, even for an afternoon, this manifestation resonates throughout the Croatian public, raising awareness of refugees’ plight and captures mainstream media attention. This event is often a beginning of a year-round social gathering, where new opportunities are opened, both for language learning and for finding jobs and spreading the circle of acquaintances and support. Christmas lunch as a setting for intimate connectedness of family members, where families invite strangers, refugees, is a strong symbolism in terms of integration, sharing of customs and culture, and creating new friendships that will help people achieve a better life. More than a thousand people have participated in the project so far, and the project will surely continue as a good tradition!

“We believed that the Croatian families would accept our invitation and everyone we spoke with was very happy to get a chance to express their welcome to people in need from other cultures and traditions. This initiative was a call for a concrete action; open your door to a refugee; let a foreigner into your home which you have created with the people you love. It is an act of hospitality. Without hesitation, without asking anything in return. In confidence against fear” JRS.

The “Christmas lunch with a refugee” is funded by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

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