JRS’ New Pilot Project: Strengthening the Capacity Of Parishes For Local Integration

18 July 2024|JRS Croatia

Strengthening the Capacity Of Parishes For Local Integration project cover photo

In January 2022, JRS Croatia in partnership with UNHCR Croatia initiated a pilot project entitled “Strengthening the Capacity Of Parishes For Local Integration”.

The project will attempt to find an effective model for involving local Catholic parishes into the process of integrating beneficiaries of international protection into Croatian society.

The idea for the project emerged as a result of discussions between UNHCR and the Holy See in 2021, when several possible areas of collaboration were identified. In a joint assessment conducted by UNHCR Croatia and JRS Croatia, two main areas for intervention have been identified:

  1. Linking humanitarian assistance and charity with sustainable modes of inclusion and access to opportunities;
  2. Changing the dominant narrative and combating stereotypes and racism in local host communities.

Many Catholic parishes possess robust humanitarian structures and a great deal of experience in providing aid to those in need. One of the goals of this project is to strengthen those existing capacities and direct them towards better integration of refugees into Croatian society.

Furthermore, a negative image of migrants is often present within Croatian society. They are sometimes viewed with distrust, or even fear. Therefore, combating stereotypes is the second area in which this project will seek to achieve progress.

Jesuit Refugee Service, as a catholic organization that has been at the forefront of refugee aid in Croatia for nearly 30 years, will act as an intermediary and advisor in these efforts. Through a series of educations, encounters, and events related to special occasions, JRS will seek to educate parishioners on the importance of integration and motivate them to employ the existing parish structures for this purpose.

Including refugees into the everyday life of local communities will empower them to become active members of society, who will enrich that same society with their experiences and their knowledge. Seeing as Catholicism is the predominant religious affiliation in Croatia, we find it of paramount importance to educate Catholic parishes on the problem of forced displacement and to motivate them to direct their regular humanitarian efforts towards providing support to beneficiaries of international protection.

Since this is a pilot project, two parishes in Zagreb will be selected for implementation. Our goal is that these two parishes serve as examples of good practice and models which could, further down the road, be implemented in other parishes in Croatia.

Partners on the project are JRS Croatia and UNHCR Croatia. The implementation period is between January and December of 2022. The total project budget is 133.000,00 HRK.

Expected results:

  • Developed parish model of integration support and identified steps that can be replicated in other communities.
  • Improved and expanded system of support for beneficiaries of international protection, as well as access to services.
  • Strengthened and improved capacities of parish communities for integration.
  • Decreased negative perception of beneficiaries of international protection.
  • Challenged predominant attitude towards migrations: from a security issue to greater sensitivity towards the vulnerable and marginalized, from alienation to enhanced empathy among parishioners.


This publication has been produced with the assistance of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of JRS Croatia and can I no way be taken to reflect the views of UNHCR.