MILWAUKEE – Jesuit Fr. Don Doll has seen corners of the globe few Americans ever will.
He returned to Marquette University, his alma mater, in June for the school’s Province Days to showcase his involvement with the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international Catholic agency dedicated to defending the rights of those who have been forcibly removed from their native lands.
Fr. Doll, a journalism professor at Creighton University in Omaha, has photographed war-torn countries where refugee camps are commonplace. He shared a collection of his images during his presentation. He was accompanied by Jesuit Fr. Peter Balleis, international director of JRS.
In April, Fr. Doll was with JRS in eastern Chad along the Darfur border where he was among 250,000 Sudanese refugees.
Fr. Doll said his goal as a photographer is to provide an honest depiction of what is taking place.
“I like pictures that show what a serious situation it truly is,” said Fr. Doll, who has photographed for National Geographic magazine. “Sometimes you can just sense in their eyes the horrors of what they’ve seen. There’s a heaviness in their heart.”
Fr. Doll said he captures images of smiling children and the like when the occasion arises. For example, he photographed a jubilant celebration in Burundi last year. Refugees, who were able to return to their native land, held an event honoring Fr. Balleis and the JRS for the work on their behalf.
But some of the imagery is sobering. Regarding a recent visit to Africa, Fr. Doll said he would frequently witness natives rubbing their stomachs while visiting refugee camps.
“There just wasn’t enough food to go around,” he said. “When you see that kind of thing, it certainly gives you something to articulate when you come back. We’re in these areas because these are the poorest of the poor, and they need us.”
Fr. Doll has been
involved with JRS for more than a decade. The experience reinforced the belief that prayer is one of the paramount means of dealing with the serious situations taking place in poverty-stricken nations such as Chad.
“These problems can’t be solved only by humanitarian work,” Fr. Balleis said. “It requires the grace of the Lord.”
|View a sampling of Fr. Doll’s photography.
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Through his work with JRS, Fr. Balleis said he discovered that one of the greatest challenges for refugees is to maintain hope and have a spirit of reconciliation.
“We have to educate people about peace,” Fr. Balleis said. “We share the Christian concept of forgiveness as a peace-building element. If they hold on to hurt and hatred, it will be the cause for new conflicts later on. We have to find a language that advocates for peace and reconciliation.”