For more information about  World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2020, please go to: www.cbcew.org.uk/home/events/world-day-of-migrants-refugees-2020

Forced like Jesus Christ to flee

Who could not be moved after seeing the distressing picture of the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi, the 3 year old washed up on a beach in Turkey in 2015. Contrast this with how we feel after reading tabloid headings such as “Breaking Point” or “The Swarm on our Streets” and ask ourselves where we stand as Christians with regard to people who are escaping persecution simply to find a life of safety most of us take for granted? We need no reminder that the Holy Family had to flee to safety as refugees.

Pope Francis has much to say on this and has established the World Day of Migrants and Refugees to take place on 27 September 2020. He reminds us that an encounter with displaced people, as it is with any marginalised people, is an opportunity for an encounter with God. He says ‘The pandemic has reminded us how we are all in the same boat.’ Realising that we have the same concerns and fears has shown us once more that no one can be saved alone. To grow truly, we must grow together, sharing what we have, like the boy who offered Jesus five barley loaves and two fish… yet they proved enough for five thousand people (Jn 6:1-15)

Sadly the current narrative surrounding refugees and asylum seekers especially the present summer Channel crossings resonate much with elements of the press. Liam Allmark, Head of Public Affairs for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, reminds us that “there are many reasons why a small number of people driven from their homes by war, poverty or persecution are currently trying to reach the UK from mainland Europe. Some have family here. Others have been mistreated by the authorities and are scared to remain where they are. Several know basic English, so have better life chances this side of the Channel. Essentially, they are making the kind of decisions any of us would in their circumstances. There is an urgent need for more safe and legal routes to the UK, so that people do not have to undertake dangerous journeys in the first place. This is essential for saving lives, but also integral to our understanding of one global family, in which we all must take responsibility for those who are most vulnerable.

Of the world’s eighty million displaced people, only a tiny fraction seek sanctuary in the UK. The vast majority are accommodated by the world’s poorest countries and many of our European neighbours play a much bigger role than us. Extending opportunities for resettlement and family reunification causes championed by so many of our churches, is surely now a more urgent moral duty than at any time in our recent history”

But what can we personally do, also as Parishes and what is the Diocese of Clifton doing? Of course we can donate money to the usual charities, which is necessary and good, but how about physically adopting a refugee family, presently living in a refugee camp, bringing them to the UK and integrating them into life in your parish area? We have considerable experience in the Diocese with the Community Sponsorship scheme for those Parishes that wish to enquire more. Each family arriving under this scheme will have been selected and screened by the UN and identified for resettlement in the UK. The family will also have full access to the UK benefit system immediately after arrival in the UK. 

Please see the Clifton Refugee Sponsorship Scheme website, https://www.cliftonrefugeesponsorship.co.uk they have much experience and can offer advice and support funding too; would your Parish like to explore supporting a family? Contact Paul Williams, pw472661@gmail.com, tel 0117 963 5544 for more information. 

In these schemes a community group such as a parish, composed of about 10-15 people come together, each person taking on a role such as benefits, housing, education, welcoming etc and work together to submit the Home Office application and eventually welcoming a family into their area. This is a wonderful project which in addition to giving life to a refugee family will also re-invigorate your parish in unimaginable ways. For a good introduction to the Refugee Community Sponsorship Scheme the following video gives a short but good explanation and shows what you as a parish could achieve: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNGm_ttXf1M

Lets also look at what Pope Francis said in a previous message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Today, more than in the past, the Gospel of Mercy troubles our consciences, prevents us from taking the suffering of others for granted, and points out ways of responding which, grounded in the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, find practical expression in works of spiritual and corporal mercy…Migrants are our brothers and sisters in search of a better life, far away from poverty, hunger, exploitation and the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources which are meant to be shared equitably by all.  Don’t we all want a better, more decent and prosperous life to share with our loved ones?

Finally and most importantly please keep refugees and migrants in your prayers. CAFOD has a range of prayer resources

– also please lobby your MPs and politicians to ensure that there are safe and legal migration routes and that people are treated with dignity and respect, JRS have sample template letters for us to consider for our MPs. If we have specialist language skills including Arabic, Urdu & Hindi, we could volunteer at a Detention Centres. JRS would like to hear from you. 

–  remind our friends and neighbours that ‘behind every refugee is a face and a story’ and share Pope Francis’ Message for the 2020 World Day of Migrants and Refugees. 

Thank you for your continued support for specialist organisations such as in our Diocese; 

Caritashttps://www.cliftonrefugeesponsorship.co.uk/, Borderlands 

and wider afield; 

Seeking SanctuaryJesuit Refugee Services and Safe Passage

‘The true nature of the Parish, our home with strangers, is revealed when we welcome migrants so they have somewhere called home’, Timothy Radcliffe OP

‘Integration is when we live together, when we find the shared points between us’ Samer Serawan, Syrian Refugee. 

Stephen D Hicks

Caritas Clifton