Recently, Pope Francis wrote that we need to embrace the entire human family in our common journey and to especially consider refugees and displaced persons. He calls this journeying with the wider “we”. (Ref) It is easy to become a refugee in today’s world as people run for safety from war, persecution, and cultural or economic discrimination. The bible tells us of one such young family.
The appearance of an angel can lead us to romanticise the escape of Joseph and Mary with the baby Jesus to Egypt (Matt 2:13-15). This scene is often depicted with Mary sitting on a donkey cradling Jesus while Joseph is heroically leading the way forward. Yet, the reality may have been much harsher than the childhood images we may have in our minds. They were fleeing the murderous Herod, who was known to have killed many members of his immediate family for fear of treachery. Herod had the same evil intent for the future "king of the Jews." It would have been heartbreaking for Mary and Joseph to flee into the night with only the possessions they could carry and to venture onto foreign trails with the risk of encountering all manner of thieves and brigands along the way. They were no longer noble people in their communities, providing their neighbours with valuable carpentry services and companionship. They had become vulnerable people in a foreign land. Sadly this story has been repeated far too often throughout history and around the globe.
|September 5, 2015 in Idomeni, northern Greece, Migrants making their way to cross the Greek-Macedonian border. Photo courtesy of Matthieu Alexandre/Caritas Internationalis
||A young mother crosses the border from Syria and becomes a refugee. She carries her one-month-old son, Hamid. “Since he was born there has been non-stop bombing every day.” UNHCR / S. Rich / April 2013
In this year's World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis has called us to remember those around the world displaced by conflict and persecution; and to consider how we can offer practical support to our neighbours worldwide. How big is the plight of refugees? The United Nations estimates that at least 82.4 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes in 2020. Among them are nearly 26.4 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.
These numbers may seem overwhelming. What could we possibly do? We can start in our communities. And this is precisely what thousands of Catholics in Sydney and throughout Australia are doing. They are helping directly through agencies like Catholics for Refugees, Jesuit Refugee Service, and Caritas. Of particular concern are those who have come to Australia seeking asylum and have been denied refugee status but have been effectively incarcerated in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The Gospel, Catholic Social Teaching, and our hearts teach us to welcome and protect the stranger. For too long, our nation's policies have not reflected this spirit of welcome and protection. Some of these people have arrived as children and are now adults.
The present political narrative is to stop people-smuggling by denying refugee status to asylum seekers that arrive by boat. Replacing one problem with another, worst problem is not the answer. We cannot lock people up indefinitely, and we require a different solution from our policymakers.
Some websites and background information to help you be better informed.
|Catholics for Refugees is a new movement made up of parishes, schools, community groups, Religious Orders and individuals. All those who are committed to the call of Christ to honour the orphan, the widow, the refugee and the prisoner – there are many thousands Catholics helping and we are all needed. Learn more.
||The Jesuit Refugee Service is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future. Learn more.
||Each year, the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) publishes resources to support the celebration of World Day for Migrants and Refugees. The 2021 kit includes the full text of Pope Francis’ message, a series of reflections and stories from Australian communities celebrating the diversity of the Church and prayer resources. Learn more.
Opportunities to help.
Please find below a list of actions, contacts and events that you can join to support and keep hope alive for those seeking asylum in our communities.
Take action now
- Sign the 150 Days of Action for Refugees petition.
- Sign the Action for Afghanistan petition.
- Join an urgent Action for Afghanistan MP delegation in your electorate. We are looking for support in Banks, Mackellar, Wentworth, Bradfield, Cook, North Sydney, Berowra, Reid and Lindsay. Contact JRS.
- Support Christians United for Afghanistan, click here.
- Hold a similar event for your community! Contact JRS.
Connect with groups in your area
Support people seeking asylum
- JRS Employment Program, click here to learn more and here to register your interest.
- Support the JRS Foodbank which helps feed 900 people weekly. Contact JRS.
- Vinnies NSW and JRS Australia Policy Briefs: sharing a more detailed look at the issues discussed at the Hope out of Horror webinar.
- The 150 Days of Action for Refugees Campaign resources.
- Sign up to the JRS newsletter here.
- Sign up to the Vinnies NSW Social Justice newsletter here.