The refugee crisis: What part can I play?

Wednesday 29th August 2018

by Jackie Tominey

For the second time in a matter of weeks ‘The List’, a list of all the names of the known refugees who have died trying to reach safe, western shores and a better life for themselves and their families, which was displayed on a public wall in Liverpool, has been ripped off. 
We are also sadly familiar with the demonising language used by parts of the media and some politicians regarding the refugee crisis, ‘teeming’, ‘hoards’ and so on.  The pressures of increased migration, ignorance, fear, together with a climate of political uncertainty, austerity and biting cuts have all, no doubt, played their part.
The terms asylum seeker, refugee, migrant, economic migrant all get muddled in the noise although each status brings with it its own challenges. Being an asylum seeker means having approximately £35 a week to cover all but accommodation and no right to work, being a failed asylum seeker, often unable to go home, no right to work or recourse to public funds. Some refugees are still held in detention centres; some unaccompanied minors are battling to be able to join family members here in the UK; migrants are established here but sometimes not valued for their contribution; and economic migrants face some and all of the challenges of the others.
However, the Catholic response is and should be, rooted in Catholic social teaching, which places emphasis on human dignity, compassion and solidarity.
When Pope Francis launched his ‘Share the Journey’ campaign, he called us to remember the story of Emmaus: how often do we fail to recognise the face of Christ in the stranger, the refugee?
Nationally and on behalf of our diocese, the Cardinal and Caritas Westminster’s Chair, Bishop Paul McAleenan, who is also the lead Bishop for Migration for the Bishops’ Conference, both use their voices and influence to advocate for those who do not have the privilege to do so.
Caritas Westminster’s role in supporting and funding diocesan refugee projects such as Community Sponsorship and Welcoming Committees grows apace (Richmond, Enfield, Westminster, Kensington and Marylebone with more in the offing) so too our collaboration with the Jesuit Refugee Service, Westminster Justice and Peace, Neighbours in Poplar, Seeking Sanctuary, Safe Passage and, in particular, other Catholic and Anglican dioceses and agencies in our Calais refugee support network, Calais Focus.
We have had many requests over the past year for opportunities to reflect on different ways individual parishioners and parishes can play their part, big or small, to respond in faith to the suffering of so many.
We are therefore developing a parish toolkit to support a free Caritas Westminster Refugee event, from 7 to 9 pm on Thursday 11th October 2018 at Vaughan House, chaired by Bishop Paul and attended by a wide range of representatives of refugee projects who will provide the background to the crisis and share information and advice on how you can play your part.
To sign up please go to https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-parish-response-to-refugees-where-to-start-tickets-49330255121 and for any further information, please contact me at jackietominey@rcdow.org.uk

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