Towards an Ever Wider ‘We’
Across the world this Sunday, the whole church comes together to celebrate migrants and refugees, their contributions, their courage, and their resilience when facing adversity.
But whom do we recognise as a migrant, refugee or asylum seeker?
A migrant is a person who moves from one place to another especially in order to find work or better living conditions. A refugee is described as a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations and persecution there. An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking immediate protection in another country from persecution and serious human rights violations. An asylum seeker is further burdened by not being legally recognised as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim. Fleeing certain oppression for an uncertain future. Not every asylum seeker is accepted as a refugee.
Many of us choose to leave our home, our country, to find a better life – more opportunity, economic security, a better future for our children. There have been great waves of such emigration all around the world. Australia has seen many such waves as people choose to relocate for a better life. Generally, the move is made easier by extended families, a wide circle of friends and an established community that the newly arrived can join. Then there is the realisation of the longed-for economic opportunities. Very few migrants elect to go “home”.
There are others who flee their homeland as they fear persecution, torture, war or unendurable poverty. This sometimes leads to them falling prey to exploitation, human trafficking and other dangers.
Settling into a new country holds many challenges for all of us, most of all asylum seekers and refugees. They have moved away from familiar surroundings and have little or no family or friends to provide support. Their sense of isolation, hopelessness and anxiety is great. Many encounter language barriers, no right to work; some experience mental and physical health issues that also impact their ability to work. Many are homeless. And like some families they also have children with special needs who require medical and personal attention. This is challenging enough for many of us but when you are on your own, no family or friends for support, no government funding available, no home, your special needs child unable to qualify for NDIS and all you want to do is give your child the best opportunities you can, where do you go to seek help, who will help you.
View the message from His Holiness Pope Francis for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Recently we met with parish volunteers who have been supporting a refugee family. This family had been provided with transitional housing by the parish and was empowered enough after 12 months in transitional housing to move on with their lives. To say it has been a challenging time for them is an understatement. Listening to our volunteers speak of this family’s challenges was emotionally moving for all of us.
Of the thousands of people seeking asylum, many of them also seek the assistance of organisations to help provide housing, food, advocacy etc. To help these organisations to provide vital aid and support to asylum seekers and refugees, donations of money, goods, and your time are sought to enable their good works to continue. Our parishes are fortunate to have a number of partners in our support of asylum seekers and refugees.
We are now in our sixth year of partnership with CatholicCare. The parish provides financial support to CatholicCare which then enables them to fund transitional housing as well as provide support for food, clothes, utility bills, education programs, and the like in the Dandenong and surrounding areas. Read more about our partnership with CatholicCare on our recent blog Will you be my Neighbour? or visit the CatholicCare website to get involved.
For over 20 years now our parish has supported the Brigidine Asylum Seeker Project (BASP) with monthly donations of non-perishable foods, toiletries, cleaning products, baby goods etc. Sadly, with the current lockdown restrictions and our churches closed, we have not been able to accept donations of goods. However, you can still support this project, learn more about the works of BASP, volunteer your time and talent or donate online, by visiting BASP.
St Vincent de Paul’s Vincentian Refugee Network (VRN) has joined with Catholics for Refugees and several other Catholic agencies to support the removal of temporary protection visas and provide a permanent and safe resettlement pathway for all refugees and those who arrive here seeking protection. We are all invited to join together by registering for the virtual event ‘Call to Lamentation and Commitment’ on 26 September at 7.00 pm (via Zoom).
For 20 years the Asylum Seeker & Resource Centre has been providing hope, dignity, and safety to our weary travellers. Learn more about how you can raise your voice for justice. Or why not try a global food experience with a cause? ASRC Catering produces fresh vegetarian meals and by purchasing a meal from them you help to provide social and economical empowerment for people seeking asylum. All meals are prepared by ARSC members and are led by an experienced group of mentor chefs.
Pope Francis writes “In order to ensure the proper care of our common home, we must become a “we” that is ever wider and more co-responsible, in the profound conviction that whatever good is done in our world is done for present and future generations. Ours must be a personal and collective commitment that cares for all our brothers and sisters who continue to suffer, even as we work towards a more sustainable, balanced and inclusive development. A commitment that makes no distinction between natives and foreigners, between residents and guests, since it is a matter of a treasure we hold in common, from whose care and benefits no one should be excluded.”
What would our world be like if there was no me in it but rather a we, or no them just an us? And what about the children of our world, can we no longer refer to them as my child or their child but our children.
Holy, beloved Father,
your Son Jesus taught us
that there is great rejoicing in heaven
whenever someone lost is found,
whenever someone excluded, rejected or discarded
is gathered into our “we”,
which thus becomes ever wider.
We ask you to grant the followers of Jesus,
and all people of good will,
the grace to do your will on earth.
Bless each act of welcome and outreach
that draws those in exile
into the “we” of community and of the Church,
so that our earth may truly become
what you yourself created it to be:
the common home of all our brothers and sisters. Amen.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 3 May 2021
Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles
By Kate Baines