“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you,
and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt:
I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).
Today, more than in any time in history, people are leaving their countries and cultures of origin. They are leaving to escape repressive and violent regimes. They are leaving because of the threat of genocide. They are leaving because of destructive climate change. They are leaving because they have no food, no shelter, and no jobs.
Call to Prayer
Come, O Holy Spirit! Come, open us to the wonder, beauty, and dignity of the diversity found in each culture, in each face, and in each experience we have of the other among us. Come, fill us with generosity as we are challenged to let go and allow others to share with us the goods and beauty of earth. Come, heal the divisions that keep us from seeing the face of Christ in all men, women, and children. Come, bring us understanding, inspiration, wisdom, and the courage needed to embrace change and stay on the journey. Come, O Holy Spirit.
In September 2017, Pope Francis initiated the program entitled “Share the Journey” which urges us to show compassion and understanding to those forced to flee from their homes. Here are some stories of the journeys of refugees that are found on the website https://www.sharejourney.org/
One young Syrian woman reached the shores of Greece at 9 months pregnant. Like thousands of others, Zaynab, her husband and their five children embarked on a perilous journey in search of a better future. They hoped to arrive in Germany or Norway in time for the baby’s birth, but as soon as their train pulled into the station in northern Macedonia, Zaynab knew it was time. Exhausted, and with the early signs of labor, Zaynab was greeted by staff of Caritas Macedonia. Zaynab soon gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
Thousands of Rohingya are fleeing to Bangladesh to escape a recent military crackdown in Myanmar that includes burning villages. The Rohingya are members of a persecuted Muslim minority in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Not recognized as Myanmar citizens, they are stateless. The desperate refugees arrive at a rate of 20,000 a day on foot and in boats, pushed out by the surge in violence. “For 4 days, I hid myself in the forest. Then, we tried to walk to the border. I was so scared,” says Rajida Begum, a 30-year-old mother who fled her village with neighbors when she was 9 months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl under a piece of plastic sheeting in the middle of a rice paddy five days after arriving in Bangladesh. As she cradled her newborn baby, she looked relieved: “When I saw that she was healthy, I was so happy. I gave thanks to God.”
“Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age (Matthew 25:35-43). The Lord entrusts to the Church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future. This solidarity must be concretely expressed at every stage of the migratory experience – from departure through journey to arrival and return. This is a great responsibility, which the Church intends to share with all believers and men and women of good will, who are called to respond to the many challenges of contemporary migration with generosity, promptness, wisdom and foresight, each according to their own abilities.
In this regard, I wish to reaffirm that “our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate”. (Pope Francis’ Message for the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 2018)
What is my attitude toward displaced people? Do I regard them with suspicion? Do I believe my country’s policies are just? Do I remember the warning in Matthew 25 about “Whatever you do (or do not do) to the least of my people, you do (or do not do) to me.” When I look into the “heart of the world” what breaks my heart about the conditions especially of women and children who are refugees?
- Visit the Vatican website on Migrants and Refugees https://migrants-refugees.va . Some pieces are in Spanish and Portuguese.
- Visit the Share the Journey website https://www.sharejourney.org/
- Read and reflect on the message of Pope Francis for the 104th World Day for Refugees and Migrants. It is available in several languages (DE – EN – ES – FR – IT – PL – PT) at https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/papa-francesco_20170815_world-migrants-day-2018.html
- Explore options for assisting refugees in your area. Can you offer to teach or help in any other way to bring Christ’s compassion into desperate lives?
- Spend time in prayer on January 14.
God of our Wandering Ancestors, long have we known that your heart is with the refugee:
that you were born into time in a family of refugees fleeing violence in their homeland.
Who then gathered up their hungry child and fled into alien country.
Their cry, your cry, resounds through the ages: “Will you let me in?”
Give us hearts that break open when our brothers and sisters turn to us with that same cry.
Then surely all these things will follow:
Ears will no longer turn deaf to their voices.
Eyes will see a moment for grace instead of a threat.
Tongues will not be silenced but will instead advocate.
And hands will reach out— working for peace in their homeland, working for justice in the lands where they seek safe haven.
Lord, protect all refugees in their travels. May they find a friend in me and so make me worthy of the refuge I have found in you. Amen
Source: Catholic Relief Services
Prepared by the International Shalom Office, Rome, Italy
Graphic taken from the Directional Statement, 24th General Chapter. Design: Congregational Communications Office.