- Strangers in a strange land
With the United Kingdom criticised for opting out of a European Union plan to resettle thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East, what should be the Christian response to immigration and does Scripture offer any guidance?
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Distressed crew members of the ship on which 35 illegal Sikh immigrants from Afghanistan were discovered inside a container have attended a special Mass on board.
The service last Monday and a blessing of the ship, the Norstream, was organised by Wojciech Holub, the lay port chaplain at Tilbury docks in Essex where the migrants landed.
Mr Holub, who works for the Catholic seafarers’ charity, Apostleship of the Sea, said the eight officers and nine crew members were mostly Catholic Filipinos and had been anxious and stressed after the incident, in which one person died.
He said: “They sailed soon after the container was landed, but when they returned to Tilbury the captain got in touch and said they were upset about what had happened, particularly that a person had died on their ship, and would we arrange a Mass.
“The crew set up a table near the spot where the shipping container had been located and each crew member lit a small candle and placed it on the table which served as an altar.
“After the Mass, we conducted a blessing with prayers and sprinkled holy water on areas identified by the crew. It lasted for about an hour and all work on the vessel stopped while the service was conducted. We trust that the power of the Eucharist brings peace, strength and comfort to them.
“Afterwards we spent some time talking with them and they seemed much happier. The captain handed us a note that read, 'Gentlemen, thank you very much for your support and for your beautiful service today’.
"I shall be talking to them again when the ship next docks here and offering any more support they seek.”
Bishop Patrick Lynch, Migrants Bishop at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales said the Church’s thoughts and prayers are with those who experienced terrible suffering trapped in the shipping container. He said in a statement: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that vulnerable men, women and children are being exploited by criminals all over the world and that we must respond compassionately to their cries for help.”
Above: Bishop Pat Lynch celebrates mass for World Day of Prayer for Migrants. Photo: Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk