For today’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, the lead Bishop for Migrants and Refugees for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has explained the meaning of the theme: “Towards an ever wider we.”
Bishop Paul McAleenan, auxiliary in Westminter, said it is an appeal to respect the dignity of migrants and refugees “by going to their aid and lifting them up so that the I will be replaced by the we”. He reflected that one of the plaques in the coastal town of Dover to commemorate migrants bears the words of Pope Francis, that ‘every migrant has a name, a face, a story’.
“That is our starting point and in our outreach to migrants and refugees, we’re not dealing with numbers or statistics, we’re dealing with people who have endured so many trials, who have known pain, persecution, war, suffering, hunger, poverty – on land and on sea.”
Bishop McAleenan said he believes Pope Francis is urging Catholics “to be outward looking and to allow oneself to see and to be changed by the reality of the lives and circumstances of migrants and refugees.” He hoped parishes will mark this day in a meaningful way, promoting respect for and a willingness to support refugees.
The Church has been celebrating the World Day of Migrants and Refugees since 1914. It is an occasion to express concern for many different vulnerable people on the move, to pray for the challenges and increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers. The Catholic Church teaches that anyone whose life is threatened has the right to protection, whether because of persecution, armed conflicts, natural disasters, or economic conditions that threaten their safety. Migrants should be supported in finding a place where they may live in peace and safety, where they may work and take on the rights and duties that exist in the country that welcomes them.
In Britain the Jesuit Refugee Service is asking supporters to open their homes to refugees in need of accommodation. On 7 October, JRS UK will be holding an evening for those who want to learn more about their hosting scheme. The scheme organises short-term placements for refugees, providing a small amount of stability at an otherwise uncertain time. As the weather gets colder, the need for safe accommodation becomes even more desperate. JRS UK also lobbies for an end to the use of detention for the purpose of immigration control and calls for a more welcoming attitude towards migrants and refugees.