'We are merely Servants; we have done no more than our duty’
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis asks us to welcome the stranger and reflect on the refugee crisis. Jean and I had the chance to do that on Sunday, when Sacred Heart and St Antony’s parishes held a ‘Refugee Solidarity Pilgrimage’ organised with the help of the CAFOD Clifton office. The ‘pilgrimage’ element was a series of reflections based on the stages in a refugee’s journey. It used different objects to help this, with the main focus being on the Lampedusa Cross: these are small wooden crosses – ours (actually borrowed from Clifton Cathedral) was about 2ft high – made by a Sicilian carpenter from the wreckage of a boat carrying refugees that sank off the island of Lampedusa, and offered to the survivors. This was his act of welcome, and a symbol of hope for their future.
How should we respond? What can we do to help people who have made the terrible journey across the sea because their own lands are no longer safe? Pope Francis said last year that we should ‘not be taken aback by their numbers but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation’. This would seem to me to be the basis of anything we do as individuals or as a country – treat them with dignity and listen to them.
In addition to the ‘pilgrimage’ on Sunday, we heard a talk from Borderlands, a charity based at St Nicholas of Tolentino, whose chair is Fr Richard Mackay and whose patron is Bishop Declan (but which works with people of all religions and none). They work with disadvantaged people in the Bristol area, including asylum seekers and refugees.
If you’d like an opportunity to listen to some refugee stories and hear about some of the work that Borderlands does, make a note of next month’s ‘One World Week’ event, entitled ‘A Refugee’s Journey’, from 10.00 – 12.00, Saturday 22nd October, at The Chantry. During this Year of Mercy, we are especially called to show compassion to our neighbours. You’d be very welcome if you’d like to come along and hear about some of the vital work being done and what we can do to help.