“So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
There is much news coverage at the moment of those seeking asylum. The recent teaching document from the Bishops of England and Wales ‘Love the Stranger’ reminds us that our response to migrants and refugees is rooted in the innate worth of each human person. We defend the fundamental human dignity of all migrants and refugees, regardless of their legal status, to access to decent accommodation, healthcare, and childhood education, as well as facilitating family reunification.
We can all play a role in changing the negative narrative about those seeking asylum. Fr Anthony O’Gorman shared a lovely reflection in a recent parish newsletter about the use of the Bibby Stockholm to house asylum seekers in his parish:
‘You may have noticed that in Portland Harbour, the barge has arrived. Many people have different opinions about it and yet today’s Gospel is about travelling to a heaven which we believe, like the mustard seed when it grows will have room for everyone. None of us know the future. We only hope that we will never be asked to leave our country and have to travel somewhere else. For many however, this is the case. We often forget of the richness that can be brought to our country from those who come here. Many years ago, an Irish immigrant came to England to build a better life. He married an English woman; they had a son and you now have a Priest. So let us pray for those who will live in that barge and let us help them to build a better life.’
When people seeking sanctuary were moved to Ilfracombe, the local community rapidly came together to offer support and friendship: organising vital supplies, befriending sessions, and offering a warm welcome at Church. Deacon Stephen Bearman reflected on how quickly those ‘strangers’ became part of the local community and the sadness on all sides when they were moved on to other accommodation.
City of Sanctuary has created some practical suggestions for how communities can respond to those seeking asylum who are placed in their local community which includes speaking up for refugee rights and planning community actions showing solidarity with those forced to flee.
Other useful resources
Caritas Diocese of Plymouth https://www.plymouth-diocese.org.uk/caritas-2/refugees-migrants/
Refugee Prayers https://cafod.org.uk/pray/prayer-resources/refugee-prayers
Pope Francis’ Message for World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2023 https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/migration/documents/20230511-world-migrants-day-2023.html
Love the Stranger teaching document of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference https://www.cbcew.org.uk/love-the-stranger/