Tag Archives: refugees

 

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17 July: F is for Fishguard

pembs.coast1

What is it about Docks and Ports? Dover, East End of London, and now Fishguard? Things happen there, as they do at railway stations.

Fishguard, one of the ports to go to Ireland, is tucked into this rocky Welsh shore, not far from St David’s. I introduced readers to the late John Byrne a year ago last month; he was a highly respected Irish railway modeller.

He was also a retired sea captain. When we were in Pembrokeshire I sent him a photo of the Ferry arriving in port; he recognised her at once, saying she was not built for the Irish Sea and the Atlantic swells, but for the enclosed Mediterranean  or the Baltic, and gave many a rough ride when the wind was up.

I wonder how it was for Saint Nôn and her son David, forced into exile when he was little, voyaging on a tiny boat across the very sea that John’s big ship was so ill-equipped for?

stnon.david.window

Let us remember in our prayers all those in peril on the sea, especially those trying to cross the Mediterranean in flimsy boats. Like the one used to make the Lampedusa Cross. And remember, too, the crews who spend months at sea, rarely able to call home, ill-paid, forgotten by us consumers who depend on their hard work. crososososo1450655040

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3 April: Adam and Eve and Immigration to the Promised Land.

refugees-welcome

Yesterday we heard in Ezekiel’s prophecy how God would bring his people back to the Holy Land of Israel. Doug’s reflections on migration follow on very well from that reading.

Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I will open your graves, and will bring you out of your sepulchres, O my people: and will bring you into the land of Israel.

Ezekiel 37:12

A cultural battle has been waged on both sides of “the pond”, playing itself out in politics.  First, in the U.K. there was Brexit, and in the U.S. there was the Executive Order of the newly elected President halting immigration of refugees from seven specific nations.

British and Americans proudly view their homelands as the Promised Land, if you will.  While many contend the common factor shared by Brexit and the Muslim Ban, is xenophobia, the bad feelings towards foreigners may not be based in fear, but in the belief that natural born citizens have rights that should not be, but are being, unfairly usurped by newcomers.

Place of birth does not guarantee virtuousness nor righteousness.  In Saint Ambrose’s writings on Paradise, he uses scripture to validate this claim.

As Saint Ambrose tells us, Adam was not native to the garden.  We see in Genesis 2:7-8 that it was after he was formed from the dust of the earth, then he was placed in the garden…making Adam the first refugee immigrating to a better place.

Eve on the other hand, was a native of Paradise, created from the rib of man (Genesis 2:22).

And, it was Eve, the native, who sinned first, and consummated the Fall of Man by deceiving Adam, the immigrant.

“You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt “(Leviticus 19:34).

DW.

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January 7: Jesus was a Refugee.

hughes-cwl-picture2-el-tahagPhoto from Catholic Women’s League

This hut stood at the edge of a World War II army camp in Egypt called El Tahag. There were training grounds there for Allied troops as well as Prisoner of War camps housing Italian and German soldiers. The Catholic Women’s League ran a club for the Allied troops, with a small chapel which is marked by a cross above the right-hand window facing us. The women who served there were volunteers, mostly from Britain; they worked in other places in Egypt, including Saint Joseph’s Church in Cairo.

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

The sailors, soldiers and airmen they served may not have been refugees but they were far from home and were glad of the refuge offered by the women from home; a comfortable armchair and the secret weapon  of a cup of tea, with female company, even if they, too, were in uniform.

It’s believed that the Holy Family stayed somewhere near Cairo when they were refugees.

Unlike many refugees in Britain today, Joseph was able to work to support his wife and son, once others had helped him set up a new business. Joseph and Mary must have been a good team, working together to ensure Jesus was not traumatised by the experience.

I recommend this  article:

Jesus was a refugee

Dr Joan Taylor links Jesus’ experience as a refugee with the mission he set his followers to carry nothing, to accept what they were given, to shake the dust of enmity from their feet.

God Bless your family this year!

MMB

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16 December: What can I do?

friday-16th

Isaiah the prophet challenges us today in the first reading to ‘have a care for justice and keep away from evil’.

Listening to what is happening in world today, it seems there is no justice anywhere and everywhere is full of different kinds of evil. There are so many wars, hunger, illnesses, killings, displacement etc being faced by many people.  Every created thing seeks for justice and fairness. I often wonder where God is in all this. When I reflect on various areas in which injustices are being perpetuated in our world, I weep and feel powerless.

When I consider further, I tell myself I can make a difference in whatever little way is possible for me.  I can speak out for those who are unjustly mistreated. I can write to MPs supporting proposals that promote fair treatment for all.  I can stand up for the truth no matter what it will cost me.  I can also pray for a change of heart for those who no longer seek for God’s justice but rather for punishment without mercy. If I see injustice around me, I can try to be, by following Jesus’ example, a light that shines for all to see.

I pray that in my everyday activities, I will do my best to detach myself from anything that does not promote goodness. I ask God to help me make sure that people and other creatures are treated with fairness, and never trample on them because I have the power and resources to do so.

Come Lord Jesus, Sun of Justice!

FMSL

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December 7: Stella Maris and the Wreck of the Deutschland

stella-maris-staithes

Our sequence of posts from John Masefield is interrupted by anniversary reflections from another great poet.

We came to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, in Staithes in time for evening Mass six weeks ago. I was rather disappointed that the statue of Mary inside was of Our Lady of Lourdes, but when we passed the church in daylight, there was Mary, Star of the Sea, gliding calm against the storm, reassuring us that despite the tempests that come our way – and the statue feels the full force of the gales, up there on the hilltop – her prayer will lift us up to her Son.

I was reminded of a great storm which hit the Thames Estuary on this date in 1875, causing the Wreck of the Deutschland, rendered immortal by Gerard Manley Hopkins. A powerful prayer, wrestling with the mystery of inescapable death before one’s span is over. Hopkins focuses on five Franciscan sisters, refugees fleeing to exile in England from oppressive laws in Prussia, only to die on a Kentish sandbank. He challenges himself (and the reader) to:

Grasp God, throned behind
Death with a sovereignty that heeds but hides, bodes but abides;
With a mercy that outrides
The all of water, an ark
For the listener; for the lingerer with a love glides
Lower than death and the dark;
A vein for the visiting of the past-prayer, pent in prison,
The-last-breath penitent spirits—the uttermost mark
Our passion-plungèd giant risen,
The Christ of the Father compassionate, fetched in the storm of his strides.

Grasp God! Perhaps a little finger or the hem of his garment? But may we be listeners, heart and soul, humble enough to board the ark.

Let us pray for all in peril on the sea, as they did recently in the local Middlesborough Cathedral when they welcomed a Lampedusa Cross, made from timbers of a XXI Century Refugee boat that landed in Italy, remembering those who do not survive the voyage to Europe. Middlesbrough Lampedusa Cross

And here you’ll find the text of the poem, Wreck of the Deutschland .

Middlesborough’s Bishop Terry Drainey commissioned  port chaplains on the Feast of the Star of the Sea  in September.

MMB

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October 22: Their cross is yours

crososososo1450655040

You have made an altar

out of the deck of the lost

trawler whose spars

are your cross.

In Great Waters,[1].

It is the dead refugees in the Mediterranean that these lines bring to mind, long after R.S. Thomas wrote them.

We see God making an altar, not Abel, Abraham, or Moses. John Paul II wrote of the ‘altar of the world’ on which sacrifice is unceasingly offered. Here, where the boat foundered on the rocks, is Calvary, not just for the crew and their beloved, but for Christ. He accepts the tarnished offerings of their lives, (tarnished because all are sinners): their cross is made to fit him, their brother.

A cross to remember Christ by need not be golden (see Wednesday’s post): this report and photo come from Independent Catholic News, ICN, 20.12.15 . Thanks to the editor, Jo Siedlecka.

A stark cross, made from the wreckage of a boat that that sank in the Mediterranean in 2013, drowning hundreds of refugees, was the final acquisition made by the British Museum on Neil MacGregor’s last day as Director, on Friday, 18 December 2015.

The cross was made by Mr Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter who lives and works on the island. It is made from parts of a boat that sank near Lampedusa on 3 October 2013, carrying refugees. 500 people were on board when the overcrowded boat caught fire, capsized and sank. Only 151 survived. Some of the survivors were Eritrean Christians, fleeing persecution in their home country. Mr Tuccio met some of them in his church of San Gerlando and frustrated by his inability to make any difference to their plight, he went and collected some of the timber from the wreckage and made each of them a cross to reflect their salvation and as a symbol of hope for the future.

On request Mr Tuccio also made a cross which was carried by Pope Francis at the memorial service for the survivors. The British Museum heard about the crosses and contacted Mr Tuccio to see if it could acquire one for the collection. Mr Tuccio made and donated this cross to the collection as a symbol of the suffering and hope of our times. When the museum thanked him he wrote: “it is I who should thank you for drawing attention to the burden symbolized by this small piece of wood.”

In a statement, the Museum said: “It is essential that the Museum continues to collect objects that reflect contemporary culture in order to ensure the collection remains dynamic and reflects the world as it is. The Lampedusa disaster was one of the first examples of the terrible tragedies that have befallen refugees/migrants as they seek to cross from Africa into Europe. The cross allows the Museum to represent these events in a physical object so that in 10, 50,100 years’ time this latest migration can be reflected in a collection which tells the stories of multiple migrations across millennia.

Neil MacGregor said: “This simple yet moving object is a poignant gift to the collection. Mr Tuccio’s generosity will allow all visitors to the Museum to reflect on this significant moment in the history of Europe, a great migration which may change the way we understand our continent. In my time at the Museum we have acquired many wonderful objects, from the grand to the humble, but all have sought to shine a light on the needs and hopes that all human beings share. All have enabled the Museum to fulfil the purpose for which it was set up: to be a Museum of the world and for the world, now and well into the future.”

The Cross given to Pope Francis can be seen in this video .

[1] SP, p 128

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28 August: Algeria I: Reflection on Augustine as Pastor

Algeria_2001_St._Augustine_of_Hippo_a

Saint Augustine of Hippo will keep on appearing in these pages! Today would be his feast if it were not Sunday, so we are spending the week with the Church in Algeria, his home country. Algeria is, of course, a Muslim country, with a small Christian population, largely in the towns and cities, and for the most part its members are expatriates.

During the French occupation there were many more Christians, and important churches were built, including the Basilica of Saint Augustine at Hippo which was restored recently, with help from the Algerian government and supporters around the world.

Algeria takes pride in this son of the land, witness this postage stamp! Follow the link below to read about the reopening of the basilica.

The_Saint_Augustin_Church (1)

Here is some of what Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, had to say about Augustine as pastor rather than theologian or philosopher:

 ‘Living together as believers, being confronted with the same problems and difficulties… this spontaneity of relations is at the bottom of all dialogue and interreligious dialogue is always founded on friendship: we must always strive to know one another, to love one another, to move forward together.

[The Algerian people] has taken responsibility for its history”. It has “recognized that Augustine was Algerian … and what an Algerian he was! A genius who bridged the gulf of the two Mediterranean coasts. Saint Augustine wrote some of the most beautiful pages of theology while the city of Hippo was under siege. At the same time, he showered his care on refugees of war. He was a pastor who followed the daily life of his flock.”

For the cardinal, the basilica of St. Augustine “is a powerful sign, especially in a Muslim country where prayer plays such an important role.” It reminds everyone that “Christians too, evident in the majesty of this church, praise the Lord, the one God, and that they are faithful to their responsibilities.” It also reminds us that “there is no future unless there is a shared future.”

He insisted that churches “must always remain open so that they may welcome those who are looking for the quiet to think and reflect, to pray, and to remind all citizens that man does not live on bread alone”.

St Augustine’s basilica, Hippo, Algeria

Photo of St Augustine’s basilica by Abcir

MMB.

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July 26: The Parents of Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne.

joachim (519x800)

 

The Gospels tell us nothing at all about Mary’s parents, Jesus’ grandparents. Were they still living when Jesus was born, did they get to play with him as a baby? Perhaps not, if the Holy Family had to stay in Egypt for any length of time. Mary would surely have welcomed another pair of hands around the house, while her parents would have been anxious all the time the Holy Family spent in exile.

 

They were real people, even if we do not know their names for sure. The traditional names of Joachim and Anne first appear in the Second Century. The Missionaries of Africa look after the Basilica of Saint Anne in Jerusalem, built on the traditional site of their home. It is now a house of studies and retreat where pilgrims are welcomed to the church dating back to Crusader times.

 

Anne is the more celebrated of this couple. I don’t ever remember seeing a statue of Saint Joachim, though the happy couple are celebrated in icons and Anne is often shown teaching Mary to read. But then, last week, on a visit to Manchester, I found him at Holy Name Church. He appears as an old man with a beard wilder than my own. (Maybe Anne was less assertive than my wife.) And he carries a basket and two doves: we think of the two doves offered by Joseph and Mary when Jesus was taken to the Temple as a baby. (Luke 2:24) But perhaps we should remember the deserved reputation doves have for ‘billing and cooing’ – unabashedly showering affection upon each other all through the day. Those doves could stand for Joachim and Anne and for all married couples.

 

I was happy to learn, from the note beside Joachim’s statue, that he is the patron of grandfathers. I can live with a patron whose beard and hair are something to aspire to! And I can try to live up to the standards of care lavished on his grandson as well as the way he must have supported Mary and Joseph through those difficult months of pregnancy and maybe too their time as refugees. Fun though it is, grandparenting is serious work, God’s work, and mostly in the background.

WT.

 

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27th June: Doors come in all shapes and sizes

When we were in Scotland last year, this boat took us to Skye. The bow door opens down to allow vehicles to ‘roll-on, roll-off’ between the two Islands of Skye and Great Britain. The Highlands and Islands were both brave new worlds for me but this was an everyday voyage for the crew and many of the passengers.

When we reached Skye, the bus was waiting to take us on, as promised in the timetable; and so it went on, rain and shine, through the two Kingdoms till we were home again. When people work together they can achieve great blessings and mercies for each other.

Once a crew of experienced boatmen were surprised by a storm; their passenger slept through mercylogoit all. They were worried to death; the passenger calmed the storm. (Mark 4:35-41) Our ferries today are  safe, at least in Europe, but those cockle-shells and inflatables used by refugees in the Mediterranean are much less safe than the disciples’ craft on the Sea of Galilee.

Let us pray for God’s mercy that the storms of famine, war and cruelty may be stilled, allowing these people to stay at home in peace to build up their communities. And let us pray for the wisdom to know how best to help them and the courage to do just that.

 

 

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