November 28th, 2015
To Keep Hope Alive
“We (in Poland) offered a Syrian family an apartment to resettle them and then they left for Germany.”
“How do I help refugees when I go back to Singapore?”
“I didn’t know there was a detention centre right outside Oxford!”
These are some comments from a meeting at a university chaplaincy to review what can be done to help refugees today. It was good to meet concerned people by their presence working against the culture of indifference towards the migrant crisis noted by Pope Francis.
When you are with people jointly concerned to do something about a people problem, it generates energy to get things done. Those things may not be easy. It struck me that one of the prerequisites to action is our attitude and regard for the people themselves. No one wants to be termed a ‘refugee’. It is a reminder of the devastation back home, the loss of all that is dear, the difficulties of the journey past and the journey ahead and the danger of being categorised as a second-class citizen. Even before the provision of food, shelter and clothing a person needs their dignity respected. I am much more than a ration card number or a mouth to feed.
“There is no better gift which can be given to people in exile than the hope of peace, wrote Miriam, a refugee from Africa. To take away a person’s hope is a dreadful thing for without hope, the human spirit dies. To do all we can to keep hope alive for one another, to be grateful for the smallest gifts of each day, to add the spice of joy to life in exile: such are the task God entrusts to us.” [Denise Coughlan RSM from ‘God in Exile’, JRS publication]
Br Stephen Power SJ is Director of the Hurtado Jesuit Centre