We’ve all experienced unexpected feelings of isolation and separation this year. As we approach the Advent and Christmas period, I am especially longing for that warm, festive social interaction of previous years, where we could share food and drinks and quality time with family and friends without a second thought. It’s painful to think our joy, our laughter and our toasts with loved ones around the Christmas dinner table may be restricted this year.
For many of our refugee friends, and those who we accompany in immigration detention, these painful feelings of separation, loneliness, and restriction are sadly not new – in fact Christmas and New Year every year, is a very, very difficult time. The holiday period reminds our friends of a previous time of celebration with their families; a time which they have been so brutally removed from. While the Coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives, our refugee friends have for years found themselves thousands of miles from home, in a society where they are banned from participating in any sort of meaningful way. Separated from family, friends, home culture, community, traditions and language, potentially facing homelessness, we see these feelings of isolation and loneliness drastically increase around this time of year.
But there is hope in this difficult time.
Write a hopeful Christmas Card for those we accompany Read our top tips, including what to write, and where to send your cards.
Last year I was completely overwhelmed by the unity and solidarity so many of our supporters showed our refugee friends. In our Christmas card appeal, we received nearly 2000 cards filled with warm wishes, kind messages and festive joy creatively crafted for our friends in immigration detention.
This year I am so pleased that we are once again sending Christmas cards, this time, to all of those we accompany both in immigration detention, and those experiencing destitution in London.
We really need you to help us write them, once more.
Many of our destitute refugee friends who are living in London receive regular deliveries of food and toiletry parcels from JRS. It would be wonderful if inside each of these essential packages, there was a joyous message of hope and solidarity, from one of our supporters. For our friends who will be held in immigration detention over the Christmas period, removed from their families and their communities, and living in stark, prison-like conditions, a card from a concerned stranger could literally make their Christmas.
It’s difficult to come together in person under the current circumstances – but we can still come together in spirit. You can write and send us as many cards as you like; just one, a pack of five, or ten – or even one hundred! Last year, it was especially exciting for us in the JRS office to receive big bundles of hundreds of cards: a special thanks to the Jesuit parishioners at Stamford Hill who donated 155 cards, the Newmarket & Mildenhall Justice & Peace group who donated 123 cards, the sisters at Minster Abbey who sent us 81 cards, and the students of Manchester universities and Mount St Mary’s College Jesuit prep school who sent such a beautiful array of brightly coloured cards.
This year, you can join our community and come together with our friends, even during lockdown. By writing these simple cards with messages of hope and joy, your words will find their way directly in to the hands of a destitute refugee in need.
The impact your card might have can not be underestimated. I’m quite moved by these words, written by one of our friends held in detention last year who received a card. He said: “‘I read the card, [that said] ‘you are not forgotten’ – in that time, I can’t control my tears. Thanks for that, [I] feel alone … after read the greeting, [I] feel better.”
Christmas should be a time of family reunion, giving, sharing, and embracing the joy present in our community around us.
While we cannot share our laughter and our toasts with our refugee friends this year, you and I can still send them a little bit of joy, a little bit of hope that they are not forgotten.
Interested in writing a Christmas Card for those we accompany? Read our top tips, including what to write, and where to send your cards.