From Today’s First Reading:
‘The word of the Lord was addressed a second time to Jonah: ‘Up!’ he said ‘Go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach to them as I told you to.’ Jonah set out and went to Nineveh in obedience to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was a city great beyond compare: it took three days to cross it. Jonah went on into the city, making a day’s journey.’
As we walk with our refugee friends this Lent, we invite you to accompany them as they travel their journey. Listen for the Lord’s words in their stories.
Even when waiting for an initial decision on their claim, people seeking asylum are not allowed to work or access mainstream benefits. They are given very basic accommodation, and £5 a day to live on. Fernand describes the crushing impact of this, and he wants to change it:
“During the asylum process, you can’t live a normal life. The accommodation is really in a bad shape, sometimes we found ourselves three in the room. I want to ask the Prime Minister, do you yourself sleep in conditions like that? The financial support we receive is about £5 a day. No one can live on £5 a day in this country. You have to change that, or allow asylum seekers to work and take charge of themselves. Then we could pay taxes.”
Fernand badly wants to be able to support himself and use his skills:
“A human being is valuable if he can provide for himself. If you don’t work you don’t have dignity. It’s work that makes a person. If you’re working you can do so many things: you can take care of your family, of yourself, you can eat, you can rent a place to stay. If I had the opportunity to work I would have worked in transport, because it’s my domain, it’s what I know.”
An Invitation to Action
Fernand’s relationship with transport has drastically changed – as President of the transport union, transport used to be the source of pride in his work, it brought him dignity, and through his work he brought dignity to others.
Now in the UK, transport becomes a barrier for Fernand to access medical care, legal support, and to participate in community. For those seeking asylum, the cost of transport is prohibitive.
At JRS UK we provide small cash grants that allow those refugees we serve to travel around London. When the money runs out we know that most are forced to walk very long distances.
Today, we invite you, where possible, to fast from the mode of transport you usually rely on. Can you get off the bus a stop earlier and walk, or leave your car and get public transport today? As you manage with a slightly less comfortable journey, what do you notice? In this time of fasting reflect on how much of an extra struggle walking everywhere can add to the life of those seeking asylum.
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