On 22nd September 2017 Pope Francis expressed his concern at the “signs of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refuges” seen in Europe as he addressed the directors of Migrant and Refugee services from the Bishops’ Conference of Europe at the Vatican. He was saddened, in particular, that the unwelcoming attitude towards migrants can be seen within our Catholic communities where “‘moral duty’’ to conserve their cultural and religious identity” is often used as justification.
Pope Francis stresses that the love of the Church is established “at all stages of the migratory experience, from departure to journey, from arrival to return”, a sentiment strongly embodied by the work of JRS as we accompany our refugee friends through all stages of their journey.
One of the ways in which JRS UK aims to accompany is through our At Home hosting scheme. This programme offers accommodation to our friends who would otherwise be homeless. It provides not only a life line to those of our friends with few alternatives available, but also an opportunity for us as individuals, families and communities to live out our Christian values of hospitality. Given Pope Francis’ call to welcome our refugee brothers and sisters, the At Home hosting scheme offers the chance to open our doors and hearts to our friends in their time of need. It provides a concrete way in which to respond to Pope Francis’ call and embrace the Gospel’s message of hospitality and solidarity.
Nicolette Busuttil, Communities of Hospitality Co-ordinator at JRS UK said, “Hosts, who have welcomed refugee guests in their homes and communities through At Home, often share how they have found hosting to be a fruitful experience, despite their initial apprehension at welcoming a stranger into their space.
“We have seen the change that accommodation makes to our refugee friends who previously spent their days looking for a place where they could bed down for the night. A roof over one’s head and the offer of friendship that is provided in the hosting relationship is a lifeline that allows people to reaffirm their humanity and dignity. It comes at a time when authorities are implementing a ‘hostile environment’ aimed at making people feel unwelcome and unwanted.”
We are reminded by Pope Francis that we, as the embodiment of the Church, must remain faithful to the mission of “loving Jesus Christ, adoring him and love him, especially in the poorest and abandoned”. Where we are tempted to remain unchanged in our attitude towards refugees and migrants we are encouraged to call on the Holy Spirit to help in “ensuring a constant openness towards the other.”
“The Spirit, I am sure, also helps is today to maintain a confident opening attitude, which allows us to overcome every barrier, to overcome each wall.”
Image: Refugee guest being greeted and welcomed for lunch at Mount Street Jesuit Community; Image credit: JRS UK / Picture-u