at the launch of Pope Francis’ Message for the 107th World Day of Migrants and Refugees
6th May 2021
Sarah Teather, Director of JRS UK said:
Creating “an ever wider we” requires a common journey of all people. The Holy Father speaks powerfully of how far we have strayed from the road we travel together: he says “the us willed by God is broken and fragmented, wounded and disfigured.”
I see this brokenness in the experiences of refugees we accompany and serve at the Jesuit Refugee Service in the UK. Faced with those who fled their homes and sought sanctuary, the asylum system builds walls of suspicion to stop them receiving the protection they need. It detains them and enforces destitution; destitution which makes many vulnerable to abuse and exploitation; they speak of the sense of losing themselves through the years struggling at the margins.
The aggressive and closed politics that wounds them is itself wounded. For a broken community – a community that deliberately casts vulnerable migrants to the peripheries – leads to broken lives.
Despite this, there is also hope. We see it as refugees struggle for and reclaim agency, forging community even as the asylum system interferes with the forming of human bonds. We witness many destitute asylum seekers volunteering to support others, for example. Barred from participating in society through paid work, they create new avenues to contribute their gifts and use time meaningfully. And I’m reminded of a woman in detention who joined a group that prayed for people about to be removed. “We would pray for everyone, even the officers” she explained. Acting in solidarity with one another and others and giving good where none has been received, such refugees help to build a common future, a wider we that refuses to other but struggles together on a common journey towards justice.
Hope also arises from Christian communities energised and inspired by confidently welcoming people of other faiths and cultures. In our hosting project, religious congregations and families receive destitute homeless asylum seekers as guests into their own homes. Hosts and guests speak movingly of this as an experience of meaningful encounter and surprising friendships, in which both benefit from the treasure of shared life. Together, they create a counter-culture to the hostile public policies that render people homeless and marginalised.
In small, concrete ways, we can all participate in this shared project to recompose a common human family. For there are treasures to be found when we strive together to break down walls that divide us.
The dream of one human family is a dream worth realising.
The full conference is available on the Vatican News Youtube page.