“We lived in fear. We never knew when the gangs would decide it was our turn for them to take my daughter. One night they came looking for her. She was not home. They said they would return. They said they would kill me if I tried to hide her. That’s when I decided I had to take her and leave. I was scared, but I had no choice.” – Excerpt from the story of a migrant, now a member of Sagrado Corazon Church in Willimantic. We’ll call her Luisa.
On September 27, 2020 the Catholic Church will celebrate the 106th World Day for Migrants and Refugees. This year’s theme announced by Pope Francis – “Like Jesus Christ, forced to flee” – brings into sharp focus the situation of people like Luisa, all over the world, forced to flee their native land, in search of a better life – in many cases, just simply in search of life.
It’s an opportunity for us as Catholics to reflect on the circumstances confronting migrants and refugees, to pray for them, but also to put our faith in action. Too often we fail to see migrants and refugees as persons, and instead, look at them as unknown others, if we notice them at all. Our Catholic faith calls us to stand in solidarity with them, to see them truly as our brothers and sisters. This is who the Catholic Church is. This is what we as Catholics do.
Pope Francis calls us to welcome, protect, integrate and promote immigrants and refugees in our midst. Forced displacement of people is at the highest level since World War II, with more than 65 million people displaced around the world and over 22 million refugees. As staggering as these statistics are, migration is not about statistics; it’s about real people like Luisa, people trying to find a better life and a new beginning. It’s about people just like you and me, who, but for the grace of God, could very easily have been born into a similar situation. It’s about families torn apart; it’s about children left to fend for themselves; it’s about the vulnerable. “Each migrant has a name, a face and a story,” Pope Francis said. Regardless of where we came from, we remain part of the human family and are called to live in solidarity with one another. Welcoming immigrants is part of Catholic Social Teaching and reflects the Biblical tradition to welcome the stranger.
Says Bishop Joe Vazquez, “World Day for Migrants and Refugees is an opportunity to look at the migration issue from the lens of humanity, of caring for and walking with our brothers and sisters. It reminds us that it is not about where people come from but their unique God-given human dignity. It calls us, as a people of faith, to welcome our brothers and sisters, promote their well-being, protect them from cruelty and human indifference, and assist in their integration into our communities.”
World Day for Migrants and Refugees is not just about migrants and refugees; it’s about all of us. For more information, to see what you can do, connect to Justice for Immigrants Campaign, an initiative of the USCCB.
By Sister Mary Jude