CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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We are all people on the move

HONG KONG (SE): To mark the launch of Share the Journey by Caritas Hong Kong, a prayer vigil for migrants and refugees was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on September 27.
Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung said during the vigil that caring for migrants and refugees is an important expression of our faith and we should not forget that each and every one of us is but a traveller on this earth.
Share the Journey is a brainchild of Caritas Internationalis and was launched by Pope Francis at the Vatican on the same day.
It will run for a full two years during which faith communities are being encouraged to be open to migrants and to work within their local areas to create a welcoming atmosphere for them.
The international president of Caritas, Luis Cardinal Tagle, told Vatican Radio that the campaign is asking people to see the real people behind the numbers and statistics; to see in them the face of Jesus.
Bishop Yeung urged those present to treat migrants and refugees as guests, to try to accept them and help them.
He reminded the gathering that the early generations of Hong Kong people were also migrants and that Christians should remember that they are only travellers during their brief sojourn on this earth.
The bishop of Hong Kong pointed out that as Christians, we have a special responsibility to reach out to refugees.
He quoted Pope Francis’ encyclical, Praise Be: On care for our common home, as saying that the resources on earth are here to be shared among all human beings.
However, he believes that most people in the world, as well as in Hong Kong, are buried in a self-centred mentality, which has created a throwaway society where people buy what they want first and then when the tinsel loses its glitter, discard them or give them away without thinking about the real needs of others.
Pointing to the current situation in Europe, the bishop lamented that refugees are discriminated against and facing tough times.
He said he hopes that people can be open to policies that assist them by creating a spirit of mutual help, which can improve the situation of the world in general.
Bishop Yeung said people should not forget their moral values, adding that he chose to present the vigil in the atmosphere of Eucharistic adoration, as he believes it can help people renew their relationship with God and rekindle their spirit of sharing the resources of the earth.
Chan Kwok-chun said he believes most countries in the world have the capability of sharing their responsibilities for refugees in a way that balances the needs of the local people with those of the guests.
He also believes that Hong Kong people should not only be concerned about what they need themselves, but should also give real, actual and concrete support to refugees.
Liu Po-ying added that she was saddened by the news about the Rohingya refugees from the Union of Myanmar. She believes Christians should remember that all are born equal and care about the needy.
The diocese urged parishes and individuals to pray and where possible host gatherings for migrants and refugees between September 27 and October 1.
Cardinal Tagle believes that the primary objective of the campaign is to return to the spirit of the bible, to the spirituality of the word of God, as God always held a soft spot in his heart for the most vulnerable.
“Jesus himself identifies his presence with that of the stranger. ‘When I was a stranger you visited me’,” Cardinal Tagle quoted St. Matthew’s gospel as saying.
“Through this campaign we hope to correct some negative myths about migrants and migration and also address some of the root causes of forced migration,” he said, adding that an important challenge in today’s world is to make migration safe for people.
He stressed that recent trends force us to look at the causes of forced migration, to be aware of the violence to which many are subjected and the new forms of slavery that have stemmed from the phenomenon.
“If we do not address this humanitarian crisis with the help of all governments and communities, we will see generations of people with their hopes of a future destroyed,” the archbishop of Manila added.
He described the bottom line of the campaign as a call for a change in mentality.
Instead of demonising migrants and building walls, Cardinal Tagle said we must create the basis of a culture of encounter, which will ultimately destroy the walls of prejudice.
The call from Caritas comes at a time when many countries are walking away from their obligations towards refugees and displaced people, yet there has never been an era when a helping hand and acceptance have been so much in demand.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees UNHCR estimates that up to 65.6 million people have been forcibly driven from their homes, with 22.5 million of these classified technically as refugees with no soil to place under their feet.
In addition, 10 million people are stateless with no claim on citizenship of any country, including the Rohingya people from the Union of Myanmar.
The director of Caritas Chittagong in Bangaldesh, James Gomes, reported that 50,000 people crossed the border into Bangladesh on October 16 alone.
Gomes added that the queue of tired, hungry and sick people approaching the border at Cox’s Bazaar stretches as far as the eye can see and probably even further.
However, while the numbers of people who have been forced out of their homeland are staggering, the UNHCR points out that only 189,000 people have been resettled with a permanent place of abode and of those receiving temporary hospitality, it is coming from some of the poorest nations in the world.
While the highest numbers of refugees today come out of South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria, the nation that has received the biggest number is Turkey, followed by Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Uganda, Jordan, Kenya and Ethiopia.
The only western country in the top 10 receiving countries is Germany. However, the UNHCR says that the good news is that there is a widening band of countries beginning to open their doors to receive people on the run.
In its Share the Journey campaign, Caritas is seeking to promote a culture of encounter and see the welcome of the stranger as a salvific act rather than a fearful one.
And as Bishop Joe Vásquez, from the United States of America, is pointing out a country that is open and welcoming is also protecting the safety of its own citizens.

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