An encounter with Jesus Christ

Jeremy Cain, Community Participation Coordinator for CAFOD in Hallam, wants you to act like a rock star.

U2

U2: rock stars with a conscience

At last night’s Grammy Awards, pop stars were almost queuing up to call for a society tolerant of immigrants and immigration. In particular, rock royalty U2 adapted the beatitudes to make the point that the American Dream is rooted in people bringing their skills and industry to a new country.

It’s a sentiment that chimes well with CAFOD’s Share the Journey campaign, though our take on it is a spiritual rather than a political one. Speaking back in August last year, at the 104th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Pope Francis said: “Every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

Pope Francis 2

Pope Francis invites to encounter Jesus Christ

Now think about this as you read the following statistics:

• More people are on the move now than ever before. Every minute, 20 people around the world are newly displaced.
• Half of the world’s refugees are children, and thousands take flight without the protection of parents or other family members.
• Three out of four of of the world’s refugees are hosted by developing countries.

That’s a lot of refugees and every one of them is an opportunity to meet Jesus. As Christians, to turn away would be to turn away from the Lord.

Advent Rohingya

Refugees from Myanmar

Note, the Pope sees strangers as an opportunity not a threat, though it can be all too easy to view them in this way; and whilst it would be naive not to recognize the challenges of opening our doors a little wider, it would be a mistake not to face those challenges. We need to promote a generosity of spirit inspired by the Spirit.

To this end, Pope Francis is calling for us, as individuals and as societies, to do five things:

  1. Respect human dignity
  2. Protect the vulnerable
  3. Support host countries
  4. Keep families together
  5. Tackle the reasons for migration
Europe-refugee-crisis-Greece-Father-and-baby

Syrian refugees

This is a response inspired by faith and solidly practical. What’s more, it will make an enormous difference to people who are fleeing persecution and poverty; and it will make an enormous difference to us too: encountering Jesus cannot leave us unaffected.

Sometimes Christians worry what we would do if Jesus walked the earth today, would we follow him or would we run away from the demands we suspect he would make? Perhaps our response to refugees sheds light on this question. Either way, it’s an issue that’s not going away and we have to address it or risk being seen as irrelevant. Join us and make a difference.

 

CAFOD offers an antidote to unhappiness

Jeremy Cain, Community Participation Coordinator for Hallam diocese, tries to raise a smile on Blue Monday.

Victor Meldrew

Victor Meldrew’s favourite day?

Today is Blue Monday, supposedly the most depressing day of the year. So, in a highly unscientific study, I scanned people’s faces on the train this morning to find out if this could be true. After careful consideration, I decided they didn’t look any more miserable than usual, though given it was a wet Monday morning and our train was late, even the slightest smile would have been more out of place than a pork chop at a vegan BBQ.

Thinking about it, though, my wife had looked pretty miserable before I’d left the house. Apparently she hadn’t slept well and it was her first day back at work after Christmas, but maybe Blue Monday was also working its hidden curse! Anyway, I cheered her up with a breezy “stop whinging and pull yourself together”, after which, I imagine, everything was much better.

Radical happiness

Give me joy in my heart!

Joking aside, depression is, of course, a serious thing. Mind, the mental health charity reports that, in England, 1 in 6 people say they experience a common mental health problem, such as anxiety and depression, in any given week. So the title of a book by academic Lynne Segal caught my eye recently: “Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy.” I haven’t read the book but, from what I gather, her basic argument is that we can find deep happiness by working with others to bring about social change.

Though Segal isn’t a Catholic, both her language and her argument could be. What’s more, her prescription for unhappiness is exactly what we at CAFOD are trying to do. No wonder CAFOD staff and volunteers always have a smile on their face! Right now, we’re calling on people to get involved with our “Share the Journey” campaign. Actually, strictly speaking, it’s not our campaign at all but has been inspired by Pope Francis’ special concern for people on the move.

Share the Journey 3At the moment, we’re inviting people to sign our petition but, later in the year, we’ll be asking people to go for a walk together in an act of solidarity with our sisters and brothers who have been forced to flee from their homes. We’re aiming to walk 24,901 miles – the distance around the whole world- and we hope that every step we take together will send a message to world leaders that they must step up too. Join us and share the joy!

Share the Journey 2

 

 

 

Messages of Hope in the Houses of Parliament

Angela Wood is going to meet her MP and let her know how she feels about refugees. Can you join her?

Meeting MP
Meeting your MP is the best way to let them know your concerns

From Myanmar to the Mediterranean, refugees continue to flee from persecution and violence; yet there seems to be little political will do something about it. Undoubtedly it’s a difficult issue but if we don’t look for real and just solutions now it will only get worse.

Pope Francis is certainly concerned and clearly intends to do everything he can to make a difference. Back in August, to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he told us that “every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

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Pope Francis meets refugees in Rome

In September 2018, world leaders will agree two new global ‘compacts’ (or agreements) at the United Nations: one on refugees and one on migration. Pope Francis has spoken of this as a ‘unique opportunity’ for Catholics worldwide to put pressure on governments.

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Father and baby seeking refuge in Greece

Next week, CAFOD are offering you an opportunity to do just that. From 4th to 8th December, we have been given the opportunity to display some “messages of hope” to refugees in the Houses of Parliament. Last year thousands of Catholics in England and Wales wrote messages of welcome, respect and love and we shared nearly 40,000 of them with refugees in the UK and overseas. Now we want to show our political leaders the strength of feeling on this issue throughout England and Wales.

Would you be willing to invite your MP to meet you in parliament and visit the exhibition together? You can find a sample letter here to help (Messages of Hope exhibition MP invitation)- just post or email it and hope for a positive response.

To make things easier, we’ve also organised a training session on “getting to know your MP” on Tuesday 5th December down in London so you might want to attend this before heading over to meet your MP. Angela Wood, one of our wonderful Campaigners from Hallam is going, so you will not be alone!

Rohingya crisis

Emergency aid is being given to vulnerable families who have fled their homes in Myanmar for Bangladesh.

If you can’t get down to London to meet your MP, you could always send them this letter to encourage them to visit on their own (Messages of Hope exhibition MP encouragement). And, if haven’t done so already, please sign our petition.

Every minute, 20 people around the world are newly displaced. Half of them are children. Let’s do something now to help.