With thousands of refugees and asylum seekers in our midst, there are plenty of simple things we can all do to give hope this Christmas.
Amidst the trouble of this year, Jesus coming to be God with us – Emmanuel – continues to be a flame of hope for all. We, as Catholics, can share this hope.
Refugees and asylum seekers, already a group with many hurdles to overcome, have been hit by the COVID-19 economic fallout, perhaps like no other group. Excluded from JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, hundreds of families in our Western Sydney and Blue Mountains community have had little or no income for eight months. Some are facing destitution, homelessness and feeling isolated and alone.
Many Catholics want to show they care. Two Catholic agencies, House of Welcome at Granville and Jesuit Refugee Service at Westmead have led the way.
“Giving that hope – even just giving that smile or friendly face to someone who seems like they’re in need – making people feel welcome, feel seen and visible is so important,” says Georgia Holloway, Case Manager at House of Welcome.
“Whether that is in big ways, or through the advocacy space, or on a personal level, we’re all human. We’re all in this together and everyone deserves that hope.”
Maeve Brown, manager of direct services and programs for Jesuit Refugee Service Australia says, “The people that we work with give me hope. I can see how much people have been through, over such a prolonged period, and somehow they’re able to keep going. The hope that I see in them is the hope for themselves and for their families to live, not even an amazing life, but a simple and meaningful life in Australia.
“To have a place to live, to have food to eat, to have educational opportunities for their kids, to find work, to give back to the community. These are all very universal things that people want for their lives.
“I see people hold onto that hope. Even though they’ve been waiting for visa processing for seven or eight years and they’ve been given very little reason to hope, they can still see that there’s some light in the distance.
“I see that in them, and so I keep going,” she says.
With over 2000 asylum seekers and refugees at risk of homelessness over the next year in the Cumberland Local Government Area alone, now is the time that we can make a difference to many families at risk. House of Welcome and Jesuit Refugee Service are helping to feed 1300 people each week, helping with rental payments and accommodation, through employment programs, income support and counselling.
“Never underestimate the impact that an individual can make. Sometimes these issues feel huge and overwhelming” says Maeve.
“But what has happened in COVID is that civil society groups including parishes and school groups have been completely mobilised in a way that wasn’t happening before.
“People are really available to hear what’s happening and are feeling very galvanised to act. As an individual within this collective, we can make a massive change through a daily act of giving food security or to long-term strategic change through political engagement. There’s a place for everybody.”
This Advent, your actions can make a meaningful difference to a refugee in our community.
You can give hope by:
- Providing gift cards as Christmas presents
- Linking your business with employment programs
- Running a food drive
- Advocating to your local MP
Contact House of Welcome on (02) 9727 9290 or Jesuit Refugee Service on (02) 9098 9336 to discuss how you can help.
Patrice Moriarty is the Social Justice Coordinator in the Diocese of Parramatta.
This article was originally featured in the Summer 2020/2021 Edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine.