The Social Justice Office’s mission in 2017 was to welcome, protect, promote and integrate refugees and all vulnerable people. Here are some highlights from our year and a Christmas message.
Human trafficking. Bishop Vincent Long launched Human Trafficking and Slavery by Sr Noelene Simmons SM, for the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council.
We couldn’t help but be inspired by Sr Noelene, President of Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH). Her personal commitment, passion, concern and action for those on the peripheries are extraordinary. Parish groups shared their inspiring actions to address this hidden evil.
Project Compassion. As last year, schools and parishes enthusiastically committed to sacrificing and donating to support the aid initiatives of Caritas. A personal highlight from this year was the Schools Just Leadership Day. Semiti from a Caritas program in Fiji shared his work with several schools. I was inspired by the amazing hospitality, welcome and willingness to support shown by our schools.
Semiti grew up in an informal or ‘squatter’ settlement in Fiji. More than a quarter of Fiji’s people live like this, with little hope of permanent housing. Unstable shelters and threats from extreme climate events exacerbate their vulnerable situation. Unemployment is high and children have little education. Public services such as roads, water supply, electricity and garbage collection are few. Semiti does inspiring work for positive change with residents of informal settlements as Director of the People’s Community Network, which Caritas Australia supports. They empower landless people in Fiji, enabling them to address the many issues affecting their lives.
Migrant and Refugee Sunday in August celebrated and launched our yearlong journey of walking with refugees and people seeking protection. Guests of honour were Bishop Vincent Long and Fr Thomas Smolich SJ, International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service. At the launch Miriam* shared her powerful reflection on seeking protection from Iran and Fr Thomas followed with a stirring call to action. Subsequent initiatives have continued, such as the table talk at North Rocks Parish on November 12.
Social Justice Statement. In October, we launched the 2017–18 Australian Catholic Bishops Social Justice Statement – Everyone’s Business, developing an inclusive and sustainable economy. A schools’ day studied and celebrated the statement, with of the highlight of student brainstorming and calls to action that our young people will take back and action to make our world a better place. During the day students wrote messages of hope for refugees. “Never give up as God is with you all, and will watch over every step you take. Our community will welcome you as our own and make sure you all feel safe and settled in this new environment,” was one inspiring message.
As we journey towards Christmas, celebrating the Incarnation, “Christ with Us” we continue to welcome and work in big and small ways for justice, making Christ real in the lives of the community and sending us forward in mission. Those we encountered and the relationships fostered along the way, were without a doubt the highlight of the year.
A thought at Christmas – This Christmas we can continue to encounter and empower through Caritas Global Gifts. This year help bring the gift of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love to our one human family around the world. Support important work, from emergency disaster responses, basic food and water, supporting education programs and training farmers with new sustainable livelihood techniques.
Share a message of compassion this Christmas by selecting a beautiful Caritas global gifts cards. When you send a Global Gifts card to your friends or family, you also share a gift with the world and help support our one human family. Order your card online at: www.caritas.org.au/globalgifts or call Caritas on 1800 024 413.
By Sr Louise McKeogh FMA, Director of the Social Justice Office, Diocese of Parramatta
This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.
At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.