This week is Refugee Week 2021, a time to raise awareness of those in our community who have been forced to leave their home and seek protection in Australia. Many have chosen to live in our Diocese and this week allows us to reflect on what this means for us and our Church.
Many people in the Diocese of Parramatta show great welcome, compassion and love to refugees and people seeking protection. At the same time, migrants and refugees “bring energy, drive and dynamism to Western Sydney”. They also, as recognised by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, “contribute hugely to the renewal and revitalisation of the Catholic Church”.
This is why parishes, schools, agencies and individuals throughout the Diocese are joining a Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees and People Seeking Protection.
14 weeks of giving a voice to refugees and their stories
Australia’s current refugee policy and the situation of refugees in Australia appear to be dire on many fronts. However, many people with a lived experience of seeking protection in this country have encouraging and inspiring stories to tell. So do people who try to “walk with them” and support them.
During this Refugee Week and in the next 14 weeks until World Day of Migrants and Refugees, we will regularly bring some of these stories to you. Look out for stories in Catholic Outlook tagged ‘Walking with Refugees’.
If you would like to learn from refugees or support them as a parish, school, organisation, or individual, we will also share some simple but meaningful ideas with you.
Related: Where the heart found a home
Related: Patience and perseverence
Related: Bishop Vincent Long’s story
A bit of background: Diocesan Journey, Refugee Week and World Day of Migrants and Refugees
The “Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees and People Seeking Protection” was initiated in 2017, following an invitation by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta. Find out how parishes, schools and individuals are collaborating with the Office for Peace, Justice and Ecology, Jesuit Refugee Service, House of Welcome, NSW Vinnies, CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains and the Sydney Alliance to learn from refugees and support them here.
Refugee Week (20–26 June 2021) is Australia’s peak annual activity to inform the public about refugees and celebrate positive contributions made by refugees to Australian society. Learn more at refugeeweek.org.au.
On 26 September 2021, the Catholic Church around the world will celebrate the annual “World Day of Migrants and Refugees” (also known as Migrant and Refugee Sunday). Find out more at migrants-refugees.va.
In the 14 weeks between these two events, the Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees and People Seeking Protection and Catholic Outlook want to give refugees and people seeking protection in our Diocese a stronger voice, raise awareness and inspire parishes, schools, organisations, and individuals to join the “journey” of walking with them. For those who have already set out on this journey, we want to provide a platform to share their stories and be encouraged by others’ stories.
This 14-weeks campaign also contributes to the 150 Days of Action for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum across Australia, initiated by the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Archdiocese of Sydney’s Justice and Peace Office.
Some simple steps to start with
If you would like to learn from refugees or support them as a parish, school, organisation or individual, consider starting with one of these simple steps:
Learn more about the lived experience of being a refugee. You can:
- Watch the video series My Journey, Our Journey on The Well. Be inspired and moved hearing Bishop Vincent Long, Idrissa, Kane and Len share their journey as Migrants and Refugees.
- Host a “Table Talk” in your parish or school and invite someone with a lived experience to share their story. The “Diocesan Journey”, Sydney Alliance and Jesuit Refugee Service will help you organise it, step by step. Find out more from firstname.lastname@example.org.
(CatholicCare Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains and the House of Welcome run similar programs as part of the “Diocesan Journey”.)
We will share more details about these possibilities with you throughout Refugee Week. Just look out for the new tag “Walking with Refugees”.
Sebastian Salaske-Lentern is the Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator of the Diocese of Parramatta.