On 26 September, the Catholic Church around the world celebrates the World Day of Migrants and Refugees (also known as Migrant and Refugee Sunday). Pope Francis invites us to work Towards an ever wider “we” and embrace the resilience and contribution of Migrants and Refugees to the church and society. It is also a time to bring awareness to the issues Migrants and Refugees face.
You can find many opportunities to listen, learn, reflect and act on the way towards an ever wider “we”, for example:
- meeting someone with lived experience as a Refugee,
- advocating for Refugees from Afghanistan,
- commemorating those who have died in Australian immigration detention,
- learning about the Catholic church’s position on Migrants and Refugees,
- donating for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in need.
Continue reading for some great events and concrete ideas.
This World Day of Migrants and Refugees, you are invited to a virtual Diocesan Conversation with Refugees. The online event will be a chance for you to hear personal stories from someone currently seeking asylum in Australia and someone who has lived experience as a Refugee in our community. It is also a chance to learn more about the situation in Afghanistan first-hand, and to ask questions, which will be answered by an expert working in the field.
When: Sunday 26 September, 3:00-4:15pm
Where: Please register to receive a zoom link: www.bit.do/diocesan-refugee
This diocesan-wide event is organised by the “Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees” team. In a 14-weeks campaign since Australian Refugee Week (20 – 26 June 2021), the team has given Refugees and People Seeking Asylum a stronger voice and tried to raise awareness for their stories and their needs. Catholic Outlook has regularly published some of these stories.
It is the team’s goal to engage the hearts and minds of people across the Diocese of Parramatta, galvanising a faith-filled urge to bring about a culture that values fair and compassionate treatment of Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in Australia. The World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2021 marks 4 years since Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv launched the “Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees”.
The Diocesan Conversation with Refugees on 26 September is an online adaption of successful “Table Talk” and “Community Conversation” formats that the “Diocesan Journey” team has regularly organised pre-Covid with parishes and schools from across the Diocese of Parramatta. The team hopes that this virtual event will encourage parish and school communities, organisations and other community groups to co-host such events when face-to-face gatherings become possible again. You can find more information about this opportunity here.
You can also listen to the stories of Refugees and People Seeking Asylum by watching the award-winning video series “My Journey, Our Journey” on The Well.
The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan has added urgency to the need for reform of the treatment of Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in Australia. Listening to their stories is an important first step. In a pastoral letter, Bishop Vincent Long has invited us all to add our voice to “Christians United for Afghanistan”, a campaign asking the Federal Government to welcome, protect, reunite, and support Refugees from Afghanistan and the Afghan diaspora community in Australia. You can sign this call here.
Another opportunity to commemorate the need for reform of Australia’s treatment of Refugees and People Seeking Asylum is offered by the “150 Days of Action for Refugees” campaign: On the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, you are invited to take part in a “Call to Lamentation and Commitment” Online Vigil. Join this candlelit prayer vigil over zoom to remember all those who have died in Australian immigration detention. The ceremony will be recorded, and the final video will be sent to every Senator and MP in the Federal Parliament.
When: Sunday 26 September, 7:00pm
Where: Please register here to receive a zoom link.
Pope Francis explains in his message for this year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “In encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as Church and to enrich one another.” According to the Pope, “we are all in the same boat and called to work together so that there will be no more walls that separate us, no longer others, but only a single ‘we’, encompassing all of humanity.”
Each year, the Australian Bishops Conference’s Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) publishes resources to support the celebration of the World Day for Migrants and Refugees. You can download the 2021 resources kit here.
ACMRO also provides information on the Catholic church’s teaching about Migrants and Refugees and an overview of church documents on migration and asylum. Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical letter Fratelli Tutti engages with this topic, too.
You can help Refugees and People Seeking Asylum in our Diocese by donating to Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia and the House of Welcome (HoW). Due to the current lockdown, they cannot receive donations of physical goods. However, many Refugee families across Greater Sydney are still relying on their foodbanks or the provision of food vouchers. In this difficult time, please support JRS and HoW with a cash donation if you can. Click here for options to donate.
This article is part of the “Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees and People Seeking Protection” series. Click here to learn more about this initiative and to follow our 14-weeks campaign from Refugee Week to World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Sebastian Salaske-Lentern is the Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator of the Diocese of Parramatta.