At their Summer General Meeting, which concluded today in Maynooth, bishops’ discussed the issue of supporting persecuted Christians, refugees and migrants.
The bishops said that the issue of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, is an issue specifically highlighted by the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, which was published on 8 April:
“The persecution of Christians and ethnic and religious minorities in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East, are a great trial not only for the Church but also the entire international community. Every effort should be encouraged, even in a practical way, to assist families and Christian communities to remain in their native lands” (AL para 46).
Archbishop Eamon Martin will lead a delegation from the Bishops’ Conference to Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in November. The area is now home to hundreds of thousands of displaced people, mostly Christians and Yazidis, who were forced to flee from their homes in northern Iraq as a result of war. The delegation will be hosted by Archbishop Warda of Erbil, and it will have the opportunity to meet with communities displaced by conflict and who face an uncertain future in the region. Trócaire, which has supported relief efforts for displaced people in northern Iraq, will have staff participating in the visit including its chairman, Bishop William Crean. The delegation will also have the opportunity to meet with UN representatives as well as with other agencies responding to the crisis in the region.
In the context of Ireland’s response, bishops discussed the refugee crisis and the need for policymakers not to close their eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters currently in dire need in our continent of Europe and further afield. The numbers of those who are fleeing from war and persecution are on the increase and the level of solidarity is often inadequate. Bishops reflected further on Amoris Laetitia:
“Migration is particularly dramatic and devastating to families and individuals when it takes place illegally and is supported by international networks of human trafficking. This is equally true when it involves women or unaccompanied children who are forced to endure long periods of time in temporary facilities and refugee camps, where it is impossible to start a process of integration. Extreme poverty and other situations of family breakdown sometimes even lead families to sell their children for prostitution or for organ trafficking” (AL para 46).
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is almost the ‘national anthem’ of this Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, two figures of officialdom turn their eyes away and pass by the presence of a fellow human in distress. Today our witness to the distress of refugees should be a call to action. While praising the brave and humanitarian role of our naval service in the Mediterranean – which was again exemplified this week – bishops expressed concern that here in Ireland the process of taking refugees seems to have been allowed to slip to the back-burner of politics, notwithstanding the clear desire and willingness of citizens and communities to commit to a culture of welcome. Bishops ask that parishes offer special prayers at Mass during June to express their support and solidarity for the plight facing child, women and men refugees.
Bishops also noted with concern the lack of significant progress regarding the condition of asylum seekers in Direct Provision Centres in Ireland and are encouraged to lobby their politicians in the areas where the Direct Provision Centres are situated.