From 19 to 25 August, the Catholic Church in Australia celebrated the Migrant and Refugee Week. The celebration focused on the Church’s role in welcoming displaced people in a time when fear, selfishness and the “globalization of indifference” often overtake God’s call for charity and compassion.
“Migration and seeking refuge have been a part of human experience from the earliest times of recorded history,” writes Bishop Max L. Davis, Delegate of the Australian Bishops for Migrants and Refugees, in the introduction to the Migrant and Refugee Week Kit created by the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office.
During the 19 to 25 August Week, the Church sought to raise awareness of the circumstances faced by people displaced by violence and persecution as well as those having left their homes to find a place where they could live in dignity.
Australian parishes were encouraged to reflect on and celebrate the stories of those who “came across the sea” and “graced the land with sacrifices, hard work and love.” The Week’s kit offered examples of Catholic communities who follow God’s call to welcome the stranger. It also reminded readers that current migration policies “favor the needs of the strong and economically productive over the weak and vulnerable.”
Australian Catholics were invited to consider realistic alternatives to closing the borders to migration, alternatives that follow Christian values.
Prior to the week, the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office held a conference for representatives of parishes, religious orders and Catholic-inspired organizations engaged in ministry with people on the move. The Conference theme was “Missionary Clergy and Religious in Australia: Challenges and Opportunities”.
ICMC Secretary General Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo was invited to participate in the conference. He shared his impressions as follows: “I was inspired to learn of the efforts within the Catholic Church in this country to serve refugees and migrants as they integrate into their new parishes and are given the opportunity for intercultural experiences while, at the same time, they are encouraged to maintain their unique cultural identities and values. Through such efforts, the Church in Australia has much to share with Catholics and other people of faith, as is evident in the excellent resources they prepared for the Australian Migrant and Refugee Week.”