Living in communion with refugees this Holy Week
27 March 2018|Fr Aloysious Mowe SJ, JRS International Director of Advocacy and Communications
Rome – Holy Week is a time when Christian communities commemorate the Killing Fields in and around Jerusalem 2000 years ago, when collusion between religious authorities and an occupying military power led to the torture and murder of an innocent man. Matthew’s gospel tells us that the child Jesus and his parents became refugees in Egypt because King Herod sought to kill him. Death stalked him at the start of his life, driving him into exile, and in the end, it hunted him down in the most terrible way.
Christians seek in Holy Week to deepen their knowledge of Jesus. Through word and ritual, in prayer and fasting, we seek to know Jesus, and the meaning of his life and death, more intimately. We do this so that we can say, in the words of Isaac Watts’s great hymn, “When I survey the Wondrous Cross,” “love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”
There are men, women, and children in the world today for whom the experience of exile, and of being hunted down by death, are not the stuff of ritual and remembrance, but of cruel and bloody daily reality. Every minute somewhere in the world 20 people are driven from their homes as a result of conflict or persecution. From Syria to South Sudan, from Myanmar to Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, people are regarded simply as collateral damage in wars, or treated as pawns in games of political expediency.
During Holy Week we seek to know Jesus more deeply, and desire to respond to his love and sacrifice by giving our all; but what do we make of those whom we often do not know – the nameless millions who hunger and thirst, who are imprisoned and sick, and who seek justice and peace? Surely we must recall the words of Jesus in the gospel: “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
The philosopher Pascal wrote, “Christ hangs in agony until the end of time; and how are we to sleep?” It is a dramatic image, one that jolts us into recalling that fundamental notion of Christian belief and practice: that we are called to live in communion, and to act out of solidarity. Every minute 20 people are driven out of their homes; and how are we to sleep?
At the heart of the mission of JRS is that style of working and being that we call “accompaniment”. We recognise that legal mechanisms and international policy will never bring full justice to refugees. Only if we love refugees as our brothers and sisters will we bring about that perfect communion that sees no one rejected, no one locked out, no one refused life. The amazing love of Jesus should draw out of us an amazing love for our brothers and sisters. Here then begins true justice for refugees; here then begin the rumours of resurrection.