The theme of World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2023 is ‘Free to Choose whether to migrate or to stay’. JRS UK and Caritas Westminster have developed resources for parishes this year with 5 suggested actions. Whilst these have been devised for WDMR, these are things that you can do any time.
1. Engage in Dialogue
You may have heard Pope Francis talking about a ‘culture of encounter’. In this is the idea that if we meet one another and get to know one another we can change hearts and minds and make the world a better place. Perhaps we can ask ourselves the questions :
- is there an issue close to my heart?
- or is there something I would like to learn more about?
If the answer to this is yes, we can reach out to others to learn more and help one another to become better informed.
As a parish you might seek to share your experiences and the topics important to you and send a shared letter to your local MP – with the power of your combined voices and experiences.
Could you engage with your local Interfaith Forum to see how other groups in your area are responding to these topics, and see if there are opportunities to work together? For advice on this, you can contact James, the Westminster Diocese Interfaith Co-ordinator. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Explore your gifts
Reflect as a parish how you can use your unique range of talents and resources to create a welcoming community.
In his message for WDMR 2023 Pope Francis says “… the important thing is that there always be a community ready to welcome, protect, promote and integrate everyone, without distinctions and without excluding anyone.”
Welcome can look like many different things – whether that be starting up a conversation club, having items on hand in case somebody could do with them or hosting a community dinner where everybody is invited. Some communities have come together to welcome families via community sponsorship – 1000 people have now been welcomed to the UK this way.
If you do not have the capacity to start your own parish project, perhaps you could invite local organisations and projects to come speak after Mass.
3. Form a reading group
Start a Love the Stranger reading group to delve deeper into the themes of migration and welcome.
Love the Stranger was published in March 2023. It is a document from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales which offers 24 guiding principles for the welcome, protection, promotion and integration of people with sanctuary seeking backgrounds.
The document starts with a joint foreword from Bishops Declan Lang and Paul McAleenan, and then looks at the global perspective, the right to flourish in one’s homeland or to migrate, equality and human dignity, human trafficking and slavery and the gift of migration. There is a lot to reflect upon, and as a group you could come together, discuss the chapters and even decide on a shared action at the end.
4. Open your kitchen
Consider opening your parish kitchen so that people in nearby asylum hotels can cook home recipes.
For people in asylum hotels, temporary accommodation or B&Bs, there are often no cooking facilities or places to store food. The food provided can be repetitive, unhealthy or unappetising. This article from Hackney Foodbank gives more information on the food situation in hotels.
Access to a kitchen space means that people are free to choose what they would like to. This means home-made meals that are enjoyable and nutritious. It can also be an opportunity for family time away from their accommodation and to cook recipes from home as well as to build ties with the local community.
Hitchin Parish have opened their parish kitchen for people staying at a local asylum hotel since early 2023. Hitchin Pantry, which is based out of the parish scout hut, provides delicious fresh ingredients whilst the parish kitchen is filled with lovely cooking aromas.
5. Organise a get together
Host a parish picnic, bring-and-share meal, or coffee morning in celebration of World Day of Migrants and Refugees, or at any time – invite your mayor, MP and local councillors!
This one requires no explanation! Bring your best baking and favourite foods in celebration of WDMR 2023, at Christmas time or a Parish feast day or plan ahead for Refugee Week 2024 (16-22 June)
Activity idea: The Children’s liturgy could design and make invitations to be sent out to your neighbouring faith communities, MP and councillors. If you know you have an asylum hotel nearby you can extend the invite to people staying there too.
This beautiful embroidery was created by a Refugee Friend of JRS UK.
- READ THE POPE’S MESSAGE FOR WDMR 2023
- RESOURCES FOR WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES 2023
- SEE ALSO THIS BLOG FROM THE JESUIT REFUGEE SERVICE
The annual International Mass will be celebrated in Westminster Cathedral on Sunday 24th September at the 5.30pm Mass. All are welcome to this Mass in which our ethnic chaplains will have a leading role. The main celebrant at the Mass will be Cardinal Vincent Nichols.