June 20 is World Refugee Day

The world is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Around the world there are over 50 million refugees and displaced individuals, 12 million of whom were forced from their homes by the war in Syria. These circumstances demand our attention and action.

In commemoration of World Refugee Day on June 20, Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (BRYCS), a division of USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), will host two unique events:

  1. Film screening of Refugee Kids, a documentary that tells the story of refugee children participating in a summer program in New York City.  The screening will take place on June 17 at 2:00 p.m. at Catholic University of America Gowan Auditorium.  Brief discussion of the film will follow.
  2. Locally resettled refugees will share their stories over food and drinks at Busboys & Poets Brookland on June 20 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

More details on the events are available here. For those who cannot make the events, we hope you will join us in prayer for the world’s refugees on June 20.

National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea and Maritime Human Trafficking Information

In conjunction with the secular holiday National Maritime Day on May 23, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced that the U.S. Church will observe the annual National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea. All are encouraged to pray for and remember all those “who are seafarers, fisherman, and those whose occupations require them to spend most of the year away from their families, in the high seas, and sometimes facing dangerous situations,” remarked Bishop J. Kevin Boland.

As 90% of the world’s goods are transported by sea and the waterways, it is important to remember the 1.2. million seafarers worldwide that make this possible. In addition to praying for and remembering them, we must also be aware of the harsh conditions and danger that they sometimes face.

According to the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking (CCOAHT):

modern slavery at sea […] occurs at all stages  of the seafood supply chain, from catching the fish to processing and shipping it for export. The virtually unregulated fishing industry in many countries, coupled with the global demand for cheap seafood, create the lawless condition under which trafficking at sea flourishes.

CCOAHT reports that trafficked workers are subject to extremely long work-days, hazardous conditions, starvation, disregard for medical needs and injuries, beatings, torture, and even killings. Workers can be lured into modern slavery “by false promises of living-wage and incur crippling debts that then become their trafficking situation,” and migrants are especially vulnerable.

The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance will include special Masses on Friday, May 20 at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C. at 12:00 p.m. and on Saturday, May 21 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. at 12:10 p.m.. In addition, on Sunday, May 22, pastors are encouraged to use the text for the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea.

Below are three ways to get involved:

  1. Learn practical ways of becoming an ethical consumer of seafood.
  2. Learn about and join USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Services’ anti-trafficking efforts.
  3. Donate or take action with Apostleship of the Sea, an Catholic charity that seeks to “provide practical and pastoral care to all seafarers, regardless of nationality, belief or race.”
  4. Pray with us:

Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Mother of God and our Mother, you know all the dangers of soul and body that threaten mariners. Protect your sons and daughters who work and travel on the waters of the world, and protect also their families that await their return. Star of the Sea, Mother of the Church, give light and strength to those chaplains and lay ministers who bring the love of your Divine Son among mariners. Fill their hearts with a supernatural and life-giving zeal for the apostolate. Star of the Sea, light shining in the darkness, be a guide to those who sail amid the storms and dangers of life. Enlighten the hearts of ardent disciples and bring us all to the safety of heaven’s port. Amen. – Apostleship of the Sea

How does your college or university engage with anti-maritime trafficking efforts? Let us know! 

University of Scranton is ‘In Solidarity with Syria’

Although a recent ACCU Peace and Justice blog post featured three Catholic colleges and universities’ response to the Syrian refugee crisis, many other Catholic colleges have been working to assist refugees and advocate on their behalf.

The University of Scranton has been strongly committed to aiding refugees abroad and in the U.S., advocating for peace and for greater acceptance of refugees into the U.S., and educating its students about the crisis and inspiring them to act.  The campus initiative In Solidarity with Syria seeks to combine advocacy and educational efforts.

President Kevin Quinn, SJ, wrote an editorial urging compassion for refugees in the Scranton Times-Tribune last fall.  He also wrote a letter to federal elected officials urging the U.S. government to address the refugee crisis.  He noted that the University was exploring how to help Syrian students interested in further education in the United States, as well as how to help refugee families that settle in the local community.

University alumni have also been extensively involved in the efforts to assist refugees. For example, Bill Canny ’77, H’07, as the executive director of Migration and Refugee Services at USCCB, has been working with DOS and the local Catholic Social Services to work towards doubling the 100,000 refugee ceiling that the government has set for 2017.

Another alumna, Elena Habersky ’13, has lived in Amman, Jordan, where she started teaching English as a Fulbright scholar and is now the program and administrative manager of Collateral Repair Project, a nongovernmental organization that helps refugees. Read about her experiences in her article “Bearing Witness: Stories from the Holy Land,” featured in America Magazine.

Finally, the university has been working hard to educate students on campus about the refugee crisis. Led by Anitra McShea, Ph.D., the vice provost for student formation and campus life, In Solidarity with Syria has taken off in various directions. The initiative has brought to the university activities such as The Refugee Simulation, in which participants walk through five stations that simulate the typical refugee experience. Students are then encouraged to learn about and work with refugees in the local community.

The University has also encouraged deeper academic and informal discussions on the refugee crisis and has implored its students, staff, and faculty to, as Dr. McShea puts it, “utilize [their] gifts, talents and collective resources (intellectual, fiscal) to serve those marginalized and persecuted in our global community.”

How has your college or university responded to the Syrian refugee crisis? Let us know!