In response to the executive order by the President of the United States, many Catholic organizations have recommended actions to take to support refugees. Justice for Immigrants, a network of Catholic institutions working to support immigration reform, issued an action alert to contact Congress and the President to support refugees with a more robust resettlement plan. JFI provides a simple form that will automatically send a pre-written letter to House Representatives, Senators, and the President.
Catholic Relief Services has shared a helpful article with answers to common questions they have received about refugees. Previously, CRS has also shared many ways to take action to help Syrian refugees on their website, along with other educational resources related to refugees.
Ignatian Solidarity Network shared the “6-minute challenge” to call representatives and then challenge friends to do the same on social media. They also hosted a webinar on understanding the Executive Order on immigrants and refugees, featuring policy experts from the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States and Jesuit Refugee Service USA.
Last fall, the Shoval Center for Community Engagement and Learning and the study abroad office at King’s College hosted a presentation by Anas Allouz, a local student and Syrian refugee. Allouz told his family’s story of emigrating to the United States, arriving just over a year ago. He explained the joys and struggles that he and his family has faced in their journey.
Misericordia University also hosted a successful presentation featuring Allouz and his family as part of their Mercy Week programming. Additionally, Allouz shared his story in a presentation entitled “The Refugee Family Experience” at Marywood University, as part of Refugee Day, a day of programming and awareness hosted the Office of Campus Ministry. Before his talk, a candlelight vigil, outdoor prayer and procession were held in the university’s Memorial Garden.
These Catholic colleges reflect Pope Francis’ call for a Christian commitment to caring for refugees, especially in the current crisis, by raising awareness and educating their campus communities on the personal experiences of refugees.
As part of the Creighton Global Initiative (CGI), Creighton University has partnered with Lutheran Family Services to provide refugee families with aid in resettlement. Students spend their Friday afternoons shopping for necessities for a family migrating to the Omaha area. Setting up an apartment is the beginning of the resettlement process for refugees. This ministry encourages the students to remember the human face of the refugee crisis. One student, Sarah Huddleston, discovered that this service was different than others in the past because “It’s not just packing up my old clothes in a box and dropping them off and forgetting about it. It’s making a decision with the family in mind and trying to think about what you’d want if you were in a strange place, thousands of miles from your home.”
As René Padilla, executive director of global engagement, describes the program “Refugees are our neighbors…When we think of refugees we often hear the call to ‘welcome the stranger.’ And welcoming the stranger is a good first step. But in this increasingly interconnected world, these strangers are our neighbors and we need each other. Our hope is that this CGI project will help Creighton members to work with their refugee neighbors for justice.”
The Creighton Global Initiative is a program committed to expanding global learning by creating opportunities for heightened relationships, experiences and perspectives embracing Jesuit higher education’s centuries-long tradition for building global networks. Read more on this partnership to assist refugee families here.
Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Italy, has become known as thousands of migrants arrive there on their way to Europe. Tragically, many do not make it to the island’s shores alive.
As a way of expressing his solidarity with and concern for migrants traveling to Europe, Pope Francis visited Lampedusa on July 8, 2013. It was during this visit that he coined the phrase ‘globalization of indifference,’ referring to the phenomenon that leads to and compounds migrant crises such as the one the world is currently experiencing.
Lampedusa USA is a Catholic organization created in response to Pope Francis’s call for all to welcome refugees and migrants to the best of their abilities. On July 8, 2016, the organization will be hosting a Facebook prayer vigil to commemorate the Holy Father’s visit to the island and to continue praying for the world’s migrants and refugees.
All are welcome to participate in the vigil, including individuals, congregations, organizations, and colleges or universities. We hope you will join us in prayer for the world’s migrants.
With the 2016 U.S. presidential race already underway, candidates are discussing their ideas regarding the social, economic, and political issues facing America, many of which are of great concern to the Catholic Church. One of most prominent issues is immigration. Shortly after launching his presidential campaign in June 2015, for instance, Donald Trump made controversial statements about Mexican immigrants, characterizing them as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists, ending with, “Some, I assume, are good people.”
Such harsh statements about people who seek a better life in the United States come from an unfortunate public misconception and general lack of knowledge regarding the complexity of immigration. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains in Strangers No Longer Together on the Journey of Hope that the decision to migrate is strongly influenced by factors such as poverty, injustice, religious intolerance, and armed-conflict in other countries. The Catholic Church has spoken strongly regarding the importance of welcoming immigrants who pursue the American dream of safety, opportunity, stability, and freedom, while also working to address the root causes of migration. Recognizing the need for reform of both political policies and individual hearts, Catholic higher education, along with the Catholic Church, provides students with the information and experiences to learn more about migration.
As the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis frequently speaks about the importance of respectful treatment of migrants. In his message on the World Day of Migrants and Refugees in 2015, the pope asserted, “Often … migration gives rise to suspicion and hostility, even in ecclesial communities, prior to any knowledge of the migrants’ lives or their stories of persecution and destitution. In such cases, suspicion and prejudice conflict with the biblical commandment of welcoming with respect and solidarity the stranger in need.” The Catholic Church affirms the importance of standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, regardless of immigration status, as we are all part of one human family, created in the image of God. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains in their public policy statement on immigration reform that we must welcome the foreigner and show respect for every person as part of their inherent human dignity, following Jesus’ prophetic proclamation, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).
Guided by Catholic Social Teaching, Catholic higher education stands in solidarity with migrants, educating students about the reasons why migration occurs and supporting communities through service and advocacy for immigration reform. Catholic colleges and universities have undertaken activities to support immigrants and immigration reform such as establishing scholarships for students from immigrant backgrounds, welcoming undocumented immigrant students, and promoting educational opportunities for students to encounter the experience of migrants and the difficult journey they face. One example of a powerful educational opportunity is Cabrini College’s project titled, “#RefugeesSeekingSafety.”
Funded by the Global Solidarity Grants program sponsored by ACCU and Catholic Relief Services, the #RefugeesSeekingSafety project led participants through an innovative 25-minute simulation of the experience of unaccompanied minors fleeing from violence in Central America by coming to the United States. The simulation was originally designed by a freshman social justice course, “Our Interdependent World.” The grant from ACCU and CRS helped students from the class, Cabrini Catholic Relief Services Ambassadors, and members of the Cabrini Mission Corps edit and expand the draft of the simulation and create a website to promote and share the simulation. The students debuted the final simulation in spring 2015, when more than 75 participants got a glimpse of the situations and options that minors face at the U.S.-Mexico border. The group reflected on the root causes of migration; learned about advocacy programs, ranging from social media tags to petitions to Congress; and gathered for a solidarity prayer-walk. These participants gained a better understanding of the issues that refugees seeking safety face and learned how they can support change and take action on immigration reform.
Similar to this Cabrini program, another example of a powerful educational opportunity is Mount Mercy University’s project, “Standing in Solidarity with Migrants.” Also funded by the Global Solidarity Grants program, this project engaged students, faculty, and the community in educational opportunities to learn, reflect, and take action on immigration issues. First, Sr. Kathleen Erickson, RSM, spoke about her personal experiences with immigration, both as an assistant at a center for immigrant women and as an immersion coordinator. The lecture helped students understand the causes and effects of migration. The following day, the community came together to pray for migrants in an interfaith service and participated in a workshop to reflect on their experiences. The group wrote letters to their representatives advocating for comprehensive immigration reform centered on the fair and just treatment of humans. Lastly, staff, faculty, and students were given the opportunity to experience the lives of migrants through a four-day immersion trip to the U.S.-Mexico Border in El Paso, TX. While staying in a migrant shelter, participants discussed immigration with U.S. Border Patrol representatives, listened to stories of migrants and refugees, met with human rights activists, and visited historical and cultural sites. The four-day immersion trip to El Paso brought together faith, reflection, and action, connecting the complex discussion of immigration to the participants’ spiritual beliefs.
Prior to experiencing either of these initiatives, many of the participants had little to no knowledge about migration. At the completion of these projects, participants had gained invaluable insights, grown spiritually, and developed skills to advocate for solidarity. Both institutions plan to continue their advocacy for migrants. Cabrini College designed a website to share the simulation experience with other students, campuses, and the public to inform them on the perilous journey that refugees face. The #RefugeesSeekingSafety website is also intended to broaden the opportunity for visitors to recreate the experience, learn how to advocate, and take action on immigration reform.
Mount Mercy student Katelyn Bishop explains that after participating in her university’s project, her “eyes are opened to the harsh reality that many immigrants face in the world today.” The Mount Mercy Social Justice Club, a student group, plans to continue advocating for solidarity and educating fellow students on the topic of immigration next year. Upon returning from the immersion trip to El Paso, Mount Mercy student Abby Herd reflected on her life-changing experience and her plans to continue advocating for immigrants: “I am raising my voice for the thousands that can’t, the thousands of people suffering, the thousands of people that are dying because of a fence that cages people in. I am a voice for the voiceless. Will you be?”
Kathryn Roarty is a 2015 graduate of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. She interned with ACCU in summer 2015.
The Franciscan Action Network shares stories and resources about the refugee crisis in Central America. The Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and US Jesuit Conference researched the migration trends over the last decade and put together the following video explaining what is driving people to flee for their lives:
The Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities in Syracuse, NY also released a statement of their “complete support of humanitarian efforts to assist children entering the United States from Central America.” Read the full statement here.
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor: Immigration and the Catholic Church is a video by USCCB Migration and Refugee Services that highlights the Church’s long history of pastoral care for immigrants and advocacy on immigration issues. Share the video to help Catholics and non-Catholics alike become informed about the Church’s important work in these areas.