Belfast Telegraph

Thought for the weekend: These migrants need our help now

By Canon Walter Lewis

My thought for you this weekend is that we should help refugees wherever we can. Many of our ancestors - Roman Catholic and Protestant - experienced poverty and hardship, and left these shores to seek a better life.

They became migrants and went in great numbers to the colonies in North America, Australia, New Zealand, India and parts of Africa. On the crowded ships, many died of disease. But they left here in the hope of something better. This reminder of our own history of emigration can induce an empathy with the migrants crossing the Mediterranean presently. They too are risking life and limb in the hope of something better.

Up to 200,000 refugees from the Middle East and Africa have crossed into Europe so far in 2015. Some 500,000 with have crossed by year's end. We are witnessing the world's biggest refugee crisis since World War Two.

Many have been fleeing their home countries because of war, religious extremism or political dictatorship in places such as Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, and parts of Nigeria. Yes, there is a multifaceted make-up of migrants. The majority are genuine asylum seekers fleeing for their lives - the others, taking advantage of the chaos to enter Europe.

In Europe so far the response to the critical situation has been piecemeal and intermittent. However, in recent days, there are signs of reassurance. The EU has set aside €2.4bn to enable European member states to cope with the immigrants situation until 2020.

This money will be used to build reception centres, process applicants, monitor borders, boost programs to integrate immigrants, and deport migrants who are refused entry.

Alongside this, Europe will be in negotiation with the refugees' countries of origin to strengthen local economies there and foster economic development and job creation.

We remember that Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus were once refugees. They fled Israel and found sanctuary in Egypt in order to escape Herod's plan to kill Jesus whom he saw as a threat. We should not be hasty in our dismissal of the crisis. Rather, should we not recall that Jesus and his family were shown hospitality in a strange land? Can we in Europe not try to show similar hospitality to those in great need today?

Belfast Telegraph


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