December, 2017 Reflection

Forced to Seek Safety in a Foreign Land: The Plight of Those on the Move

By Jean Schafer SDS

Holy Family: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/56083957838407207/

As we think of the Holy Family during the Advent/Christmas season, we often forget their need to flee their homeland shortly after the birth of their child, Jesus, because of a very jealous King Herod. Herod was considered an acceptable leader of his day: bringing Judea into the Roman Empire; copying the architecture and political styles of Greece; stabilizing the economy; reducing taxes; building trade; building the port city of Caesarea and that of Samaria. Yet, in jealousy, Herod had already killed his wife and two of his three sons. His brother narrowly escaped the same fate. Herod feared the announcement of a newly-born ‘King Jesus,’ as a threat to his power and position. This threat he determined had to be eliminated. What followed was the slaughter of Holy Innocents!

“When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’

“When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.’” Matt. 2: 13-18

Today people continue to flee political repression and open conflict. Studies show our world is witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record: •1,200 people are forcibly displaced per hour per day; • 65.6 million have been forced from their homes; • 22.5 million are refugees (half under the age of 18) with 55% from the countries of Syria, Afghanistan, and South Sudan; • 10 million people are stateless and have been denied a nationality; * 460,000 live in the dangerous Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, the largest in the world; • 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, a stateless people, are fleeing repression in majority-Buddhist Myanmar. Since August 2017 600,000 have arrived on foot and in boats into Bangladesh at a rate of 20,000 a day.

“For 4 days, I hid myself in the forest. Then, we tried to walk to the border. I was so scared,” says Rajida Begum, a 30-year-old mother who fled her village with neighbors when she was 9 months pregnant. She gave birth to a baby girl under a piece of plastic sheeting in the middle of a rice paddy 5 days after arriving in Bangladesh. As she cradled her newborn baby, she looked relieved: “When I saw that she was healthy,
I was so happy. I gave thanks to God.”
Abdul Rahman, 21, who lost his wife – shot by the Burmese army, now is the sole caregiver for his 4-month-old daughter. “The baby won’t stop crying. I’m asking lactating mothers to help with feeding her, but I’m so worried. I don’t know if she will survive. We have no food. We have nothing at all,” he said.

Refugees are men, women and children fleeing war, persecution and political upheaval who have been forced to cross borders to seek safety in another country. Most eventually go home when it is safe (as did the Holy Family); some stay in temporary refugee settlements; and a tiny fraction resettle in a third country, such as the U.S.

Refugees face innumerable dangers as they travel and as they attempt to find a place to live until they can return home. According to the United Nations, human trafficking and the exploitation by criminal gangs are intimately linked to the plight of vulnerable people running from political conflicts. While trafficking for sexual exploitation might be the first type of trafficking people think of, trafficking actually takes diverse forms in conflict situations. Children suffer a high percentage of the abuse, both in sexual exploitation and in labor-related settings.

Rohingya Refugees in Makeshift Shelters in Bangladesh http://www.crs.org/

Let us reflect on some of the contemporary situations of our refugee brothers and sisters, fleeing in fear, as did the Holy Family:

  1. The Islamic State conflict has increased the vulnerability of groups like the Yazidi and the Kurds. Yazidi women are forced into what is called chattel slavery. They are bought and sold as property; forced to act as domestic servants, sex slaves, or wives of militants. Yazidi men and boys are forced to become militants and even suicide bombers. Now girls from the West are lured into ISIL-controlled territory by ‘boy friends,’ using methods similar to those used by online traffickers.
  2. The Syrian conflict has produced thousands of refugees. Trafficked Syrian children are forced to work excessively long hours in abusive situations or are held for ransom until their families pay to have them released.
  3. Boko Haram in West Africa enslaves people in areas they control. Women and girls are forced to marry militants, while boys are forced to become suicide bombers. Children are forced to beg in order to raise funds for the Boko Haram forces.
http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/figures-at-a-glance.html
  1. Congolese militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo force artisanal miners to search for tantalum, gold, diamonds, tin, and other minerals to make money to support the war effort. Children are trafficked and indoctrinated into the militias. A U.N. University report estimates that there are around 30,000 child soldiers in the DRC.
  2. Criminal gangs operating in the refugee camps at Calais and Dunkirk, France have sexually exploited youth traveling alone or forced them to commit crimes in exchange for transportation to the UK. Many children are forced to work along the migration route to finance their journey north.
  3. The Balkan Route—popular with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees—runs from Turkey into Greece, Bulgaria, and north toward Germany. Children along the route were not only assaulted but also illegally and forcefully deported after they were arrested. Of the children treated by Doctors Without Borders, just over 75% were assaulted by either Serbian state police or border force officials, while 8% were hurt by traffickers. Most had visible signs of mistreatment, including knife and razor blade cuts, scars from severe beatings, and symptoms of dehydration and food deprivation.
  4. Italian authorities discovered an organ trafficking ring involving traffickers from Libya and Eritrea, who charged migrants an up-front fee to get them from Africa to Italy. If migrants could not immediately pay the fee, they were given the option to pay once they arrived in Italy. Upon arrival, however, they were either exploited for forced labor, or their organs were harvested and then trafficked elsewhere.

Pope Francis Calls on People of Good Faith Are Called to Respond:

Pope Francis has spoken often on behalf of vulnerable migrants and refugees:

“It is necessary to respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation, in such a way as to make the conditions for migrants more humane.”

Pope Francis — Message for the 2015 World Day of Migrants and Refugees, September 3, 2014

“There has been a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation. They are not recognized by international conventions as refugees; they bear the loss of the lives they have left behind, without enjoying any legal protection whatsoever. Sadly, there is widespread indifference to such suffering, which is even now taking place throughout our world. Our lack of response to these tragedies involving our brothers and sisters points to the loss of that sense of responsibility for our fellow men and women upon which all civil society is founded.” Pope Francis — Laudato Si #25, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis has made numerous appeals to promote the culture of encounter in an effort to combat the culture of indifference in the world today. It means seeing through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye. “Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by, but to stop. And don’t just say ‘what a shame, poor people,’ but allow ourselves to be moved by pity.” – Pope Francis.

Sept. 27, 2017 (http://mediablog.catholic.org.au/pope-francis-launches-share-the-journey-campaign/)

 What Can We Do to Follow Pope Francis’ Example?

Learn more of the reality migrants and refugees face. à Rededicate our efforts to live out Catholic Social Teaching. à Join the ‘Share the Journey’ Campaign.’

On September 27, 2017 Pope Francis launched Share the Journey,’ a two-year campaign to share the plight of the millions of migrant and refugee families who are seeking safety and a decent life. As people of faith, we see these people as our neighbors — our brothers and sisters.

The Share the Journey campaign, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities and the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
in the U.S. highlights Catholic teaching on migration and reaffirms the Church’s commitment to assistant our migrant brothers and sisters who have fled their homeland seeking safety.

‘Share the Journey’ Resources:

‘Catholic Social Teaching:

Donate to agencies helping migrants and refugees:

Pray often for refugees and migrants and for those who advocate for them 

Br. Michael McGrath, OSFS. Publication no. M5-969 Copyright © 2010, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.
Prayer for Migrant Families
Good and gracious God,
we thank you for the gift of families.
We are grateful for all of the joy and love they bring into our lives,
and we ask that you provide special protection for all families,
particularly those who face hardships as they move in search of a better life.
Show mercy to those who travel in danger,
and lead them to a place of safety and peace.
Comfort those who are alone and afraid
because their families have been torn apart
by violence and injustice.
As we reflect upon the difficult journey that
the Holy Family faced as refugees in Egypt, help us
to remember the suffering of all migrant families.
Through the intercession of Mary our Mother, and
St. Joseph the Worker, her spouse, we pray that
all migrants may be reunited with their loved ones
and find the meaningful work they seek.
Open our hearts so that we may provide hospitality
for all who come in search of refuge.
Give us the courage to welcome every stranger
as Christ in our midst.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Remember that the Holy Family was once a refugee family in a foreign land.

  • In Jesus’ time, would we have found room in our home for the Holy Family?
  • Today can we find room in our hearts for refugees and respond to their needs in some meaningful way?
“Flight Into Egypt” Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1859–1937 Paris)

‘Flight into Egypt’ 1923 by Henry Ossawa Tanner, American, Pittsburgh, PA 1859–1937 ParisTanner’s painting depicts the Holy Family’s clandestine evasion of King Herod’s assassins, which was Tanner’s favorite biblical story. It expresses his sensitivity to issues of personal freedom, escape from persecution, and migrations of African-Americans from the South to the North. The painting, which reveals a concern for human emotions and an awareness of the mystical meanings of biblical narratives, also manifests Tanner’s affiliation with contemporary symbolism and the religious revival that occurred in response to challenges of the modern era. 

Resources Used for the December Reflection:

November Monthly Reflection

Hope is a Way of Life

by Anne Victory, HM

With all of the recent crises—multiple hurricanes leaving millions without the basics of life, earthquakes killing thousands, devastating forest fires, senseless gun violence, reckless political maneuvering—I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, drained, exhausted. Add to that the fact that these disasters are likely to make the vulnerable more susceptible to human trafficking, and I truly feel almost paralyzed. Can I—and others who work for justice—make any difference in the face of such chaos? Is this what is meant by compassion fatigue? I suppose it could be.

As I was pondering these things, I was challenged last Saturday when I attended a Walk for Freedom event on Public Square in Cleveland where I staffed my organization’s (Collaborative to End Human Trafficking) informational display. A passerby came up and asked what the display was all about. When I told him, he responded that it’s really hopeless, that slavery has been going on for centuries, and essentially that I have no business trying to change things. “That’s just how things are. Rape is a fact of life, and forced labor is woven into the economy. While it’s probably wrong, it’s also hopeless to try to change things! You don’t really expect to make a difference, do you?”

I was a bit taken aback, since so many others who were present that day expressed gratitude for our efforts to raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking and to connect services on behalf of victims. After a moment, I responded, “Of course, we can make a difference! I believe that things can change. I think it’s worth the effort. I may never know how my presence, my words, or my actions help another person. That doesn’t mean that I should not try. If I –and so many of my colleagues—don’t speak out for the voiceless, that’s when we fail.” Sadly, he walked away unconvinced. Perhaps that was his way of letting himself off the hook, or maybe he is just too discouraged.

As I pondered this encounter, I also recalled the opportunity I had to speak about human trafficking with some refugee women recently at Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services. They came from Somalia, Swaziland, Congo, Iran, Nepal, and other countries. They spoke Swahili, Somali, Nepalese, Arabic and some small amount of English. They are eager to get settled in this new land and want to provide a new life for their children. They expected that they would now be safe from harm now that they are in the United States.

As I slowly presented information on human trafficking with the help of interpreters, I watched as their eager faces began to show concern and even fear. It seems that every one of these women knew well that this crime happened routinely in their countries of origin, but they never expected to find it here. In their effort to become self-sufficient, they want to gain employment, but now they hear that some employers may not be reputable. What can they do? Who can help? They expressed fear, especially for their children, who learn so much more quickly and assume, like all teenagers, that they are invincible! My short presentation offered them clues regarding the “red flags,” and local phone numbers to call for help. I left these sessions hoping that, while I had instilled a level of fear, I had also empowered them with tools and resources that will help keep them and their families safe in their new country.

I also left inspired by the courage of these strong women who have already endured so much—war, years in refugee camps, mistreatment, and unspeakable abuse. I respect their resiliency, their willingness to start over in a new land with nothing but the clothes on their backs and their immense hope for their families. So is there any reason why I should not continue trying to make a difference on this important issue in the face of other crises that may indeed cause even more people to become vulnerable? I can’t think of any legitimate excuse!

I feel compelled to continue speaking out for those with no voice, no power. Like the stories of the Old Testament prophets, I am reminded that a prophet’s role is not to be successful but to be faithful. How can I, so very blessed with freedom, faith, education, the support of a loving family and community, turn away in despair over the condition of our world? What about those who really suffer every day of their lives because they lack the basics? Who will speak for them if I don’t?

I recall that the Constitutions of my congregation, the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, challenge me to demonstrate that “hope is a way of life . . .” (Art. 17). Standing on the shoulders of so many people of good will who have gone before me and now stand in solidarity with me, I pray that I and we will overcome our compassion fatigue and be ones who offer hope in these most challenging times.

 

U.S., Asian Nations Step Up Human Trafficking Fight

President Obama and leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a new declaration Thursday to combat modern-day human slavery throughout the region. (AP Photo/S. Yulinnas, File)
President Obama and leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a new declaration Thursday to combat modern-day human slavery throughout the region. (AP Photo/S. Yulinnas, File)

The U.S. and several Asian countries are boosting their efforts to fight human trafficking and the exploitation of immigrants and refugees.

President Obama and leaders of countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a new declaration Thursday to combat modern-day human slavery throughout the region.

Obama said the leaders at the summit have “laid out a common vision for the region,” namely “an open, dynamic, economically competitive Asia Pacific that respects human rights and upholds a rule-based order.”

To support the effort, Obama announced that the U.S., through its Agency of International Development, would launch a five-year plan of action to fight human trafficking in the region that includes strengthening cross-border collaboration between “source, transit and destination countries.”

To read the full story by Susan Crabtree at The Washington Examiner: Click Here

International Conference On Human Trafficking Within And From Africa

One Human Family, One Voice, No Human Trafficking

Caritas is committed to fighting against the sale and trafficking of men, women and children into slavery as beggars, prostitutes and forced labourers.

Sixty million people were either refugees or forcibly displaced in 2015. In Africa thousands of adults and children are being forced to flee conflict, poverty and persecution and are particularly susceptible to traffickers.

Driven by a desperate need to survive and desire to build a better life, they are particularly vulnerable to both sexual and labour exploitation.

Skit about child rights and child protection
Students at the Karima Primary School Peace club in Kenya participating in a skit about child rights and child protection. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

Caritas is part of the COATNET network —Christian Organisations Against Trafficking in Human Beings—which works across borders to raise awareness about trafficking and to assist victims.  COATNET fights the root causes of trafficking, such as poverty and lack of opportunity, while pressing for laws to protect victims, punish perpetrators and secure decent working conditions.

Caritas Internationalis (within the framework of its network against trafficking COATNET) and the Pontifical Council of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People, are co-organising an international conference, hosted by Caritas Nigeria. from September 5 -7 in Abuja, Nigeria to raise awareness, give hope and combat human trafficking in Africa.

To read the full story from Caritas International: Click Here

US Should Increase Efforts to Combat Trafficking of Syrian Refugees – Senators

US Senate member said that US Secretary of State Kerry should increase efforts to fight human trafficking among the Syrian refugee population.

US Secretary of State Kerry should increase efforts to fight human trafficking among the Syrian refugee population, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Chris Murphy and nine other senators said in a letter on Thursday, Sputnik reports.

“We encourage you and the State Department to continue to do everything possible to combat human trafficking,” the letter stated. “This reprehensible criminal industry has exploited millions of men, women, and children across the world, and it is our duty as a beacon of freedom to protect the dignity of the most vulnerable populations.”

The senators’ letter emphasized the importance of continuing collaboration with the governments of Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon affected by the migration of refugees from Syria and Iraq.

To read the full article from News.Az: Click Here